It’s odd the things you remember around this time of year. My Mam bought a pot of blackcurrant jam today on a whim, which is very much a Gran & Granddad thing more than a Mam thing. At our house it’s usually strawberry or raspberry jam, apricot if we’re feeling really fancy. Blackcurrant was always a Gran & Granddad thing because Granddad had blackcurrant bushes down the bottom of his (town) garden, and Gran used to actually make the jam for us. (‘His’ garden, btw, because the fruit & vegetable section of their garden was Granddad’s, while the flowerbeds with the prized tulips were Gran’s). It’s been … a few years now since I’ve tasted blackcurrant jam, but it’s rather lovely.
It got me thinking, though, given the time of year that’s in it. An awful lot of my memories of my grandparents are related to food. Thinking of them, I remembered what used to be a post-Christmas tradition at their house. There was a supper, usually around New Year-ish, that consisted entirely of bread, butter, cold-cuts of meat, pickled silverskin onions, tomatoes, and any odds-and-ends that had survived the cupboards until the end of the old year, plus the remains of the Christmas cakes and puddings. A sort of 'use up the old year and prepare for the new’ kind of thing. I remember the pickled onions specifically, because that supper was one of the few times of year I ever saw the things, and Mam thinks that Gran used to invite us to the supper at least partially so Granddad wouldn’t be able to eat an entire jar of pickled onions by himself. I also remember the Christmas cake sandwiches, which were a thing Granddad dared me to eat one year at this supper when I was very young, and which became a kind of tradition afterwards (literally a slice of Christmas cake between two buttered slices of bread - they’re not bad). Gran and Granddad were the only ones I know who did that particular supper, and I’m surprised right now how much I miss it.
I wonder if it’s odd how much I remember them through their food. Gran used to bake. All sorts of things, but her pavlova and her coffee cake were so renowned that the priest mentioned them at her funeral. Their garden was I think the only reason we ever ate anything 'picked fresh yourself’, because of the vegetables and the fruit. (That and berries out of hedges, because Granddad took us walking as kids and taught us which ones were safe provided you washed them. The sloe was appalling, though. My face about collapsed). Granddad did a mean fresh stewed rhubarb. He also had a tendency to combine a lot of random things when he ate, legacy I think of a lot of years essentially eating whatever was available regardless of what it was. Hence Christmas cake sandwiches, and cheese-and-raspberry-jam sandwiches, and cheese-dips (cheese dipped in yogurt in lieu of a spoon, so you can eat both at the same time and use up cheese that’s getting questionable), and sundry other random combinations. Hence too, I think, the whole 'use up the old year and welcome the new’ done in food. They had … a unique approach to food, at least in terms of my experience. It’s one of the things I remember most strongly about them.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the time of year combined with a sudden whim for blackcurrant jam. There’s just … a lot of memories that can be tied up in food, you know? I don’t think I realised quite how much so.