Culture: Family memories are made of this Easter treat says Gastrono-me's Mike Simmonite
The older you get, the better nostalgia becomes, and I’ve recently achieved another birthday which has dragged more memories from the personal archives. Couple the occasion with a house move with ‘lost’ photographs rediscovered, and you
have the most wonderful mix of joy to share with
Let’s start with the sadness. My sister died six months ago. It was extremely sudden, she was only 50 years old and we have always been the shared owners of our deepest thoughts.
We both have our separate families and our shared childhood has always locked us in a familial bond that would mean nothing to anyone else. Such is the joy
Our two daughters have in jokes that mean nothing to Gemma and I. We will never know what any of it means. It’s theirs.
It doesn’t belong to us.
My sister died on September 14th last year. It was our parents’ wedding anniversary. My Dad died on my sister’s birthday back in 1997, so I do like to think there’s a karma there. A little retaliation.
Our childhood was delicious. We had everything we needed and most of what we wanted. I fully recognise that our parents ‘declined’ things that they wanted so that our childhood could be full of joy – it’s what parents do for their children.
My Nana (pron, Nanar) on my dad’s side brought my Dad up on her own. She had a toy and sweet shop. My granddad had TB and died when my father was just three years old.
I have memories of my Nana being picked up every Friday night from Cannock bus station so that she could babysit my sister and I when our parents went out to the Horse and Jockey. Nana would fall asleep at about 8.30pm on a chair in front of the fire and my sister and I would climb across the back of the 1970s pale settees (we’d try to circumnavigate the living room without touching the floor). She always woke up when the News at Ten came on and sent us to bed. Why we didn’t think of turning the channel over is a lifelong question.
When Nana came over, she would always bring two large paper bags of sweets and toys for my sister and I. There would always be a Curly Wurly. Always.
I recall riding around Leacroft Road on my bike with lots of other children with my bag of sweets. One of the toys was an aeroplane that spat sparks out of it when you ran the wheels along the ground. It was one of my Dad’s childhood toys regiven. I remember a robot that had to be wound up with a key.
In the red hot summer of 1976, my Dad was once left in charge of the lunchtime cooking for the two of us. It was the first time my Mom had left us to it for the day. My Dad grilled sausages. They were burned. I remember the charred flavour. There’s a picture of me taken the same day, stood next to the weeping willow in the back garden with my Dad’s extremely heavy binoculars around my neck, a plastic policeman’s helmet on my head and a yellow t-shirt.
I promise to dispense with the nostalgia soon, but it serves a purpose.
When we were kids my Mom baked and cooked a lot at home. Neither of us kids helped much but there was always a spoon to lick once the preparation had been completed. Occasionally, we would be allowed a free reign in the kitchen and I happily remember my sister stirring a cake mix that had sultanas in it. A family friend was with us and as she added more sultanas to the mix, Garry Polson (the friend) suddenly shouted: “Don’t! You’ll overwhelm it!”
It was one of those lines that would give us the giggles whenever we mentioned even decades later.
Garry’s dad (Tony) had a red Messerschmitt bubble car in his garage. . . I’d forgotten that.
We host a lot of celebrations at Gastrono-me and we love the fact that we are helping to create memories for you. And we don’t try to do it with just food and drink. Gem spends hours creating playlists to help enhance the mood of each hour.
Gemma and I still talk of a restaurant called Noughts and Crosses somewhere near Ealing. We had only been going out for 46 days (how the hell do I remember that?) but had bought new outfits for the occasion. We started with frozen margarita’s in a bar and then walked to the restaurant. Gemma’s Mummy had phoned the restaurant and paid for a bottle of champagne upon arrival.
We’ve been together for 25 years now.
Everything we do, no matter how insignificant it may seem, may create a memory that lasts for the rest of your life. You have no idea when that moment is going to happen, but when it comes to your loved ones it is often food or drink that is at the centre of it. Curly Wurlys, grilled sausages, cakes, spoons to lick, restaurants, bars, margarita’s, champagne. . .
This half term will see your children throw off
the shackles of school and allow them the freedom
of days at home, so I thought you’d like a recipe that you can make with them. Something to bake for the whole family.
A chance to create a memory.
Easter Holiday Easy Lemon Muffins, Makes 10
255g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of finely-grated lemon rind (save the juice and some lemon rind for glaze later)
90ml of vegetable oil, or 85g of melted butter
½ teaspoon of lemon flavouring (optional)
85g of sifted icing sugar
4 teaspoons of lemon juice
¼ teaspoon of grated lemon rind
Prepare muffin tins with muffin cases and preheat oven to 375-400F (109-200C).
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
In a separate bowl, beat egg with a fork. Stir in milk, followed by grated lemon rind, then oil/butter. (Add lemon flavouring if using.)
Pour all the liquid ingredients into the dry mixture. Stir only until just combined. You want the mixture to be lumpy here, but no dry flour visible.
Spoon generously into your muffin cups, and bake for 20-25 mins, until tops are lightly golden and springy.
Spoon over your mixed glaze immediately so it melts over your hot muffins.
Mike is co-creator of Gastrono-me, Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds