My mother was a funny old girl, private to the extreme and I never really got to know her very much as a person. We spent great swathes of time together, in her home, in my home, out for lunch, at the gym and we went on holiday together (out of choice!). For her last two years we spent a goodly chunk of the day together every day and yet still, she never offered to share much of herself with me.
This morning I had a big wave of missing mum, I had made a batch of scones for elevenses and as I sat and ate a couple (or three) of them, I thought about mum.
Mum suffered from depression for many years and most days when we got home from school she was in bed, curtains drawn and not wanting to see anyone. But as we got older and her spirits lifted (the two may have been connected, but I don't think so) we saw more of her. She was an excellent cook and a progressive one too. I remember her introducing us to this fancy new food from Italy called pizza when I was about nine years old. My parents had held a fundraising 'at home' lunch and she made pizza from scratch, most of the people there didn't know what it was. How enlightened and globally aware we were in the early seventies! To this day I haven't met anyone who can make roast potatoes as good as mum's were, nor lemon meringue pie as tangy, rich and sticky, although her experiment with rice pudding topped with jam and meringue was never a favourite of mine.
She had promised to share with me her secret recipe for egg custard, her version of a large creme caramel, but she didn't and so that fabulous recipe has gone with her. But she did share some valuable life lessons with me and here are some of them (please don't take any of these as good advice, they are simply things that my mother used to say often).
'Expect less of other people, then you won't feel disappointed. She also advised me to expect more of other people because folks often rise to the challenge.
Cook with love in your heart, it makes the food taste better.
Your house doesn't need to be clean to be welcoming, a warm smile that comes from the heart is worth a thousand cans of furniture polish.
Practice making chocolate bon bons or petite fours about a month before Christmas, make at least three batches before the final one. And it's best not to tell anyone that you made the practice ones, just eat them.
If you iron nothing else, iron your pillowcases, it makes the bed look properly made and feels nicer when you get into bed.
Teach your family that the drawer of your bedside is out of bounds. Then keep your chocolate in it.
If a job's worth doing well, it's probably worth paying someone who knows what they're doing to do it for you.
Small cuts, grazes, bumps and bruises can all be made better by a bit of mother's spit on a tissue applied to the affected area.
Guilt-free food contains no calories.'
(Disclaimer - NB. This is not a list of advice, nor is much of it accurate, it is purely a list of things my mother used to say.)