“Tell us about these childhood chores; mucking out the pigs, herding the cattle or polishing the antique silverware. What you liked, and how you tried (and succeeded) to get out of the ones you did not like.”
I’m not sure that my mother was deliberately trying to instill in me a love of cooking or whether she had simply allocated kitchen chores to me, as the eldest child. I can’t actually remember that my brother and sister had any chores at all, but I had no other chores than those that took place in the kitchen; and all of them alone with my mother.
The earliest memories, I must have been around ten years old, are clear as a bell; crumbing bread, sage and chopped onions for chicken stuffing, stirring grated cheese into cream for the cauliflower while she stood next to me and grated nutmeg into the mix.
It became my duty to make the salad for weekday suppers, while she saw to the meat. To this day the smell of cucumber in vinegar instantly brings to mind the little fluted glass bowl she liked to serve it in .
I expect that the washing up after cake baking fell to me because I could lick the mixing bowl and spoon in the scullery, where she couldn’t see me do it and so wouldn’t have to reprimand me for it.
Making the gravy from the residual juices from the roast in that ubiquitous aluminum kastrol* that every household had in those days, cutting gem squash in half and removing the pips, scraping the flesh of peeled potatoes to make hasselback bakes … and talking, talking, talking, while she washed the dishes and I dried.
No, I don’t remember feeling any resentment about my allocated chores. Not at all. And Le Creuset be damned, I cherish my own kastrol*, it’s like having my mom peeping over my shoulder in my own kitchen.
* Although kastrol is the Afrikaans word for stewpan or saucepan, these aluminum roasting pans were always called by this name amongst everyone I knew. Some time ago, Jenny Morris (the Giggling Gourmet) and I were talking on the phone about them, and she said that, as far back as she could remember, it had always been called a kastrol.