My grandfather may well, now that I look back on things, have been a bit of a tyrant, he once slapped my mother’s hand with a carving knife when she reached for a morsel of the chicken he was carving.

I’ve written before of my suspicions that he was, quite possibly, gay. When I think about him three things about him are prevalent: his perfect grooming, the wonderful fabrics he draped in unlikely places (a swag of brocade hung, for no practical purpose, in the middle of the passage in my grandparent’s home), and his dining room.

The dining room and the meals eaten in it were always quite formal and the tablescape is set like a photograph in my mind. The linen was white and heavy, the silverware was bone-handled and that table held the last silver cruet set I have ever seen used daily. The carpet faithfully held on to the cabbage and gravy odour that snuck into all the other rooms of the house.

They dressed for meals and actually had a little bell rung when the food was ready to be served; he’d go and ‘wash up’ and don a blazer, I never saw him eating in his shirtsleeves, except on Sunday nights; when they would have their supper on a tray in their bedroom.

Groceries were ordered daily, and a man would deliver them on a bicycle, taking the slip with the order for the next day away with him.

They ate foods that are now completely old-fashioned, even the names sound quaint today; herrings and coddled eggs, griddle cakes and potted ham. Their main meal was always at lunchtime, and always three courses; the first being soup. My gran would never eat the soup course, and he would say “Not very hungry, Pet?” every single day. She, having had two or three brandies before, would have her elbow on the table, her chin in her hand, and would gaze at him mistily, flicking her cigarette ash in a miniscule ashtray she carried everywhere with her.

White pepper, grated cucumber in vinegar, Worcestershire Sauce.
Poached haddock in double cream and parsley, sherried apples, mulligatawny.
Chateaubriand, red cabbage with raisins. Toad-in-the-hole and Devils-on-horseback…

How I wish I could cook for him and dine with him at my own table, just once!

Mon grand-père, le feinschmecker de tyran!


52 Comments Add yours

  1. leigh says:

    Such a privilege to read 🙂

  2. Nzwaa says:

    I found myself sighing after reading this. It takes me to a world I’ve never known. I enjoyed the ride though 🙂

  3. Chantelle says:

    *sighs* Stunning memories! What would you cook for him????? *thinks Cindy should set herself a blog challenge and cook a three course meal for her grandad … hell, thinks she should do that for her dad who taught her to cook!!!!) What are Devils-On-Horseback?

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yay, I’ll combine your challenge with Tandy’s ‘come dine with me’ one 🙂
      Devils on Horseback are made of dates stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon, then broiled until crisp.

      1. Chantelle says:

        I’ve never heard of the cheese version before! *scans calendar for a significant date for her part of the challenge*

      2. theonlycin says:

        *wonders who to invite*

  4. souldipper says:

    A great story, Cin. Many thanks. I loved the details of their little routines. Aren’t families wonderful? It’s sad when there is no one to answer the questions we raise when we are older…

    1. theonlycin says:

      That’s my primary reason for having a blog, souldipper, so that my daughter can find answers one day.

      1. thysleroux says:

        Very interesting notion.

        My grandparents (and parents) left me very few answers, pity they never had a “blog”

      2. theonlycin says:

        I thank heavens that both my gran and mom at least kept photo albums.

  5. That was a different and wonderful world – thanks for taking me there!

    1. theonlycin says:

      You’re welcome. Sunshine 🙂

  6. granny1947 says:

    Wish my Dad was around…just for a chat and a laugh.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I believe the term is ‘Navy moffie’: only when on-board if it’s good for morale 🙂

  7. Diana Ferreira says:

    Nostalgie is goed.
    My oupa het soggens vroeg koffie en beskuit geeet, en 9 uur aangesit vir ONTBYT. Wors, eiers, gebraaide tamatie, toast, aartappels, ens. Oh, en natuurlik pap. Matabele, oats of mieliemeel.
    Hy het ook ‘n klokkie gelui as die kos uit die lou oond van die Aga gehaal moes word, en tafel toe gedra word.
    My ouma het nooit gekook nie.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Ek ken presies van sulke ontbyt tafels, op my ander oupa se plaas 🙂

  8. nursemyra says:

    I had Devils on Horseback quite recently – delicious!

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m going to make them soon, but I will add chilli to the cheese.

  9. Tammy McLeod says:

    What a man and what an era. I really enjoyed this Cin. (and I also think that it can be part of a larger piece if you so choose). Well done.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I do have an idea for a larger piece, thanks Tammy 🙂

  10. Tes says:

    Thanks for sharing this sweet memory! I feel such privilege to read this 🙂

    1. Cindy says:

      I am honoured that you read it, Tes 🙂

  11. suzicate says:

    Sounds like an interesting gentleman, such sweet memories.

    1. Cindy says:

      He sure was interesting 🙂

  12. slpmartin says:

    Thanks for sharing this portrait of your grandfather…it is always interesting to me to look into the history of a family.

    1. Cindy says:

      I enjoy looking into it too Charles, have a happy day 🙂

  13. Val says:

    Through your impeccable writing ability and talent for subtle nuances, I believe I’ve just met and had dinner with your grandfather. I LOVED THIS!

    1. theonlycin says:

      What a kind and lovely comment, thank you Val 🙂

  14. Reflecting on someone’s life all this time later, the tiny details are magical. From far away across the world, in a different season and a different era altogether, he sounds the stuff of novels. His table must have been a wonderful place to sit: provided one observed etiquette…

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, one was rather afraid of the knife-over-the-knuckle reprimand 😉

  15. Jenna says:

    I love the level of detail in your story–what the carpet smelled like, what the set table looked like–it takes me back to another time.

  16. Naomi says:

    What a treat to be taken back in time like this, Cindy. Love the reminder of that endearment ‘Pet’ 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Sweet, isn’t it 😀

  17. lifeinarecipe says:

    Thank you for allowing us a peek into your window of memories. It is always interesting to see how our observations and emotions are captured by certain things we remember.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you, Cindy, for taking the time to visit, read and comment.

  18. gospelwriter says:

    what a lovely memoir, Cin, nostalgia in every word… thanks for sharing it

  19. Tokeloshe says:

    Wonderful! Great post

    Beautiful photo and well written as always.

    I am sure he would approve of you even more today.

    Thank you for re-posting, as I missed it the first time.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Tok, much love to you.

  20. nrhatch says:

    A study in contrast ~ blazer and brandy, soup and cigarettes. 🙂

    And, yum, . . . mulligatawny.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Yes, I think I will make it soon, love it 🙂

  21. My grandfather had blue eyes that would turn green when he got angry.

    1. theonlycin says:

      My eyes are like that!

  22. Teri says:

    This was delicious to read, thank you Cin for the beautiful way in which you share your stories.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you Teri 🙂

  23. Charming and engaging write about. Sounds like largely good memories here. Handsome grandfather.

    My mother-in-law was English, so we ate fish (usually white fish, not haddock) – and still do – fish in parsley sauce, toad-in-the-hole, and devils-on-horseback. My first full-time adult job was with a major American bank on the corner of Wall Street and Broadway in Manhattan. The cafeteria always served -believe it or not – mulligatawny. This time around, I didn’t have to look up anything!!! 😀

    1. theonlycin says:

      I think he was rather dashing, thank you Jamie 😀

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