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!