I taught them to cook vidya4 - Flipbook - Page 17
my grandmother taught me. The dirty baking trays, cake tins
and saucepans are piled on the wooden draining boards ready for
soaking. Caustic soda is dangerous stuff, so I need to be careful,
but there is a joy in watching burnt bits of food float off from the
trays into the scummy water as I leave them to soak.
Now to explore the ingredients in the storeroom and track
down the smell. Two large plastic bins contain catering sacks
of plain and self raising flour and the shelves are stacked with
packs of Tate and Lyle granulated, caster, icing and brown sugar.
A row of huge screw top glass jars are filled with bright red glacé
cherries, vivid green stems of crystallised angelica, currants,
sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, desiccated coconut and almond
A section of any school food storeroom shelves must be filled
with bottles of artificial colouring and flavourings to prop up our
culinary skills and enhance 1970s dishes. She Who Run Away
has left tiny bottles of red, green and yellow food colouring and
essences of vanilla, almond and rum. Red is for rhubarb, pink
butter icing and to colour the glaze for strawberry tarts. Green
is added to dishes made with gooseberries and cooked apples.
Vanilla essence, in a very large brown bottle, is the most popular
chemical compote added to fairy cakes and Victoria sandwich.
I mix drops of almond essence with semolina for Bakewell tart
instead of ground almonds which are too expensive. Rum essence
is the ultimate sin, which we dribble into sponges or chocolate
truffles at Christmas time. How I long to use the real thing.
And there are so many ground spices which must be for
Christmas baking – cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice and
whole nutmegs like my grandmother grates on the top of her
rice puddings. I open the ground ginger pot hoping for a whiff of
brandy snaps and ginger biscuits but the brown dust has lost its
spicy magic long ago.
On the floor there are heavy plastic containers, sticky with
black treacle and golden syrup both with drippy lids, some huge