Tribute to a mother who cooked

This week I bade “Farewell, and have a good journey”, for the very last time, to my precious mother, Pamela.

She was a parent who unconditionally loved her children and grandchildren, her siblings and her many friends, with whom she shared a wide range of interests: gardening, dancing, reading, needlework, learning to speak Spanish, swimming, playing board games such as Scrabble, embossing copper-foil fine craft work, crosswords and playing tennis.

It became necessary for Mom to support herself financially from the age of forty onwards and this she did with great flare, investing in property which ensured a healthy cashflow for her until the end of her life, and which further provided a heritage for her heirs.

A world traveller of note, all done on the salary of a civil servant, was Pam, leaving behind delightful scrapbooks of mementos and photographs, each item carefully hand-labelled, faithfully recording each trip.

Best of all though, Mom cooked.

Daily family meals prepared from scratch with mostly locally-sourced, recognisable ingredients. The exception would be when she daringly cooked Chinese dishes and had to use canned, imported water chestnuts and bean sprouts. These dinners were served in traditional bowls and eaten with chopsticks.

Slow cooking was the theme – there was no other way in South Africa during the 1950’s and 1960’s – and resulted in shepherds’ pie; steak and kidney pie encased in flaky pastry; Sunday roasts with Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, and boiled, buttered green beans or fish fried in extra-light beer batter.

Undaunted, she produced home-baked bread and Cornish pasties out of her basically equipped kitchen. Toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches were created by placing the sandwiches, buttered on the outside, between sheets of kitchen paper and then ironed, until the bread achieved the right degree of brownness.

Coming home from school on Friday afternoons was unforgettable because this was the weekly baking day.

The tins on the kitchen shelf were full. There was Scottish shortbread; iced chocolate-coconut biscuits; loaves of banana or date bread; coconut, oat and butter crunchies; a double layer chocolate cake or a tart with an almond filling.  

Her hand-written recipe book contained entries with titles like Mrs. Harbouth’s Sponge Cake, Grandma’s Christmas Cake and Sheila Mulligan’s Fudge. Recipes were passed around between friends and family.

All of this had an enduring influence on Mom’s offspring.

I took to baking in a big way to the neglect of mastering any other kind of food preparation. This resulted in my husband being offered for dinner, slices of cherry cake……. or a toasted sandwich ! (I have improved my skills over time.)

Here is what her progeny have achieved:

  • A son who is an avid Jamie Oliver aficionado and loves to get creative and tweak and create his own versions of the recipes.
  • A daughter who is a master baker and who currently provides home-cooked meals to about 15 toddlers in her private school
  • A granddaughter who provides daily cooked-from-scratch vegan and non-vegan dinners for her family, since having retired a few years back from owning and cooking in her restaurante in Alpujarra, Spain
  • A grandson, former private chef to the Canadian ambassador in Oslo, Norway and who is currently catering for unique events which includes recently cooking dinner for the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg and her entire cabinet
  • Another grandson whose preferred way to relax is to try out new Vietnamese dishes to share with his wife and children
  • A grandson who often cooks his family pancakes with compote; curries and pasta bakes, even homemade bread
  • A granddaughter whose current life in France has resulted in her learning to make beef bourguignon; cheese soufflé; octopus pie; baked camembert and more
  • Finally, an eleven year old great-grandson who eagerly delves into Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients cookbook, Quick and Easy Food, making treats like orange and dark chocolate shortbread

This Mother’s gift of nourishing and loving with food has become a legacy that has been passed down through the generations.

Dear Mom, may the meals be scrumptious, may the chefs be handsome.

Now’s the time to leave the cleaning up to someone else.


Photo credit: Myself

Editing credit: Rachel Van Blerk

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