We went for a lovely walk today in our local deer park, with all the boys and their two cousins. It was truly breathtaking and we wondered all the way round how we miss such beauty on our doorstep all the time. We have such and enviable view of the South Downs from here and we so seldom stand and stare at it. Today was one to seize and we grabbed enough tea supplies for everyone and headed off to the park. The boys let off some steam (which is exactly what they needed - I can testify to after a morning cooped up in the house and LOTS of screaming!) and we adults meandered behind them, chatting through family events, children growing up, what to plant in our gardens and the change of seasons. Bliss. A small picnic of tea and chocolate buttons, courtesy of Nanny Jane half way round and the perfection was complete.
J picked up a few of my Dad's old curry books this morning and brought them up to bed to browse with our morning cuppa (Brought up by our eldest 2 boys....can you believe that!!!). We spent a while browsing through the various annotations my Dad had written under each curry.
Dad was an expert curry maker. We spent a lot of our growing up years in Yorkshire, home of some of the Best curry houses in this country and Dad fell in love with this way of cooking. Mum and Dad shared the cooking in our home and often with Dad, it was a curry, blended from the vast array of spices and peculiar ingredients he would seek out on his regular trips "Up North" to see family. He built special shelves in the kitchen we grew up in for his spices and each one was kept in a different odd jar or tin, some labelled, some known by heart. I pondered on this today as J and I scrabbled around trying to find the Garam Massala in the glass jars that had all come from the same supermarket and were ALL orange lidded. There was a method in Dad's "clutter" of shelves. He knew precisely where everything was and which container it would be in. We set about scribbling names onto each lid.
J has decided that he would like to cook curry. I am not going to argue. I have a deep love of this food and the delicacy of flavours, breadth of ingredients and care and time taken over each dish. He browsed through the books, finding one to start with and we laughed at the little notes Dad had left - "Margaret for dinner - mistake" ....laugh...read on..."Cooked in pakora oil - not good" Then the same curry 4 days later "Tried again, cooked properly this time - really good". Then days my brothers moved in and out of the family home - marked with a curry. Birthdays, Christmases, Anniversaries, friends, J and I moving into their home with our first child because we had nowhere else to live - all marked with a slap up Indian and the exhuberant generosity that my parents could not help.
Then gently tears as together we found references to how he was feeling this day or that. Not so good.
Why am I sharing something so intimate with you? Because this is the "stuff of life" as Dad would have said. The little annotations left for me in these handed down books are not only a good guide as to which curry to cook, and how to cook it....they are my inheritance. They are the little everyday stories that were the fabric of our family life. Markers in our collective memories that evoke such vivid pictures, smells and flavours. So precious and irreplaceable. More so than any money or jewel.
I am so pleased that J has taken up the wooden spoon and balti dish. I know he's going to be an excellent Curry maker - he knows what a good one tastes like after all, thanks to years round the table in my parent's home. And we will be writing in the book tonight, alongside Dad's beautiful swirling handwriting....
P.S. J's curry was goooooood.