Saturday, 12 January 2013


My mum brought me and my older brother up on her own (my dad left her for someone else when I was four). We didn't miss him - quite the opposite actually. Michael and me had a great childhood, partly because my mum worked so hard to make sure we never went without.

That doesn't mean things weren't difficult for her. She just chose not to tell us her worries and it wasn't until I was older and paying my own bills that I really began to appreciate how hard it must have been.

On a Friday evening my mum and me used to take the bus to my grandma's house, about ten miles away, and spend the night. Grandma lived on her own and my grandad had recently died. They were Polish and had moved to Britain just after the war, so I learned a lot about resourcefulness from both my grandma and my mum - things like always cooking a meal from scratch using inexpensive ingredients (herbs, root vegetables, rice, less popular cuts of meat).

In the winter when we stayed over, I'd go up to bed while they stayed downstairs talking in Polish. The guest room was always freezing but the bed sheets would be freshly washed and nestling deep down was a glass lemonade bottle filled with boiling water so my feet would be warm. I'd gingerly inch my toes down towards it, fearful of scalding them.

There was always something cooking when we arrived. Pork with dill, or pierogi ('suitcases'as I called them), filled with potato and cheese, or cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and meat, or beetroot or sorrel soup with soured cream.

Because of my mum's received wisdom from her mother, I:

Never waste or throw food away
Always cook from scratch
Love carrots, beetroot, gherkins, dill and cabbage
Wear extra layers if it's cold
Save bones for soup
Make do and mend
Grow things to eat.

I intend to keep a record of this wisdom, live by it and pass it on to my son.

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