Where was your Mother


This post was originally in the form of a podcast but alas it has expired.

Thankfully I had kept a copy of the text and reproduce it here.

1963-08 Mammy at Molony Family Gathering


When you think of your mother, how and where do you imagine her? For me it has to be in the kitchen wearing a pinafore with hands covered in flour while baking, or standing at the cooker stirring or checking a saucepan or casserole dish before moving on to the next stage of preparation of a meal.

Yesterday I walked down the hill to post a letter before calling into the bank to say hello to my two penny worth! On the trudge uphill in the driving rain late in the afternoon, I was reminded of all those far off days walking home from school is similar weather. The big difference was that I had to think of and prepare my own dinner when I reached home. In my school days most of the dinner was started and I helped with the vegetables and dessert before laying the table.

We never knew what to expect for dinner until the front door opened and the aroma wafted like the Bisto Kids advert from the kitchen. If you were not hungry before you crossed the threshold, then you certainly were ravenous by the time you closed the door on the inside. It was so inviting, that the taste buds went into overdrive you could eat the table never mind waiting for the food to be served.

Our meal usually had four parts, soup, main course and sweet of hot apple or rhubarb tart with cream or in winter rice, tapioca or bread and butter pudding. The last three I passed on but made up for it with the warm cake straight from the oven to go with a cup of coffee or tea. It is a miracle we were not all obese instead of matchstick figures!

Soda and wheaten bread (known in our house as Daddy’s bread and brown bread respectively), scones, plain, wheaten, or fruit were made every day. In winter we had griddle bread, Daddy complained, didn’t he always! The griddle bread did not taste like the bread his mother made, well why would it, granny made it on a griddle over an open turf fire.

Mammy used a wide heavy cast iron frying pan on the gas stove. One day while stoking the fire she had a brilliant idea! She covered the bread on the pan with an old wide saucepan lid and lifted some smouldering turf from the fire and placed it on the pan lid. The turf helped cook the bread from the top and added the smoky flavour. From then on we had authentic flavoured griddle bread every time! You had to be quick on the draw because that bread disappeared fast. I wonder if this is why we all have long arms.

Shortbread, mince pies, brack, Victoria sponges and fairy cakes (cup cakes) or feckies as we called them were all a regular part of her repertoire.

It is the main meals I remember most. It is hard to credit that mammy was unable to cook anything when she was newly married. In fact she often told us that she had nightmares on honeymoon thinking about having to cook when she moved into her new home.

Yet mammy could do the loaves and fishes with ease. I saw her feed the hoards of relations that descended unannounced on a regular basis. There were roasts, stews, casseroles, bacon & cabbage and on a bitter winter evening nothing better than coddle!

Coddle was a Dublin dish, jokingly referred to as a ‘Whore’s (pronounced Who-are) breakfast!’ It consisted of onions, the fattest streaky bacon and pig’s kidney. Some people added pork sausages we never did. It was put on to boil early in the day and once it reached boiling point the heat was reduced and left to simmer away slowly for several hours. When it was well cooked the juice was thickened and seasoning checked. The nickname came from the joke that the difference between a whore and a prostitute was that a whore gave you breakfast! These generous ladies were thought to put the pan of coddle on to simmer before entertaining their guests for the night and when the gentlemen were preparing to leave a hearty breakfast was served.

In our house coddle was served with an enormous dish of boiled potatoes and there was always a sliced loaf to mop up the gravy when the potatoes were gone. Remember the five men in our house would eat at least five large potatoes each! Then you had mammy, my sister and yours truly as well!

I have decided to have a ‘food-ie’ post once a week. Please don’t ask me to post pictures as that is not my scene. In over 50 years of cooking, yes I started when I was about seven or eight years old, I have collected plenty of recipes and ideas. I have said it before and I will say it again mammy never possessed a weighing scales until I bought one. She happily measured by handful, spoonful or pinch. I remember making an egg sponge cake with 3 eggs, three tablespoons of caster sugar and 3 tablespoons of self raising flour. I beat it with an egg whisk! Somehow it worked.

Mammy cooked by the feel, the look or the taste of a mixture. Only once do I remember a disaster. She produced a wonderful great big apple tart, only to discover that in a distracted moment she had sprinkled bicarbonate of soda on the apples instead of icing sugar before putting the pastry lid on it for cooking. It was the one and only time I remember food being returned to the kitchen uneaten.

I spent many hours in that kitchen with mammy and hopefully some of her good sense rubbed off on me. Somebody once said to me “Well if you can read you can cook!” A cookery book does not teach you about aroma, tasting or producing food, that is an act of love!

15 thoughts on “Where was your Mother

  1. steph

    I’m hungry after listening to that, Grannymar!

    I think I’d rather not remember my mother in the kitchen! Cooking was not her forte and it was best to stay well clear when meals were being prepared. We did get to do the washing-up though 🙁

    I taught myself the basics when I left home and my mother-in-law taught me the rest so I grew to love cooking. She also taught her four sons to have a love of cooking so I get to have days off and still have delicious food on the table 😀

    You’re so right, Grannymar. Nothing whets the appetite more than coming home to the aroma of home-made food, especially when it’s been slow cooked in the oven. I’m a huge fan of ‘slow food in a fast world’.

  2. Jefferson Davis

    Ah, those are wonderful memories of your mother. When I think of my mother, I see her with a phone in one hand and a pen in the other. She is a cunning business woman. 🙂 But, I do have wonderful memories of my grandmother and I working in the garden.

    By the way, you are making me hungry with all of this talk of Coddle, boiled potatoes, Apple Tarts, and what not! 🙂 Great post, Grannymar.

  3. Grannymar Post author

    JD treasure those memories.

    Sorry to make you hungry. From now on Monday will be food day!

    So you did the meme. I like the CD cover.

  4. Nancy

    You know, Grannymar, my Mother was never a great cook, but she was a good cook and everything she served us was very tasty.

    What my Mother was good at was family time. Every evening my brothers and sister and I would set the table in the dining room even if we were only having ,don’t laugh,Spam. We had cloth napkins and sometimes candles, but always good conversation.

    We talked about politics and books and history and my Dad made up a little quiz twice a week and tested us : “Who wrote Gulliver’s Travels?” “How do you spell electricity?” ” Where is Timbuckto?”

    I’ll never forget those times. To this day I am curious about things and want to get to the bottom of the mystery. I’m always looking things up..

    Oh, and GM, I LOVE the picture of your Mother. She was beautiful……

  5. Betty

    Great post. When I think of my mother, I think of her ironing her nurse’s uniform and especially her hat. It had to be starched stiff as a board and took forever to iron. The uniform was starched, too, and I can remember the rustling sound it made as she walked in it. Those days are gone. The uniforms are all drip-dry and many of the nurses don’t wear hats.

    I’m looking forward to your Monday posts!

  6. Grannymar Post author

    I love when my post triggers memories for others. Thank you Nancy and Betty for sharing precious moments with me.

  7. Baino

    Sadly these days I not only think of my mother but ‘see’ her each evening at 11.00 walking past my kitchen window and coming in through the sliding door for a quick cuppa and a chat before going next door to bed when she worked evening shifts. She would chat about the day, still in her nurses uniform, drink two cups of tea or a hot whiskey toddy and eat something sweet. Kiss me goodnight (even though I was almost 40) and wonder off home. She was a stupendous cook and taught me all I know except how to make decent gravy – that accolade goes to my mother in law.

    Speaking of food though, when I was 21, a girlfriend and I went to England for a holiday. I surprised my Auntie Doris in Wales and we arrived to her setting blackberry and apple and gooseberry pies on the windowsill to cool. It was like something out of a Mother Goose story! We ate pieces of them with clotted cream. Yum. It was as if she knew we were coming but she didn’t.

  8. Grannymar Post author

    Baino, years ago people just called unexpectedly. The phone service was not like today and mothers/ wousewives were usually there to make a cup of tea or coffee.

    Now any good housewife worth her salt had cakes, tarts, buns or biscuits in her tins or pantry! They were all home made.

  9. sharry

    I’m so fortunant to still have my mother (and father). They just turned 90 this year. Looking back I remember my mother sewing. Every fall she made school clothers for each of us 3 sisters. We were each given a week of her time. We had to help out an extra amount for that week as she made our skirts and dresses. I lived in Texas. We were not allowed to wear pants to school. School rules, not mom’s. We usually got to help select the patterns and fabrics for our clothes with Mother having a veto. Too expensive or too complicated. When I visit my parents now, I notice how Mother still always looks elegant. She has a real eye for clothes.

    PS I reviewed your blog for Time Goes By. I was glad for a reminder to stop by.

  10. Gary

    I love the accent in your podcasts !!!

    My mother would also be in the kitchen, with a husband and two sons to look after who cared not a jot about housework or food as long as the house was clean and the food was there upon demand any time day or night, she had her work cut out !!!

  11. Grannymar Post author

    Gary two sons ! My mother had four sons plus my father, my young sister and little me in the middle of the boys! We grew up thinking that cake hot from the oven was the way to eat it, and cold cake was stale! Day old cake or left overs – what were they?

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