“Is there dessert?” was a regular question asked as the bundle of knives, forks & spoons were noisily gathered from the cutlery drawer before placing them at the eight or more places around our dining table. Mammy would have spread the freshly starched white linen damask cloth across the surface if our arms were not long enough to do so. Little people not much taller than the height of the table found it hard to see if the cloth was evenly spread across the surface.
Place mats were in another drawer. They were to denote a place setting and positions for serving dishes and to protect the table from those hot dishes. In our so called temperate climate hot food cools quickly so the dinner plates were always heated. Elly, that is where I got my asbestos fingers – carrying the filled hot plates and dishes from the kitchen. 😉 Condiments & sauces were next then a plate of sliced bread and drinking glasses. Milk was a normal drink to have with a meal at our table. I might have had water since I was unable to tolerate the milk. When the chorus rang out “Da da dee da da, Grannymar set the table!” it was because I had forgotten a dish of butter. Irish men love butter with their spuds!
If we were slow to eat up our dinner the threat of “No dessert for you!” might be followed by “If you don’t eat it for your dinner, you will get it for your tea!” Dinner was the main meal of the day and served mid day. Mind you our evening meal was often another hot cooked meal. Mammy found it easier than making several plates of sandwiches.
Desserts were not to be missed. Mammy made good pastry, a talent I never inherited. Apple tarts were an all year favourite, with rhubarb when in season and sweet mince in December & January. There were rice and tapioca puddings and baked egg custard. We had fruit flans, meringues and whipped jellies in summertime. Do-nuts and hot Apple cake were part of school day desserts when our time was limited and the boys often took their portions to eat on the bus journey as they returned to school. There might even be a portion for the bus driver!
As I grew up the dessert fair became more varied. I was called on to make lemon meringue pie, sponge cakes and cheese cakes. They never lasted long and the sound of “Any more?” was a regular thing.
Did you have a favourite dessert? Tell us about it.