Food is Memory

I don’t know what kind of relationship I had with my dad – how I’d class it or whether we were that close. But, my favourite memories are of going out walking with him. When I was younger, we’d go walking the dogs and kedderin on the weekend. We’d go around the back of our houses, up the “back lane” and it was all farm land, sheep, cows, and horses. We’d often walk for miles and miles, through woods and fields.

In the summer and autumn, we’d usually pick elderflowers and elderberries, mushrooms, raspberries, blackberries, fiddleheads (ferns), rose-hips, and sloes. My dad made a lot of different wine, as well as sloe gin, which is my favourite. Tastes like cough syrup – if cough syrup was highly alcoholic!

I remember one particular autumn day, we were out walking through the fields behind the farm (which is all golf course and new houses these days) and we found the LARGEST mushrooms I’ve ever seen.

Field (or Horse) mushrooms are edible and can grow pretty big if left undisturbed. From what I remember, these were in the middle of a field, so it must have been empty for some time.

We decided to go straight home. My dad was so excited to cook them. He wanted to cook the biggest whole as it was the largest we had ever found. Unfortunately, it was so big that it wouldn’t fit into the pan and he had to chop it up. He was so sad! But, I think it was also the best tasting mushroom I’ve ever had. We also cooked sausages, bacon, eggs, black pudding, fried bread, and baked beans!!! Reaaaally healthy, lol!!! 

I feel like I ate a lot of things I didn’t like all that much as a kid – Sole (fish), clams and cockles, pigeon, rabbit, hare, grouse… but we ate what we were given.

My favourite things were the simple things we had – fried fresh mushrooms, potato fritters, rose-hip syrup, and fresh kippers (with homemade brown bread). Now, whenever I’m down or lonely, I really miss mushrooms, fritters, and sloe gin (though you can find that over here in the US. I recently also found St. Germain – which is an elderflower liqueur!) It’s strange how so many of my memories are entangled with food or drinks.

The times we went foraging, the times my grandmother made this or that, the times we were left alone at the beach and speared sole and other flatfish and crabs, the times we went to France and I was subjected to the horror that is warm brie, snails, or mussels, the times we were in Portugal and had squid that tasted like inner tube and fresh caught and roasted sardines and picked oranges and lemons off the trees.

I want to share some of those memories and recipes here – though some will be very specific to the region, cultures, and traditions I grew up with and ingredients may be hard to find!