Saturday, 18 July 2009

Something in the Tins

I don't know whether it is a country thing or not but my Nan always used to do a big bake and keep something in the tins for unexpected guests. It was a formality that she never budged from or compromised and good friends were often offered something to eat several cups of tea from the very large teapot and/or Mazawati coffee; if she had just got a new batch of wine that had recently been bottled an improptu glass of this and that would be offered as well.

To say my Nan was interesting was an understatement. She was a very quiet woman who had her own set of priorities and a christian faith which she did not shove down your neck and allowed you to be yourself. She had a very good sense of what was right and wrong, as did my Popl. She was a very peaceful person and the home that my Granddad (Pop) shared together for 60 years was a very peaceful place a little eden in the madenss of the progressing world. Nan didn't often blow her top but if she did you knew about it. She was also the matriach of our family a very kind, loving generous woman who worked hard all her life and who didn't miss a trick. My early memories of Nan are that she was always on the go very rarely sat down and if you wanted to talk to her you had to join her in what she was doing. I did not really get to know her well until my Granddad died and then we became extremely close.

One of my lasting memories of my Nan is just before she died she had to into a nursing home and the family used to congregate to see her there. On one occasion she had asked my Dad to take a bottle of whisky to her, and a couple of glasses, and there she sat holding court in the nursing home handing out the whisky to family and compatriots. She even tried giving some to the nursing staff as well!

My Nan bless her heart always did a weekly bake and always had lots of goodies in the tins in the pantry, that hallowed place where young people were allowed to peer but not venture into for fear of knocking something over (Nan's pantry was long thin and narrow and had a meat safe esconced in the lower regions as well as flagons of cider, mead and bottles of this and that as well as bottled fruit).

As I got older and she realised that I wasn't going to be breaking or knocking things over - I was allowed in little by little to fetch bits and bobs out for her. Whenever people called in unexpectedly at my Nan's house (there were always people in and out to buy and collect eggs, to buy apples or veg etc.) if it was someone she knew well they would often be invited in for a cuppa tea and a bite to eat; sometimes if pickings were on the wrong day of the week it would just be plain biscuits but if it was a Sunday or Monday just after the bake now that was a different kettle of fish.

Sunday morning was always Masawati Coffee day i.e. piping hot milky coffee with a good tot of rum in it and by gum was that bliss on a cold icy wintry day when the fires were lit and the house was snug as a bug. But those tins - ah the contents of - they were scrummy. Treacle tart, fairy cakes (what everyone refers to as cup cakes) scones, ginger cake, fruit cake, coconut cheesecakes, sausage rolls, chocolate cake, apple tart, rhubarb pies; chocolate coconut, tiffin, scotch pancakes, shortbread, home made baps slathered with butter and potted dog and bread loaves which was lovely for toast and honey for breakfast. All the baking was stored in recycled sweet tins (the big sweet tins like Quality Street or the tins that held biscuits in were always utilised and they were all different shapes and sizes) and added even more fascination to Nan's pantry. This is something that I also do is recycle the sweet tins and use them for popping the baking into.

Much of Nan's big bake was for meals in the week - this was before she got a freezer. Once the freezer was on the scene she used to stuff its gunnels full of goodies for the winter months and the baking would be done as usual for the week utlising all the goodies from her large kitchen garden and the orchards.

It was a different age and a very special time where people cared more for each other but I think that is the country way of life - helping your neighbours in times of difficulty because it could so easily be you. But I feel it is a more honourable way of life.

So don't chuck your sweetie tins/biscuit tins out - recycle them - I use them for storing the baking in, but I also use them for storing lace, tapestry wools, beads - whatever else you can think of and they last for years and years if you look after them well.

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Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)