Thursday, 18 December 2014

Peanuts Extra Strong Mints and Butter Papers

Its an odd combination but one that holds resonance for me.  It's that time of year again -  nearly Christmas and as usual for this time of year for me I have been thinking of those no longer with us and their little customs, idiosyncrasies, traditions and humour. Remembering them in my own little ways never forgetting them and still missing them.  

This was the time of year that we used to go to my grandparents as it was the time that the family got together.  We would travel from Oakham and then Uppingham to my grandparents' home usually there had been heavy snowfall and we used to be wrapped in blankets and would be singing all the way to my grandparents' home at night and then be bundled in front of the fire given something nice and hot to drink and something to eat and then bed.
It wasn't just the family that congregated there would be Uncles, Aunts, Cousins, Second Cousins from both paternal and maternal sides of the family.  There would also be friends who if found to be spending Christmas alone by my grandmother would always be invited to Christmas Dinner and for tea.  We learnt to communicate from an early age with older people in fact my Uncle took in Grandma who was no relation but a spinster on her own and she lived with them until she passed and we learnt to respect our elders gently but firmly.

There were  lot of us then now there is just about a quarter left, scattered to all four winds all of us wrapped up with our own lives and extended families.  My Nan was the one who held everything together, then my Dad but now both sadly gone and we are the poorer for it.

As a child  I spent a lot of time with my Granddad.  I learnt to walk - with him pushing the lawnmower (very slowly  - it was a push lawnmower) with me holding on to the supports.  He was a story teller and a good listener and he kept us youngsters entertained and out of trouble.   He relayed family history, family stories, playing his Banjo - boy could he play that Banjo (he played Duelling Banjos and made the Banjo sing and answer  I have never heard anyone come close as to how he used to play it- apparently he was offered a full time job in a Dance Band in the 1930s but decided not to take it as he had a young wife and a family to support). He also played concertina and the spoons.   

My grandad was a lovely man who put a lot of time and effort into the younger members of the family - being from a big family himself he was used to little ones being around.  Pop was a calm level headed chap who I never saw lose his temper (I have it on good authority that apparently he did and when he did boy did you get out the way fast - he was slow to the burn but once you lit the blue touch paper you stood back and fast).    

This year I have revived a simple tradition of my grandfather even though I do not have a wood/coal fire - (one day).  Pop as we used to affectionately call him used to buy lovely roasted peanuts from the market in Lincoln and used to keep them in a glass jar (an old honey jar if I remember correctly) by the fire and we were allowed a few each day we were with him - he used to indulge daily when we were not around and they used to taste wonderful.  I do not know how they were prepared but to this day I have not so far found any peanuts that have the same wonderful taste as those nuts.  The peanuts were tiny not large and whether they were prepared in a wood fired oven or not I do not know but they tasted wonderful and they came in a white paper bag.  Sadly our market does not do salted peanuts and I am reduced to buying them from the supermarket unless any of you good folks out there know where some really nice peanuts can be obtained??  The general consensus of the family is that we think what used to happen was that as the peanuts were in their jar in the fire place that the heat released the oils and gave the nuts more flavour but we do not know this for sure.  Mine are sat in their jar by the Gas fire which is disconnected not as romantic or as attractive as a log or coal fire and every time I pass I smile to myself - but the peanuts still do not taste the same.

And my Grandmother  - Nan and Extra Strong Mints - she had a Bureau with a central drawer and she used to keep her quarter of Extra Strong Mints in there in a little white bag. From a very young age I used to get popped one now and again and to this day there is still nothing better for me than an Extra Strong Mint they are still my favourites.  My Mum has the bureau the moment and every time I go I just have to check that there are none in there - as that was Nan's drawer - there never is but that's to be expected.

And Butter Papers - Nan used to recycle them and used them to line the bottom of pie tins and also home made stuffing. You use them just like a piece of tin foil - this is something that I still do and I store them in a polythene bag in the fridge and folding them up and then taking how many out that I need.= when  I am baking.

Silly things but they remind me of happier more generous times and the love of some very special people.  Come Christmas Dinner we always toast absent friends a long running family tradition - but never forgotten

Catch you soon




  1. Hi Sunflower

    Glad you like it - everything true but then real life often is. Hope you and yours are keeping well and are all ready for Christmas. Nice to see you over here. Take care.




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