My earliest memories of food involve my paternal grandmother:Gee-Gee (an ex chorus girl dance, five feet of endless leg, saucer blue eyes and marvelled waves), who lived on the Sussex coast in a house surrounded by whispering trees. My dad and I wuld drive down from London, a journey that felt decades long to a child, but the monotony was forgotten as soon as Gee-Gee swung open the door and we were embraced: first by a pleasurable blast of something roasting, and then by her. These lunches usually incorporated a roast meat with gravy, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower cheese, and definitely dessert: treacle tart with a cool lick of cream to sharpen the sugar, incredible crumbles, swimming in thick vanilla custard. Every day there was proper tea at Gee-Gee’s, with homemade scones, ginger cake and her best bone-thin china. She understood absolutely everything about life, except three things:
1. Why anyone, most specifically, me, would become a vegetarian.
2. Why it was difficult for hunger to be limited to three times a day, with a little pang left over for tea, devoid of desire to pick between meals.
3. The attraction of violently coloured eye shadow to a sixteen year old. (Like an ancient barmaid,” she’d sniff at my peacock -feather- green eyelids.)
Gee-Gee was brilliant, she taught me to bake without fuss. I watched the quiet joy she derived from feeding those she loved and and I took it with me, like a tattoo, into adulthood, making idle breakfasts and Sunday lunches, Indian Summer dinners, and rainy day tea, revelling in the simple pleasure of cooking for people I cared about.
Here is her recipe for choux pastry, handed down to me when I was seven, after a weekend visit making profiteroles.