Sweet nostalgia

My copy of Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer arrived last week and is every bit as good as I had hoped. Jane's writing style and personality, so familiar from her blog, are very much in evidence in this book and it is indeed my very favourite sort of cookery book, interspersing recipes with plenty of prose. The sort of book that will leave the kitchen frequently, a pleasure to browse through in bed and a delight to read while sitting on a swinging seat in the garden, a child on either side, browsing, discussing, making a list of things to cook and a list of books not yet read.

For me there are books remembered, the books my children are not yet ready for, the Swiss Chalet stories and the girls of St Clare's and Malory Towers. I remember these books so well from my childhood, how I longed to go to boarding school and have midnight feasts. I remember well the summer my next door friend and I made arrangements to rise early and watch the sun rise from the end of the garden We planned to take flasks of blackcurrant tea and jam sandwiches for this adventure. It would be just as we had read. I cannot recall which book this came from, one of the St Clare's stories I think. We had no idea what blackcurrant tea might be (this was 1970s Belfast and fruit and herbal teas had not arrived) so we made a guess and mixed jam into hot water, I remember it being very good. That was the same summer that my friend and I spent climbing out of bathroom windows on the flat, tarry roofs of our kitchens, communicating across the hedges by complicated morse style codes. Flashing torch signals at night, hiding in the apple trees and visiting each other through the secret hole in the hedge. So much of this was inspired by the books we were reading, especially Enid Blyton.

I recall so well the food from those books, the midnight feasts, the splendid teas. I longed to discover Ginger Beer and now I have a recipe for it, hurrah. I think this recipe excited me more than anything, I am waiting for the children to finish school and then we will make some, I am saving bottles and rather marvellously, Jane notes at the start of the recipe that she cannot guarantee the resulting drink will not contain a tiny amount of alcohol, I can already picture Dylan swigging this happily and imagining himself drunk!

This book has charmed and thrilled me and I will cook from it and read it often, the most delightful thing for me though is the family appeal of the writing. It is one of those cook books that the children can read too, the style is perfect for igniting their interest in both cookery and discovering forgotten titles to read together.

Our first recipe from the book? Milly Molly Mandy's Little Patty-Pan Cakes. They are very good and alarmingly addictive, (I ate five in one day.)


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