Funny how food has such a strong visceral link to your heart and memories… Some of the patriotic foodie habits I regularly indulge in are:
1. BOVRIL on hot toast into which the butter has softly melted, reminding me of so many breakfasts before school – even lazy Sunday morning breakfasts – where it was our family ‘thing’ to sit together every morning for breakfast: a half rule, half ritual. Never rushed, it was a time for stories, question-time, teasing, sulking, laughter… Now, every SINGLE time I spread butter into my hot, hot toast so that it turns the very toastedness of the toast to a warmly delicious mush, it makes me think of my dear dad and his strict penchant for insisting on toast that remained just that: crisp, hard, barely warm! How he glowered at us girls, drowning our toast in great big buttery dollops and oodles of marge, jam, Bovril – the works!
2. What I call ‘Mommy Coffee’: one generous teaspoon of good quality instant coffee, just about a third of a cup of milk – ever so slightly sweetened with half a teaspoon of sugar. Stir. Whizz around in the microwave for 30 seconds. THEN add the boiled water.
After pumping the cafetieres and milk steamer as a trainee barista at Starbucks for a few months back in 2005 in Newbury’s High Street, I became a bit of a coffee afficianado (actually, more of a fanatic!) what with the in-depth education we received via coffee-tasting, conferences and a brick-thick coffee manual we were regularly quizzed on. And so, I took to drinking my coffee pure and black so the top notes, bass notes, fragrance or body could never be insulted by the adulterous dousing of milk, cream, sweeteners or sugars --- looking down my caffeinated nose at any pleb who deigned to ruin a coffee like that! (In the back kitchen, us baristas even used to get ‘high’ on the literally intoxicating air that was left behind after we emptied a brand new pack of coffee beans into the grinders, pushing our faces deep into the bag and inhaling like a sorry addict – looking more like an old donkey with his feedbag than a glamorous coke junkie!!)
3. Carnation Treat Caramel : oh, the ecstasy, the rapture (!) of unhurriedly winding that can-opener in a circle to reveal a glimpse of what maybe heaven could be like!
A knocking at my kitchen door made me peek through the square of antique French lace that serves as a curtain, to see Ang (fellow SA and neighbour) grinning madly and pointing frantically to the tin of caramel she’d bought for me. Oh boy – it was only 3 days later, and there was only a mere memory left for me of the delights of that tin! Sjoe, and how it reminded me of home – of my mother’s well-stocked and enviously organised walk-in pantry… When either my dad or I couldn’t find something lekker to sate our sweet-tooth, we’d head straight to the back of the pantry to the tin section, right next to the noisy ol’ deep-freeze – and there, never ever disappointed, we’d seize upon a tin of caramel or condensed milk – for which we were fully prepared to endure the wrath of that question, “Who ate a tin of caramel?” It was never hard to find the culprit.
Something I have looked for, year in and year out, in every Tesco or Sainsburys I patronise is : tinned smoked oysters! For me, these reek happily of late afternoons, camping in Wilderness – the sun that hot gold that turns everything glorious, sipping some of Daddy’s cold, cold beer – and sharing a plate of salticrax dotted luxuriously with an oily, brown but deeeeeelicious smoked oyster!
If I just BEGIN to talk about biltong then we’d all be here till at least one of us turned grey! So, let me return to what I ACTUALLY set out to write about: my friend Caroline’s comment relating to my last entry about the NHS and midwives:
My first son was born in SA with all the best of what medical aid had to offer. It was very reassuring because I was very nervous so I can understand what you are saying.
The other two had midwifes deliver them although a doctor was called for no. 2.
That's the nice thing about having your delivery in a hospital - the doctors are never far away if need be.
I found the English midwifes very caring and (over) concerned. They react to every little thing. Although my midwife did try to persuade me to have a home delivery for no 3.
At some point in my third pregnancy I was sent to a gynae for a checkup and when he asked me about my 'birth plan' I looked at him with a look and said "what's up with all that - nothing ever goes according to plan anyway!. I just want a hospital bed and an epidural!" He burst out laughing...
Three very different deliveries --- though none of them sound like there was any disappointment or frustration on Caroline’s part (VERY reassuring for me!!) I’d have to agree that there is certainly a ‘culture’ of midwifery here which I haven’t heard happening in SA, where the whole pregnancy and birth process is overseen by a gynaecologist. My mom and I were both initially quite sceptical about a midwife being the sole carer for me during my pregnancy. I suppose it’s a mistrust based on the idea that a gynaecologist is more qualified. But saying that, women have been acting as midwives for each other since literally forever, and in each and every culture – except until the recent Western advent of the male-dominant ‘doctor’ culture (late 19th Century?!) This is when men put us on our backs, bent legs opened up, ankles in stirrups, in a very convenient position for the doc doing the delivering, but hellishly illogical and a bit pointless for the woman giving birth! Even ancient cultures had women walking around, squatting, sitting – doing what came naturally – and doing what is suddenly again (thankfully!) fashionable today.
And so, I’d have to agree with Caroline and all the masses of hearsay I’ve adsorbed through television, magazines, books and conversation: my birth plan’ll be just the same: get the baby out in one piece and help me not commit husband-homicide in my agony!