Monday, 14 January 2008

Feeling sentimental

...possibly overly so. Today we have lots of very ripe bananas that need using up, but I don't think it was that... We also have some dulce de leche to be used up. Such a sorry state of affairs I know. I was searching the internet for cakes or puddings and then I remembered Nan's Banana & Honey Tea Bread. I wondered if the honey could be replaced with toffee sauce. So whilst I write this post for Apples and Thyme my new version of this gorgeous tea bread is in the oven. Of course I know it wont be a patch on the original recipe but you work with what you've got, right.

Apples and Thyme is a great event, celebrating time in the kitchen with mothers and grandmothers. Started by the lovely Inge of Vanielje Kitchen and Jeni of The Passionate Palate. Both blogs well worth checking out. I visit Vanielje Kitchen often, for the fabulous crockery and the images portrayed of an Africa where I'd love to be on this cold January day in England. That of course and the writing, sometimes funny, sometimes bittersweet, always worth a read though.

On Friday I went for physio and acupuncture at the hospital in our nearby town. It's not big, more of a cottage hospital and doesn't have an A & E deparment. It does however have a very good physio department, and a re-habilitation ward. I was stupidly excited to be going and not because the thought of being pulled around or having needles stuck in me was thrilling. It was because the evening before Nan had been moved there to the re-hab ward. I hadn't seen her since before Christmas when she'd been stuck in a large bug infested hospital miles away.

It wasn't visiting hours but after my treatment I went to the ward and asked if I would be permitted to see her. I could see her while I asked and if they'd said no I think I'd have cried. They said yes and as I walked up to her looking like a cowboy pigeon my heart felt heavy and light all at the same time. I can't tell you how good it was to see her. We chatted for a while, no talk of blue mice and though she's lost weight and seems weak, she's Nan, same old Nan and I just hope that she will soon be able to return to her own home and kitty cat. On a funnier note - her hair was shocking! I've since spoken to her hairdresser and asked if someone can visit her in hospital to try and sort it out. Nan's hairdresser is lovely, she's also very fond of my Nan, as are a lot of people.

As a child I found my Nan embarrassing sometimes. She always had an opinion, still does and doesn't often think to stop before expressing her opinions! Now of course I like that, wishing I could do the same without feeling guitly every time I do. She carried on working into her Seventies and still talks of the old people, often when they're younger than her. She's done some cool things in her time, from jobs that include: social work, being the warden of a home for 'naughty' children (not sure what the politically correct term would be now) to various other things. She even campaigned a few years ago for a skateboard park for the youngsters as she didn't feel there was enough for them to do to keep them off the streets.

At a time when she was nearing (official) retirement age and should have been thinking about herself and taking it easy, she took on her son, with an alcohol problem and his daughter, me. I was 8 years old at the time. Lots of personal reasons for this that don't need to be aired right now. It was an incredibly selfless thing to do. I never once felt different to my peers, this is all thanks to Nan. Don't get me wrong and let me depict her as a Saint here, we've had our moments. She can be bossy, nosey, interfere when she shouldn't and can be so overly opinionated you could scream (I know, I've done it!) but none of that matters because when you need her the most she's there, whether you're family, or a friend, or a stranger on the street.

Now then.. in the kitchen, she was an old fashioned cook. Boiled the veg until it tasted of nothing and didn't have a vitamin or nutrient left in it. The water that it was boiled in however... She did though allow me to experiment. I was given the freedom in the kitchen to gain confidence and here, she didn't interfere at all. I used to make all sorts of concoctions, earning me the name of Chemist in the Kitchen.

She could bake though and her Banana and Honey Tea Bread which I wrote about is seriously good. Having read through that post again I realise why I'm feeling so sentimental, it's because my Nan is now old, and she'd been in hospital more than once in the last 12 months. It's because I can see the end, almost touch it, and that makes me sad but I also thank my lucky stars that she found it within her to nurture me and help me grow into the adult I am now.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get so carried away. Anybody know any good jokes? Laughter, has always been very important to me and if you can just conjure up an old lady, sitting, poker straight back, no teeth in, very thin fine hair that's poker straight too and sticking out at all angles. This isn't a sad image. It's the image of a lady who has lived a very full life. She's the lady who'll give you the eyeball with a smile hiding on her face when you've been naughty or done something wrong. She's the lady who makes a damn fine trifle to be served on New Years Day who doesn't pulverise the grandaughter who returns in the early hours of the morning on New Years Eve with her best friend (both slightly the worse for a drink or two) to tuck into the delicious trifle. What did she do? We got the eyeball, a slight telling off, putting it mildly, and she made another one. Resourceful...

For the recipe for Banana and Toffee (dulce de leche) Bread, follow as per the Banana & Honey Tea Bread, replacing the honey with dulce de leche or other soft toffee sauce. It's still cooking but we'll let you know how it turns out.

Edit: The banana and toffee bread (pictured above, we always try to make in a heart shape) is absolutely gorgeous. So much so we've eaten half of it already, it was still warm while we 'tried' it. The taste of banana is really strong and you probably wouldn't be able to detect the extra taste as toffee but it gives it a wonderfully warm flavour. Really good!


The Cooking Ninja said...

Nan sounds like a great lady with lots of love to give and full of courage and strength. I'm glad you had her while growing up. :) Wishing your Nan a speedy recovery and stay pink in health forever.

Asha said...

Nans are precious, aren't they? I was just cooking one of my Nan's dishes too!:)
Wish her a speedy recovery, God bless.
Banana and Honey, what a beautiful combo, huh? Looks yum.
(I am "detoxing" from Blog addiction right now, will open comments in Feb! ;D)

african vanielje said...

There's an event going at the moment for comfort food, and to me this is it. Something with a little warmth,a little sweetness and a lot of comfort in the memories it carries with it. Food is so subjective - and everyone needs a 'Nan'. Your's is a lucky lady, because the granddaughter that wrote this tribute to her, obviously loves her very much.

Aimée said...

So glad you got to visit your Nan. There's obviously a lot going on right now and I'm wishing you the best.

KJ said...

Beautiful post, Amanda. Family is so precious. All the best for your Nan.

Marie said...

Your nan sounds like a wonderful lady. I wish my nan were still with us. I can just taste the goodness of that banana loaf with dulce de leche in it and I have some that needs definite using up!!

Margaret said...

I was hoping you would put your banana bread on the blog. I love banana bread (have you every tried Nigella's that too is good, but I'm sure not as good as your Nan's, lets face it nothing ever is).
Did any of it actually make it to the Little Foodies lunch box?

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Cooking Ninja, thank you, it was certainly a good thing for my Dad to have her, and me too.

Hi Asha, they're definitely precious! You're so funny with your blog addiction.

Hi Inge, thank you - I do that! ;)

Hi Aimee, thank you, there is a lot going on but we've got an awful lot to be thankful for and I am. This morning I read it and think oh my goodness how much did I spout on. Ah well, it's done now!

Hi KJ, family is precious, real friends are too.

Hi Marie, she is and thank you. It's really good, maybe needed more dulce de leche on tasting it this morning.

Thank you for your comments
Amanda x

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Margaret, thank you.
I was typing the reply while you were leaving a comment. It did make it, they both have a piece in their lunchboxes today. We also had tiny pieces for breakfast. I'd add more dulce de leche next time. Your recipe sounded delicious and for a pudding I'd love to try it.
Amanda x

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Teeth or no teeth, your Nan is a beautiful lady! The Cake shines too!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

She is Tanna, she most certainly is - thank you.
Amanda x

Baking Soda said...

Oh Amanda...she makes me think of my granny; working when women didn't work, in her eighties still caring for "those old ladies" and cooking up a storm in the kitchen. She could -and did- make everything, from bread to croquettes to preserves. She also had the eye..
Great to hear that she is on her way to recovery! Enjoy each others company while you can!

Trig said...

Banana smoothies are also a great way to use up those brown-skinned pongers. Milk, banana and ice blitzed to a great drink.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Hi Baking Soda, they're truly great aren't they. I'm lucky in that all my Grandparents have been/are amazing! Two of them extra special, so I think I'm very lucky.

Hi Trig, excellent idea - we have two left so will do that for breakfast tomorrow.

Thanks for your comments
Amanda x

The Passionate Palate said...

Nan sounds like an incredible I'd love to sit down and talk with. The bread looks yummy. Thanks so much for participating.


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