« 53 - An Evening With Irving Berlin | Main | The Hand, Nose And Chin Of The Weatherman »

As Time Goes By: Paraffin And Pilchards

...To save coal Auntie Alice lit a paraffin stove to keep us warm. I can still see the light shining through the openwork around the top making shadowy patterns on the wall and the rosy glow showing through the little square red window on its side. My cousin Vera and I would sit on the floor either side of the stove, playing with our dolls, making them medicine with cups of water in which we stirred the licorice sticks from our sherbert dabs until the water turned brown...

Eileen Perrin vividly recreates bgygone days. To read more of her wonderful words please click on As Time Goes Byin the menu on this page.

In the 1920's and 1930ís Uncle Charlie was out of work as were so many others at that time. When we went over to tea Auntie Alice often gave us pilchards in tomato sauce, bought at David Greig the shop next door. At threepence a tin it was good food value.

Mum used to tell us that in the 1914-1918 war soldiers used to get tins of Maconochieís herring in tomato sauce, and were also issued with Poupartís plum and apple jam.

Money was scarce and Mum would remind Auntie Alice of the times when their own Dad, a painter and decorator, was usually unemployed during the winter. Mother would give them a herring for dinner and some bread pudding for their tea.

To save coal Auntie Alice lit a paraffin stove to keep us warm. I can still see the light shining through the openwork around the top making shadowy patterns on the wall and the rosy glow showing through the little square red window on its side. My cousin Vera and I would sit on the floor either side of the stove, playing with our dolls, making them medicine with cups of water in which we stirred the licorice sticks from our sherbert dabs until the water turned brown.

For tea at our home we had bread with golden syrup on it or bread and butter and celery. Dad was the only one to have a bit of Cheddar. In better times when Dad found work he favoured Gorgonzola cheese for supper.

I remember him telling me that when he was a boy and went shopping with his mother she would always taste the cheese before buying. The shopkeeper would push a long hollow metal probe into a big cheese and draw out a long 'pencil' of cheese for her to taste. She was the daughter of William Hider a cheesemonger in Londonís City Road, so she knew what she wanted.

On Sundays from a barrow brought into our street we could buy watercress for tea, and winkles and shrimps measured in a half-pint pot. Our bread was always a crusty loaf, preferably a Coburg or a split tin. Dad had Hovis and he ate a lot of celery which was said to be good for rheumatism.
He showed me how to make 'Belgian' toast by buttering a slice of bread on one side only and toasting the unbuttered side against the bars of the fire grate and then it was spread with raspberry jam.

To get me to eat things she thought I might refuse, Mum called them by other names. Semolina was called semacolica. Anything at all that she wanted me to think especially delicious she would say 'Come on, eat it up, it's lovely, it's Chatna squirt!'

Looking back now I guess this expression was used by the Army in India. Whether it was Chetna or Chatna I can only imagine the effect the 'Chatna squirt' had on the soldiers.

Mum was always full of encouragement such as 'Eat your crust it'll make your hair curl.' or 'If you don't eat your greens you'll never have a lovely skin.'

Over the road from our house was a little shop. On Mondays I was sent there to buy threepennorth of piccalilli mustard pickle to go with the cold meat. It was ladled out of a large stoneware jar kept on the counter into the cup I took with me.

Round the corner in Kingsbury Road lived an old woman who sold bundles of firewood and also made toffee apples, which she would put on top of an old apple box outside her front door, all the toffee apples, upside down in a tin tray. The apples had flat lids of brittle toffee and I always looked for the one with the most. And all for a penny.

People managed to make ends meet and later with the experience of the shortages in two world wars my parents never liked to see food wasted. Dad who had been a prisoner in the first world war, always made a point of eating every scrap he was served. Mum would often say 'Come on Fred! Leave the plate!'

She was a good cook and my husband used to say that he only married me because my Mum made such good Yorkshire puddings and he hoped that I would be able to make them too.


Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.