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In Good Company: A Dinosaur’s Jaw Bone?

Enid Blackburn recalls the day she struggled to get rid of a veal knuckle.

Yet again I am attempting to bake successful Christmas loaves. Last year’s efforts were ruined by crunchy currants, euphemistically described as ‘seedless’. Eating them was like chewing chopped coal. It was embarrassing to hear the crack of tooth on seed as our guests went bravely into the attack.

Being a Christmas bride, coping with festive fare was my first hurdle. Before we married, my mother-in-law had many anxious moments over her son’s sensitive stomach; had she seen the punishment it withstood, nay survived during our first year its strength would have surprised her.

Full husbands are in the habit of enjoying a post-luncheon lie down, mine soon discovered that this was the only way to maintain the concoctions I cooked.

One of my problems was that I always cooked too much. My stews started life in a medium size way, by the time I had added all the ingredients, three pans were bubbling on the stove.

My first Christmas loaf session ended with more mixture than bowl, excluding the sticky blobs hanging from every drawer and cupboard I had contacted in my search for an even larger container.

In the end we decided instead of boasting the best fed dustbin in the street, it would be more economical to provide more mouths.

Our first mouth heralded another trial-and-error period. ‘Don’t waste money on tins of strained baby foods,’ was the advice. ‘Get a veal knuckle bone and make your own nutritious broth.’

When baby reached the mixed feeding stage, I obediently ordered a veal knuckle bone. My butcher looked quizzical, but promised he would have one ready for my husband to collect at teatime.

At five o’clock a tired daddy staggered in with what appeared to be a dinosaur’s jaw bone under his arm. ‘What sort of veals had knuckles as big as this?’ I asked.

None of our pans were large enough to hold it, but with the help of a rolling pin I managed to shatter it and finally hammered it into our pressure cooker. While it spurted like Vesuvius on the oven, I eagerly referred to the chapter on mixed feeding in my baby manual. Let other modern mums hog the homogenised, my baby deserved the best.

I found the ‘on to solids’ page and read the words ‘one or two teaspoons for the first week.’ After extracting this amount, I calculated this would leave us with about four pints of see-through broth.

The first teaspoon was angrily squirted back at me, the second two, formed baby’s first bubbles. Around the time of the third boil-up my husband decided this was as good a time as any to declare the aversion to home-made broths and stews and what was wrong with tinned stuff, anyway? Our baby couldn’t talk but her eyes carried the same message.

I was fed up with sharing the cooker with this warped knee-joint too, but our bin was already bursting with past specialities de la maison. It was too big to push into our pot-bellied stove, but I set about it with a hammer and eventually succeeded in ramming it through the top. I heard the splutter as gristle met heat, and immediately life took on a new meaning.

Minutes later I was fighting off enormous swirls of acrid, grey smoke. Donning my best leather gloves I struggled to pull the smoking joint through the stove top, but it proved bigger than both of us. My husband had to dismantle the stove later, to retrieve the charred bone. We put the remains to rest in the garden and I bought a tin opener.

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