My latest whodunnit, The Ambrosia Project , features a cast drawn from the world of food, each of them bringing something new and enticing to the table. In a time when we all know what we like to eat, but are often uncertain whether we should be eating it, each of my characters Adrian, Mark, Rosa, Sue and Zoe is a staunch advocate for their own product and lifestyle. Which is why no one is immune from suspicion when food magnate Brett Ingram dies suddenly with them all at his side.
It’s no big surprise that this time I’ve written about food (perhaps the only surprise is that it’s taken until my sixth book to do so) given that food has always played such a prominent role in my life. Growing up in a traditional Jewish family in Leeds, our days revolved around mealtimes and many big decisions were taken around our grey-and-white-checked, formica kitchen table, whilst my mother dished out meal after meal.
Of course there were numerous celebrations of the many Jewish festivals, liberally sprinkled through the Gregorian calendar, with their accompanying selection of traditional foods (a topic for another occasion) and that more regular centrepiece Friday night dinner (and no, we didn’t often have crimble crumble, although it’s become a bit of a stalwart of my repertoire). But more recently, my attention has turned to the ordinary, everyday meals my mother prepared, day in day out, fitting the shopping and cooking around three children and her full-time job as headmistress of a large and thriving nursery school. And particularly to the desserts – because we always had them. They were not often fancy or homemade, but it was enormously important to mum to provide us with a ‘proper meal’ and that meant ‘afters’ (with a short ‘a’) every time.
Clearing out mum’s flat this summer (she sadly passed away recently after a short illness, borne with her usual fortitude), I came across her set of Maling 1950s waterlily dishes. Mine was the pink one, my eldest sister coveted the pale blue, my middle sister claimed the dark blue and my father settled for the yellow. The bowls had made the long return journey down south with mum, seven years ago, but they hadn’t seen much service since those long ago days, when we were kids and they were filled every evening with something delectable.
And so ahead of the launch of my new book and with my wonderful, inspirational mum always in my thoughts and close to my heart, I thought it might be nice to share some memories of the desserts we ate when I was a child.
To be continued…