A couple of years ago I was sitting at my nanny’s house talking about various things, mostly about the past, food and what we were like as kids when we got talking about my great grandma or ‘Nanny Wright’ as I called her. I don’t remember an awful lot about her as she died when I was fairly young, but I do remember going to her house and it being blindingly hot, she would sit there and take 20p out of her purse and give it to me in such an endearing way as if she was crossing my palm with a valuable gold coin. To me at that age it was valuable, because you could buy a milky way bar with 20p!
When she died I couldn’t really feel much emotion, I was too young to completely understand what had happened, all I remember is my Nanny being upset about it which in turn upset me, because all I ever knew was my dear sweet nanny, always happy and always busy. Instead I saw her sitting and sobbing.
As we sat and continued talking she presented me with this little black book, inside is not just a collection of recipes, but a living connection to her past. I love this little book and every time I look at it it never fails to raise a smile.
What I found really interesting was that before I was even given this book, my dad used to talk about the ‘stick jaw’ toffee his nanny used to make, he said it would smash your teeth into a thousand bits but tasted great. His grandad – nick named ‘oi oi’ (who I never met) used to keep chunks of this toffee in his pocket whilst was working, pulling out bits for my dad as a treat which In most cases ended up covered in fluff, engine oil and pipe tobacco. I found the recipe for this ‘stick jaw toffee’ my dad so fondly remembers!
Quite a lot of the recipes in this book are preserved, lots of jams chutneys and pickles, presumably out of necessity as refrigeration was still a rarity back then. Dad told me that she was a wonder woman, she could rustle up a 3 course dinner from a kitchen so tiny you couldn’t extend both arms fully, and yet she would make it look so easy.
She was a woman who liked her sweets, in some of her recipes she simply lists the ingredients and no method, probably because she had it that often she could remember it off by heart.
I found many references to something called ‘Fry’s chocolate spread’ and in all the recipes that call for it it’s written in capital letters, obviously highlighting the fact this was a luxury ingredient and was probably quite expensive, and the fact there were quite a few recipes that included it suggests she quite enjoyed pushing the boat out.
I think the most heart warming thing for me is how this book was shared with my nanny, I found a few recipes that have been written by her, I know this because it’s written in pen not pencil and my Nanny’s writing is very recognisable. I can just see them both in the kitchen trying out new things, tasting and nanny being guided by her mum.
I think Nanny wright deserves credit, I would love to have known her properly, she clearly cared about food, family and her daughter. She shared her knowledge of food in a little black book, all beaten and used, with food stains and pen squiggles dotting every page. In each page is her and nanny, a mother and daughter cooking, creating and sharing precious moments all written down in this book that I have so gratefully received. Thank you Nanny wright.