And all from my cup of tea.
So ends the ‘Madeleine episode‘ in Marcel Proust‘s novel, Remembrance of Things Past, where, upon having a bit of cake with his cuppa, the bould Marcel is put in mind of an earlier cake at an earlier time, and waxes lyrical and long, over the seven volumes that it takes him to complete the novel, on involuntary memory – those things that trigger recollections without conscious effort. (***)
Ok, so it’s not a madeleine exactly, but it was a spot of tea and cake
that transported Proust to times past.
Now if you are curious as to how I plan to get from Proust to potatoes – and I did wonder about that myself – do bear with me. It will take a lot less than seven volumes, and it also starts with a cup of tea.
I’m not even sure of the name of the storybook – and it’s long out of print by now – but I vividly recall that our all-time favourite tale was the one about Boney Bart. Its official title was “The Thin Cook” and Boney Bart was the eponymous chef who, one day, due to his all-too-thin frame, came to a rather unfortunate end involving a cook-sized mincer.
It was a bit more Roald Dahl than Dr. Seuss but, as kids, we were clearly not averse to a spot of kitchen horror and loved having our Da recount the not-so-happily-ever-after yarn of Boney Bart. There were other stories too – usually relayed from Dad’s familiar armchair position and not always involving a bad end and a mincer – and though we eventually swapped fairy tales for something more grown up, we would always return to hear his stories and, in turn, regale him with our own (or at least to the extent, in later years, that his worsening deafness would allow).
Another year, another growing season and the seeds of my prospective new potato crop
It’s a year to the day since he slipped away and, though we still have lots of stories for him, it’s a bit harder for him to hear us now (yes, even harder than when we had to shout at him on the phone). He loved this time of year, with its lengthening days and promise of new growth and, among other stories, would have been pleased to hear that this week saw the planting of my hopeful little crop of potatoes for this year.
And so it is that potatoes go on, and life goes on, and Da’s story is our new favourite tale. Like the story of Boney Bart, it’s one that we will never tire of hearing.
January may be the height of the marmalade-making
season, but this marmalade – and this post – are all about last May.
It’s like she’s giving them new life.
It’s the beginning of May and my mother has resurrected a clutch of Seville oranges from her freezer. Bitter and icy now, they will soon, with her help, and like many’s the orange before them, morph into a generosity of sweet, warm marmalade. Though I’ve seen Mum do this a thousand times, I am, for the first time ever, taking notes.