My Granny's recipe book comprised of a catalogue of messages for the local Co-op, scribbled on the back of an old envelope. She could cook anything, so long as it came out of a can. It listed delights such as canned meat, canned potatoes, canned carrots, canned peas, canned gravy, and a tinned pudding... with canned custard, of course. If the supermarket stocked cans of salad it would have made the top of the list.
Only the brave would risk a cup of tea made by Granny's hand, and a fool to willingly sample her culinary arts. Fortunately, her hospitality, such as it was, was rarely on-hand. Just as well, it wasn’t really her forte. Chipped, cracked, mismatched crockery, slammed against the Formica kitchen table top, with offerings of grey gloopy vegetables, paired with tough grey meat of unknown origin, slushing around in a thick, grey lumpy sauce. At least there was consistency in the colour scheme.
Unfortunately for me, my forthright opinions were poorly received and something I’d live to regret. My ‘tea in a tin’ would be digested at whatever cost. A sense of impending doom bestowed me as she slowly but purposely rolled the cuffs of her floral, brown and yellow nylon housecoat up to the elbow. We both understood its meaning. This was an unspoken cue for the military styled force-feeding exercise that was about to commence, an area in which she was well versed. Granny's gnarled, arthritic hands engulfed mine. There was no escaping the dagger like, spiked nails as they stabbed the soft, small pads of my fingers. Her Saint Christopher pendant bounced off my ear and danced against the side of my face as she loomed over me. I wished Saint Christopher would come and protect me from this journey of no return. The unpalatable, lukewarm substance shovelled into my mouth, oozing down my throat, bloating my belly. Screams of protestations going unheard until the plate sparkled. Then, crockery, cutlery, cup of juice, all swept away, vanished as quickly as they’d appeared, as if by some supernatural force. Did it even happen?
We sit in silence, glowering in between courses, like two exhausted boxers, waiting for the ding, ding of the bell, indicating the next bout of blows. A fight to the end. I’m not beat, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve.
Then, the frosty silence shattered by the melodic chimes of ‘Popeye the sailor man’ sea shanty. Who could have guessed that my saviour would appear in the form of Mr Whippy and his ice-cream van. Granny rakes through her purse for coins. A small price to pay for a few minutes’ respite. Poor Granny.
Five minutes later, I return triumphantly with a 99p ice-cream. Two delicious scoops of soft vanilla ice-cream in a crisp cone, not one but two chocolate flakes, a sweet sugary syrup disguising itself as raspberry sauce with heaps and heaps of red, blue, green and yellow sprinkles. A complete sugar overload that would keep me awake for at least the next 24 hours, that is if diabetes didn’t kick in first.
To the victor the spoils. A truce at last.