Time of Introspection

I have just had a lovely Skype conversation with George.  Whilst I love being able to speak to you and see you, I find these conversations can make me feel even further away.  Today was one of those occasions so it’s just as well that I will be in London this weekend and can get some hugs to see me through for a while.  Amongst other topics, George and I discussed Lent, which starts next Wednesday.   Coincidentally Dad and I had been discussing Lent last night.  I had thought of giving up alcohol but as always our wedding anniversary falls during Lent and, as it’s a significant anniversary this year and we’re going away to celebrate it, it seemed a bit silly to say ‘I’m giving up alcohol except for….’.  I also thought about giving up chocolate, but honestly I don’t eat that much any more.  I am therefore giving up cheese which will be incredibly hard for me.  I really enjoy cheese and always choose it instead of dessert when we go out.  Plus, there is always cheese in the fridge (and there still will be because Dad will still be there).  I know, First World problems.  Anyway, since I am not a member of a church here, at the end of Lent, I will give a donation to one of the homeless shelters, of which there are many.  So having told George this, I now can only think about cheese and inevitably today’s recipe will contain it.

The Second World War had a huge influence on my parents’ lives.  I don’t think that a day went past without the War being mentioned for some reason, usually to do with things that were unavailable during that time.  Both families were very lucky in that personal losses were few.  One of grandma’s second cousins was killed during the Normandy landings, and the husband of one of her cousins was captured by the Japanese.  He was a tall man and weighed very little when he returned to Scotland.  Sadly he was unable to cope with what he had seen and shot himself some time later.   Papa was a member of the Home Guard in Edinburgh during the War.  Initially he was too young to be called up into the forces, and then when he went to university, his subject, Agriculture, was regarded as a Reserved Occupation and so long as he passed his exams, he wouldn’t be called up.  Quite an incentive, I would have thought.  Ironically Papa had wanted to join the regular army and had had a discussion with my Papa about joining the Indian Army.  My Papa told him that he didn’t believe that India would be British much longer, and that anyway without a private income he would inevitably have one of the less lovely postings, like the North West Frontier.  Hence the degree in Agriculture.  Papa however was always fascinated by things military and was a fine shot.  He joined the Officers Training Corps at Heriots School, and later he and a university pal trained some of the Home Guard.  I don’t know how many of you have seen the BBC sitcom, Dad’s Army, which is about the Home Guard.  Well, there is a character, Pike, whose mother is always checking that he is wrapped up warm and wearing his scarf.  Papa used to say that that was him, except that it was his father who used to embarrass him by checking that he wouldn’t get cold!  Papa also used to say that it was a bloody good job that the Germans didn’t land in Edinburgh because the Home Guards’ guns were useless!  Still he used to guard the Forth Bridge diligently and every time I see it I think that it’s only there because of my dad.  (Actually because of the barrage balloons flying from it.  The narrowness of the bridge from the air combined with the balloons made it impossible for the Germans to hit it, and thus communications with the northern part of Scotland remained in place).

After graduation, according to Auntie Aileen, Papa had the choice of working for the government or working for SAI (a division of ICI in Scotland).  He chose the latter, and quite quickly his call up papers for National Service arrived.  SAI managed to prove that Papa was indispensable and he remained employed.  Again according to Auntie Aileen, this happened at least once more, but ironically the man who had wanted to join the army never did any military service.  He remained a fine shot though, and had a great knowledge of firearms.  He ruined several films for me by saying such things as ‘Well there’s no way he could have hit him with that from that distance – it only has a range of x’.  Thanks, Dad.

So today’s recipe is one that Grandma used to make but this isn’t her recipe.  Stupidly I never asked her for it.  This recipe is Belle’s, my 94-year old friend.  It is a war time recipe and I give it to you in the original version (with some notes), though I expect that you won’t have to use dried eggs!  It is cheap, easy and is lovely with green vegetables or a salad.  It is also vegetarian and so George can eat it during the coming Lent.  Sadly I can’t.

Cheese Pudding – Ingredients

(Serves 4)

  • 1/2 / 450 ml / 10 fl oz pint milk or household milk
  • 2 eggs (2 level teaspoons dried egg mixed with 4 tablespoons water)
  • 4 oz /100 g grated cheese – I suggest Cheddar
  • 1 breakfast cup breadcrumbs – use a mug
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Add the milk to the eggs or egg mixture and then stir in all the other ingredients.  Pour into a greased dish and bake for about 30 mins in a moderately hot oven (200 C / 400 F / Gas mark 5) till brown and set.


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