fill up on bread

My mother was raised in a fairly poor family in a small town in County Dublin, but there was always enough to eat. Vegetables grew in the back garden, there was lots of floury potatoes, fish on Fridays and maybe some Hafner’s sausages as a treat on Saturdays.

In our family food and love are interchangeable. As a result most of what we eat, and who serves it, is laden with symbolism.

The rituals of Christmas included the formal post-mortem of the turkey/ham/Christmas cake/Christmas pudding of other family members: my mother and our Auntie Molly being the two main culprits:

“Maggie, your ham is much nicer than mine. Mine is very salty.”
“No, Molly, mine is very dry. Yours is better. And your cake is beautiful.”
“Yes but the pudding didn’t come out very well.”
“Ah, Molly, your pudding is gorgeous. Give us another bit.”

Christmas dinners were rushed to make sure we had enough time to sit down again at six o’clock for tea. It wasn’t much different the rest of the year, and even when the food being served was more modest than Christmas dinner, there was always the exhortion to “fill up on bread”. For the families of post-war children, it was always important to “eat loads”.

My mother has served the same dishes for dinner since she got married. Now, 52 years later, I can tell you which she will have for dinner this week:

left-over roast meat from Sunday with a salad

Egg and chips (she used to serve us mince, beans and chips but we didn’t notice for years that she didn’t eat the meat herself)

Beef stew, except for Lent and summertime when fried fish, mashed potatoes and white sauce is served

Pork chops, gravy, boiled potatoes and turnip

Fish and chips and peas

A mixed grill

Traditional roast dinner – chicken, beef, pork or lamb
Corned beef or boiled bacon, cabbage and boiled potatoes

Over the years, and miles from home now, food still conjures up many emotions and associations.

My mother lists reading restaurant menus as one of her more serious hobbies, and it is always a big highlight to have as many family members around the table for dinner – difficult when we are spread across two continents.

This blog is an attempt to pull together all the recipes from my lifetime, food served to me with love by family, friends and strangers.

Many have a story attached and some speak for themselves.

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