The essence of Nan
I always thought my family was typical, and how we lived was normal. But now I’m all grown up, I look back and realize that life at number 13 was far from average. Not that I’m complaining, for I had a great childhood. I was loved, protected, fed clothed and educated. I had two loving parents, siblings and a family home that was always filled with love, even if it was a times a tad quirky.
My Nan, (my dad’s mother) was of Scottish decent, she was the matriarch of our family unit.
We lived modestly. In a smallish home made by the hands of our ancestors. Each brick created by the hands of our grandfather, and lovingly placed in place with my dads, then teenage assistance.
Nan ruled our home, this being something I took as average, but later found out to be not the norm.
My mum, a quiet , small statute woman moved in with her mother in-law and her new husband upon her wedding day, and started our little family, first with my sister, 4 years later with me and then ten years on with my brother.
From the moment J was born she belonged to my Nan, it was a family story around the table in later years, that when mum returned from the hospital, J was placed into Nan’s awaiting open arms and the bond was done. That was the strength of my Nan, that she could claim her grandchild as her own to raise in every way but title name. Mum was still mum, but as a young bride and mother, she didn’t possess the self confidence or inner strength to change the way of the family, not that she would have wanted to, Nan was her guidance, her mentor, she was open and willing t learn from such a master survivor.
When I came along, mum was stronger, more experienced, and her bond with Nan had grown, as had Nan’s trust in Mum, so I was more hers to rise, although that strong Scottish hierarchy still reigned strong. We thought it was normal, it was just the way things were with us, Nan had final say over most things, from food, to clothes to lunch money to whether or not you could stay home from school,
It wasn’t all bad, for we were dearly loved and always given all we needed, unfortunately, as with most children that didn’t always match with all we wanted.
My mum and I have always been close, I actually can’t not remember the last time we fought, I’m sure we have, but I can’t recall ever getting into a yelling match with her. My dad, a strong proud man, who devoted his life to his family and providing for it, was a rock to us. He worked hard, loved us all dearly and although sometimes distant to me, I never doubted he cared.
He and I were not what you would call close, he had a tighter bond with J, but I loved him as I know he loved me.
For now though I’m going to focus on Nan, the tough Scottish lady who ruled with strength and kindness. Those pale blue eyes had seen a lot in their time, from wars, to hardships, to celebrations. She lived a life that most of us today would never survive. She lost her life time soul mate early in her married life and was left to raise a young teen alone, and unlike so many women from that time, she did not re marry as most encouraged her to do, she battled on alone, and made her way through to stand proud next to her grown son, his wife and his three children, her grandchildren. Who she adored and loved so fully sometimes it was suffocating.
Nan was an awesome cook, her strong tradition recipes and tried and tested family secrets kept us well fed and happy. My fondest memories are of those wafting smells that emitted from the kitchen. And Nan in her knitted cardigan, rolled up sleeves and apron, wiping flour from her hands, waiting for a hug from you upon returning from school.
Mealtimes were, shall we say interesting at times, although Nan was a brilliant cook, she was Scottish, and she believed nothing should be wasted. This meant we were treated to culinary delights such as tripe in white sauce and parsley, egg dipped and crumbed lambs brains and fresh pressed brawn. Also the odd haggis, forfa Bridie, girdle scone and black pudding adorned our table.
She was a shrewd cook too, many a time she would try and convince me that all that I would get was the egg, and she would leave the brains out. (just for me, as I disliked the so) But somehow that fried egg seemed to still be a tad to lumpy for my tastes.
Her girdle scones and potato scones were her trade mark, and too this day I still have not been able to replicate them. Unfortunately I fear this recipe, and the love it took to make them went to the grave with her when she left us.
Nan’s clutie dumpling s were her signature, she would make one in advance before we would go our many holiday adventures. We always knew an adventure was due when the big silver mixing pan came out with the larger than life wooden spoon,
This dumpling would be mixed and churned and cured and hung, they always came out perfectly, I never remember a failure, and I will always remember the taste.
She would slice through the rind and cut big wedges, it was like a dark rich fruitcake, packed full of raisins, currants, sultanas. Then drizzle them with honey before fryng (I know in today’s standards that's probably not all that healthy, and fitness freaks will cringe, but you have to remember that this was from a time when dripping on toast was considered a decent breakfast dish)
The spices and fruit would sizzle leaving a sweet smell wafting though the room. My mouth waters now just thinking about that soft warm dumpling melting into your mouth. And the thing that makes this memory even more special to me is the memory of her smile while she watched us eat, her soft blue eyes , slightly teary and the love she showed. For she was a tough lady, who was strong, hard and determined, set in her ways, and very old fashioned. But she was also warm, lovable, generous, kind and most of all the best Nan any child could ever ask for.