Yesterday I was laid low with some weird virus. It still lingers today, but not as severe. However, last night I felt exhausted and, as the Scots say “wappit “* and “peely-wally “*. So, instead of doing a dozen things, I flopped on the sofa and idly watched TV; something I rarely do.
Well, this was most serendipitous as I discovered a perfect little gem of a programme ! It is called “ Nigel and Adam’s Farm Kitchen “ ( BBC 1, 8pm )
Now, I have always adored Nigel Slater ! To me, he is the perfect ‘TV chef’. He doesn’t gaze, provocatively, at the camera …….. all moist lips and quivering bosom. Neither does he pretend to be ‘one of the lads’ nor use language that would make a ‘navvy‘ blush !
No ! He just cooks lovely food in a common-sense way. No silly ‘towers’ , comprising of three teaspoons full of food, surrounded by a smear of ‘foam’, a scrape of pea puree and a miniscule potato ! Just hearty meals that real people actually want to eat ! He’s lovely !!
But, I digress.
The programme was a combination of cookery and farming. A ‘back to basics’ lesson in the good, old-fashioned idea of eating food ‘ in season’ and teaching people where their food actually comes from. It showed how our meat is produced; the rearing and welfare of the animals . The planting and growing of vegetables and fruit and the milling of wheat for flour.
I think this is a lesson we should all learn in this vacuum packaged, freeze-dried world. A world where we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want it, regardless of season.
One scene showed Nigel driving a huge, very modern, combined harvester, through a field of wheat ……… and that was it ……….. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, in the 1950s.
Between the ages of 4 and 6 I lived, with my parents and sister, on my grand-parent’s farm in North Yorkshire. It was an idyllic childhood; every kids dream, I suppose. I spent long, blissful Summer days wandering around the farm-yard and surrounding fields. My sister and I had little tasks, too. Simple chores that made us feel important and ‘grown-up’.
We used to help feed the chickens and ducks; scattering seed and table-scraps as they flapped and pecked around our feet. We also used to collect the eggs. As the chickens were completely free-range, there were many places to search. Haylofts, stables and even under hedges; so many nooks and crannies that could accommodate a crafty chicken ! But we soon learned all their hiding places …. we were just as wily !
And then there was harvest-time. The memory that was evoked by last night’s TV programme.
All the farmers in the area used the big combine harvester to bring in their various crops of wheat, barley or hay. I have no idea who actually owned the machine, but the farmers hired it and it went from farm to farm and all the workers travelled with it.
It must have been very hard work, as it was much more ‘hands on’ than it is today, but, to me it seemed like fun. Horses were still used on the land and I was allowed to ride on the cart as it went up and down the fields, while huge bales of hay were loaded on, behind me. I ran about, chasing the field-mice as they scampered into hedge-rows and I picked cow-parsley and poppies and was lifted up onto strong shoulders and plonked on the top of haystacks. It was wonderful.
And then there were the lunches to serve.
I remember helping my grandma and mother carry huge wicker baskets out to the fields. These baskets were always covered with red and white gingham cloths, to protect the food beneath from the many flies and bees that swarmed around the cut hay.
Nestled inside the baskets were freshly baked loaves and crusty rolls, still warm from the oven. Gigantic slabs of homemade cheese and thick slices of home-cured ham. Large jars of pickled onions and delicious green-tomato chutney accompanied the ham and huge dishes of boiled potatoes completed the main course.
This was followed by home-made apple pie; the golden crusts liberally sprinkled with caster sugar. I recall handing out enormous slices of pie, crammed full of wonderful Bramley apples. My grandma didn’t believe in small portions !
Back to the farm-house we would go, to fetch tall, enamel jugs of steaming hot tea. I can still picture my mother and grandmother carefully holding an upturned saucer over the tops of the jugs, to ensure the tea remained hot on its journey to the hay-fields.
All these memories flooded my mind as I watched the programme and I wallowed in nostalgia for a simpler time. I realise that I was a very fortunate child and I am lucky to have all these wonderful images to look back on.
Thank you, Nigel Slater, for reminding me ………….. no wonder you are my ‘favourite’ !
*wappit …… wiped out
*peely wally ….. pale, white