The tastes of my childhood | Nick Coffer | My Daddy Cooks

The tastes of my childhood

As I watch Archie discover and develop his tastes, I often wonder what will turn out to be the tastes of his childhood (humous and scrambled eggs would demand a recount if they weren’t in his list!). Food was always a big part of my family life. My mum was an excellent cook and, even when times were very tough, always managed to put tasty food on the table… so what were the tastes of my childhood? And what are yours? Tell me in the comment section at the foot of this post…

1 Burnt onions. This was one of the more bizarre parts of the regular family meals we had at my two grandmas. Burnt onions – and I mean VERY burnt – were an integral part of the roast. I have no idea where the tradition came from (probably from somewhere deep in the East End) but the family used to literally fight over these onions, which had undoubtedly been in the oven for the previous 4 days…

2 Fresh white bread and strong cheddar. Somehow this became our regular Thursday night meal. I used to love it. I think it was a mixture of practicality (my mum often did her shopping on a Thursday evening) and frugality which elevated this simple meal to its near mythical status, often eaten when watching Aneka on Treasure Hunt, followed by UK basketball on Channel 4!

3 Cholla. And while we are talking about bread, I cannot forget cholla, the eggy, doughy bread which was always in my house at the weekend. Cholla and marmite was – and remains – one of my great pleasures. And it is an even greater pleasure to see Archie maintaining the tradition.

4 Spudulike. Do you remember them?! I don’t know why but we never seemed to have jacket potatoes at home. But boy did I love them at Spudulike! Anyone who knows what became of that chain, I would love to know…

5 Pavlova. If there was one dessert which defined my childhood, it would be this one. My mum makes one so good that I am scared to make one myself, through fear of falling short. The crispy outside, the marshmallow texture inside, lashings of whipped cream and fresh fruit, it didn’t get much better than this.

6 Monkey nuts. I have been a season ticket holder at Arsenal since I was six years old. I used to love getting my pack of monkey nuts before the game, sold by an impossibly old man outside of the East Stand. I was so disappointed (at the age of about 29 and a half) when Nut Man suddenly was no longer at the ground, gone to the Great Nut Factory in the Sky.

7 Cabbage Bortsch. And talking of football, how many games did I go off to with a bowl of hot cabbage bortsch inside me to warm me up. It came from a tin, never tasted particularly nice, but no match day was really complete without it.

8 Whitebait and raddishes. Not so much a regular taste of my childhood, more a memory of my grandpa. I looked up to him and always wanted to emulate him. I was determined to match his love of radishes – and to this day have never come close to managing it. As for his love of whitebait, that struck a chord with me from a young age and I still get excited when I see it on a menu in a restaurant.

9 Welsh Raerbit. I often used to go to a little café with my nan and auntie called The Almond Tree in Edgware. There I always used to have their welsh rarebit with a poached(ish) egg on the top. This was always a treat for me. For my nan, who barely usually ventured far beyond Edgware itself, it was like eating tea at the Ritz.

10 Lindy’s Sachertorte. I am not sure there are many, if any Lindy’s left. But when I was a little kid, they were the patisserie kings and the one and only advantage of being dragged around C&A in Brent Cross was the guarantee that I would be allowed a Sachertorte from next door straight afterwards. Thick chocolate, sweet jam, cake heaven.

And I haven’t even mentioned Wagon Wheels, Space Dust, Corned Beef rolls, school’s sticky sponge pudding…

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