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My niece Jo, sent me a text message last night:

“Please don’t say anything to nana and gramps, but nana got confused with the lemon tart, thought it was quiche and served it for their dinner last night. Fish and chips were lovely but gramps had to help. Apparently she couldn’t remember how to crumb.”

The baked a lemon tart for Gramp’s birthday dinner, taking great care to make sweet short crust pastry. After dinner we had a conversation about what nana would cook  on Thursday when Jo goes for dinner. I suggested they take the left over lemon tart and have that for dessert, but they had already decided on waffles, I think because this is something dad makes.

I wrapped the lemon tart up for them anyway. Mum’s only comment was, “I will have to remember to give you back the plate.”

Mum had a great little quiche making business back in the days of the quiche. Her friend Paddy Leach set up a specialty shop in Geelong, The Cheese Platter, selling cheese and other cheesy delicacies. Mum supplied her with home made quiches. She perfected a range of fillings: cheese and bacon, salmon, and asparagus and made them in two sizes, large and small. Our kitchen, for a time, pumped out these quiches daily. Mum perfected a pastry, made in the food processor. The beauty of it was that it did not have to rest in the refrigerator and never split when rolled out. Her secret was a squeeze of lemon juice, not fresh lemon juice, but fake lemon juice from a fake plastic lemon she bought at Safeway.

My grandfather even made a special quiche box with sliding shelves so that the quiches were easily transportable.

Mum can no longer remember how to make a quiche and it now seems she cannot remember the distinctive look of one. But still, one of mum’s repeated stories is about her quiches:

“I used to make quiches for a lady who had a shop in Geelong,” she says not remembering her friend’s name or their relationship. “We went away for a while and Dib said she would make the quiches for me while we were away. She took all my recipes and started making them for a market or something. The lady didn’t want my quiches anymore after that and Dib kept all my tins. Fancy doing that to me! How could you do that to anyone? After all I did for her.”

Her angry stories follow the same narrative. Always about a member of dad’s family who she did “such a lot for”, they have rewarded her by doing the wrong thing by her or by dad. Mum is convinced that dad, along with his sister and his cousin were terribly unhappy until she came into their lives. Alison, dad’s cousin, fares the worst at the moment. “If she ever comes to the front door I will not let her in,” she tells me each time we meet.

Quiche is gone now as is crumbing fish and sausages but mum still remembers what love, loyalty and hurt feel like. She also remembers the cold family she married into and the impact she had on its younger members. Alison says, “I have always loved her dearly. She eased the loneliness of being an only child and living with Granny.”

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