…a sign of a great cook was how you recover a disaster. Amongst other amazingly inspiring things that she would say to make you feel all warm and gooey inside even when you didn’t want to smile.
My Great Grandmother was an extraordinary cook. She would have given any of those celebrity chefs a run for their money with her eyes closed. In her early adult years she worked in one of the premier hotels in Oban, Scotland both in front of house and in the kitchen (the hotel still stands today proudly on the harbour).
She always attributed her cooking abilities to her aunties who she lived with in her formative years. I don’t know whether that was case even though one of her aunties was a Parisian trained chef but I will have probably breathed my last breath and never met anyone more passionate about food, her family and how food can bring a family together than my great grandmother.
The Duchess of Argyll (as Papa called her) taught my grandmother, my mum and then me and my sister (and 11 grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren) how to cook often with her hands over ours either stirring or getting into it and mixing things with our hands.
I cannot remember a single thing that she taught me how to cook where a recipe was involved. It was all done off the top of her head and by touch, by taste.
I was baking something recently that which didn’t work as well as I wanted to when I iced it. I was swearing at it when Mum walked in and reminded that my great gran always said… it’s not how good you can good, it’s how you recover your disasters. (I ended up hot knifing around the icing which in the end no one was none the wiser of even a hint of its earlier disaster status).
Mum shared a few of the Great Gran’s greatest hits:
- Rock Cakes spun from Macaroons. My mum was only a kid at this point and it was some dinner party or braai. The macaroon mix wasn’t quite right and instead of chucking them and starting again she called them rock cakes and made a different filling for them. No one even questioned them and the plate was gone before you could blink.
I was too young to consider anything she cooked as kitchen faux pars. I do remember her being absolutely legendary with soups and stews, and with left overs transforming them into new and magnificent gourmet meals. She cooked with hearty Scotland Highland flavours, true comfort food, yet still had such a delicate French influence from her time with her Paris trained Aunty at the hotel.
Great Gran passed away in 2012 at 102.
Her baking ability is only something I still aspire to.