Sussex Tales is all about a vanishing rural world – and if I am totally honest with myself also about vanishing family traditions. In particular the family recipes for Granny Hopcraft’s Christmas Cake and Puddings are just too good to vanish without trace. Good old Victorian recipes along the ‘take nine eggs and a pound of butter’ variety. (Not forgetting the large glass of brandy and a bottle of ‘Old Ale’).
I am the last of my particular line who recalls the traditional recipes in their entirety. The wine recipes came from an old ruled note book with red card covers written in the round, slightly laborious pen of my paternal grandmother. She was a country woman at heart, who, even when she lived in the close confines of south London, kept a good larder.
(Picture: Gran and Jean at Saddlescombe Farm cottages circa 1958)
Jams, wines and chutneys; pickled this and bottled that. My memories of her are fuzzy as she died when I was just six years old, but much of her skill was passed on to her daughter, Jean – my favourite auntie – who appears in Sussex Tales as the dizzy-headed queen of the kitchen, Aunt Joan.
It is to Jean that I owe much of the culinary skill that I possess (my mother was a skilled seamstress but at the kindest level of remembering, only a functional cook).
With luck and some good sales I am hoping this book will pass Gran’s cake recipe on to future generations as a lasting legacy.
(Picture of Gran and my father circa 1956)