Thursday, 19 November 2009

Time travel



My friend Annie came back from Bruges last weekend, bringing me some of my childhood-favourite milk chocolate, Cote d'Or.

And opening it tonight, I was taken back immediately to those years during the 1950's and '60's when my beloved grandmother, Bonma, would come from her home in Ghent, to stay with us for a month or so. She only came if we lived somewhere accessible, i.e. Europe or Britain, and looking back, I can see that such lengthy visits might have been a trial to my mother, but to me, she could never stay too long. I loved her intensely, and longed for her to stay with us for ever.

Her suitcases, like her handbags, were always filled to bursting, and were crammed with items of interest and delight. We revelled in watching her unpack, knowing that in due course, treats and presents would emerge. Her crisp dresses, always in a small dark print, had the most wonderful clean scent, and one that I associated as unique to her. Until adulthood, that is, when one day, standing in a fabric shop, I suddenly recognised it for what it was, new glazed cotton. Of course! she always had new dresses for her special holidays amongst the grandchildren.... The smell of new cotton can evoke Bonma as vividly as her photograph.




In addition to her busy, lively, opinionated person and my somewhat put-upon young adopted aunt, Tante Agnes, she always brought us a whole salami from the Ardennes, and several bars of Cote d'Or chocolate, to be eked out amongst us for the duration of her visit as the utterly delectable treats they were.

I can't remember the last time I cut into a whole salami, but the occasional bar of Cote d'Or is more readily come by, especially if kind friends remember my nostalgia for it. In its lovely old cream wrapper, it sends me back to special times in childhood as though they were yesterday. Thank you, Annie, for your thoughtful gift and the memories it conjures up with it.

13 comments:

Fran Hill said...

Yum. I like pictures of chocolate. Calorie-free indulgence. (Although I have just had a Walnut Whip.)

The word verification is 'portli'. Oops. There's a warning to me.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

She sounds lovely and I wonder if she used to make you Gentse Stoverij met frites ? It's funny how often food figures in memories of Grannies .
One of my grandmothers was rhubarb and ginger jam and seed cake and the other was potato soup , pomegranates and "nuggets" , a confection that could only exist in Glasgow , consisting of a huge icecream sandwiched with an even huger chocolate covered meringue wafer. My poor mother did her best to counteract all this with something healthier .
But the lasting memories are of total , wrap-around love and approval . Probably their greatest gift .

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

The chocolate looks wonderfull.....and the little dog in the header...who is that? What a darling doggy...

Red toy poodle over here...14 and blind and we love him like a child. Name is Butterscotch..we call him Buddy...5 cats too....

More later,
Kary and Buddy

Linda said...

Lucky you! I only remember one of my grandmothers, and she used to buy us sweets too - a quarter of boiled sweets in a small paper bag, from the mobile shop which called at the farm once a week. This tiny amount was to be shared out between what seemed like dozens of visiting cousins!
It was years before I caught up with the range of childhood treats!

Marie said...

What a wonderful gift! It's funny how just the whiff of a scent can transport us back to eralier day sin an instant! I can never smell a molasses cookie baking or eat one without thinking of my own sweet grandmother. They were her speciality and all of us grandchildren loved them, and her, to pieces!

pennygj said...

Hello Rachel
I've just dropped by from Smitonius and Sonata and my day has seized up because I want to read ALL your posts! Will be back later when essential chores have been attended to! Love your header photo with dog in mid flight, and the look of abject misery in an earlier post when confronted with WEATHER outdoors, I have just the same 'princess' behaviour from my mini dacksie pup and HE ought to know better.
My Grandmother, (Bam-mum) made amazing potato cakes fried in beef dripping which no-one has ever been able to replicate as she never measured anything. Must stop running on - will be back!

lovethosecupcakes said...

I love how a taste or smell can whisk you back to times past. When I was younger we lived at the back of my parents general store and there were chocolates and goodies freely available. Strangely, I didn't have a sweet tooth in those days. I've made up for it since.

Susan said...

LOVE the packaging !! "and" LOVE milk chocolate

Marcheline said...

Thank goodness for tastes and smells, two of the strongest memory-inducers of all. And thank goodness for wonderful memories.

I almost just typed "mammaries", although I suppose we should be grateful for those, as well...

mountainear said...

Never knew my grandparents but to compensate had an auntie Louis, who, to a small girl always seemed antique. How she had managed to get as far into modern times as the 1960s and still look like a little old Victorian lady I don't know.

Her speciality - in fact the only food I associate with her is a ham tea, always eaten with bread and butter. Only when you had had your 'plain b & b' could you proceed to the much preferred bread and butter and jam.

Marie said...

Good smells and good people is a good topic...

Bee said...

I adore the way you describe your grandmother -- with suitcases and handbags "crammed with items of interest and delight." My mother is coming from Texas on Dec. 13 and she just wrote, asking for my shopping list.

As a matter of interest, where did you live -- other than England and Europe?

When I was 20/21 I lived in London as a poor student. One of my great treats was walking to the corner store to buy a small, individually wrapped piece of Cote d'Or.

rachel said...

Fran: portli is just the word of warning for me too...

S & S: yes, it's the loving approval that makes all the difference, I think, and the flagrant disregard of parental rules that grandmas seem to get away with! Your particular dish didn't feature, as I recall, but she was a fabulous cook.

Kary: that's 'the dog' - she features quite a lot in her downtrodden, cat-dominated way.

Linda - I can't connect my other grandmother, the scary one, with any treats at all!

Marie : why not pass on that molasses cookie recipe? Sounds great!

Penny: potato cakes? Divine! Your puppy? Even better!

Lovethose...:how lucky not to have had a sweet tooth, even for a few years!

Susan: I know....

Marcheline: I have so many smell-associations, some rather odd! (Raw silk smells like National Dried Milk did in the '50s...)

Mountainear: Oh no, only a ham tea, bread, butter and jam? No cake?

Marie: and good people from another country adds additional interest!

Bee: I hope you're going to show us what you get your mother to bring over! My grandma never made it to visit us in SIngapore; I wonder what she would have made of it there?

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