My mother and I didn’t agree about much but, the one thing that was never a source of contention was her cooking – she was a genius. I have never tasted better and she remains the culinary benchmark. There was nothing flash about her repertoire, it was plain English cuisine – roasts, Yorkshire puds, Cornish pasties, liver and bacon, bread and butter pudding, treacle tart and lemon meringue pie to die for – to name but a few. She dismissed all “foreign food” which loosely translates as anything containing garlic.
Her pièce de résistance was chocolate cream biscuits. Time consuming and fiddly to make, they were a rare treat, consumed with dog-like enthusiasm by my sister and me as soon as they emerged from the oven. Garrison Keillor’s aunt Myrna and her Chocolate Angel Food Cake was surely nothing by comparison. For years we tried to extract a recipe but my mum, like all good cooks, worked intuitively in the kitchen. Nothing was ever written down because, pressed to define precise quantities and ingredients, she would probably struggle.
And then last week, I was hovering around the reduced cakes and pastries counter in Waitrose and there I spotted an individual, over-sized,store-baked, broken bourbon biscuit. I sneaked it into the trolley, away from the prying eyes of my trainer/dietitian. When I eventually bit into this large confection, I could not believe it. In more than fifty years, it is the closest approximation to the original chocolate cream biscuit I have ever found. My immediate thought was ‘I must ring my sister and tell her – go buy some immediately!’
In an overwhelming moment, I remembered. The good news had come too late.