I first met Andy’s maternal grandmother seven years ago. Andy and I had been dating almost a year and I was visiting him in Farnborough during the summer holidays. I had met his mum, dad and brother, but had yet to meet the grandparents when they invited us for a Sunday Roast. I was still in my “I only eat fish and fowl” phase. Of course Nanny made lamb. And by God, I ate it. I wouldn’t dream of being the strange American girl dating her grandson who didn’t eat lamb! Seven years later, it’s my favorite meat.
Bonded in lamb, Nanny and I have been close ever since. After Andy and I got married we moved to Woking, a twenty-minute drive from his hometown of Farnborough. We’d see Nanny and Grandad once every few weeks for a roast dinner, or if it was a weeknight meal, fish and chips.
A couple years later Andy and I moved to Farnborough, less than a mile from his grandparents’ house and our visits became more frequent. I would often visit for a cup of tea or lunch. Nanny taught me how to knit and shared some of her recipes with me in the kitchen. At a time when I was family-less, Nanny and Grandad took me in as one of their own.
Nanny and I are kindred spirits. She is headstrong (like me), opinionated (like me), knows what she wants (yup) and she loves a good chin wag over a cup of tea (me again). I have always held her in high regard. She raised four lovely daughters, kept a beautiful home and garden, cooked three meals a day, and worked for many years. But the thing I love the most about Nanny is her cooking. She is a traditional English cook: no frills, bells or whistles. Nanny’s food is good and hearty, reflecting both British climate and temperament. It bespeaks bygone days and British sensibility: food that nurtures, warms, heals.
When we moved to Malawi and then ultimately back to America, I knew it would be Nanny I would miss the most. Last week Andy and I went back to England for the first time in a year and half. It was a joyous reunion. Nanny cooked her classics, English breakfasts and roast dinners. But she whipped up a surprise, something she had never made for us: Bread Pudding. This version is more like a bar, brownie shape and texture. One more of Nanny’s recipes that I will always cherish.