Yesterday was spent with the extended family in England at one of the two events that draws extended families together in modern times, weddings or funerals. Unfortunately it was the funeral of Norman, Julie’s father, a wonderful, gentle man who’s sense of humour and love was something he shared generously with his friends and family.
Funerals are sad events but this event was tempered by the fact Norman had 80 springs and had been suffering from a long illness. Death and taxes are great levellers, and at least things were happening in the right order.
The funeral was a humanist affair, Norman was never a religious man so it felt honest not to pretend otherwise. I like humanist funerals, there’s a strong emphasis on the individual and personal memories rather than a fixed formula of prayers and hymns. One of the reflections that my family had was Norman’s love of food and cooking.
Norman started to cook only after his wife Sylvia died far too young in 1996. When Sylvia was alive I am not sure that Norman was allowed in the kitchen to cook, so her untimely death created some practical as well as emotional difficulties. Norman enrolled into a cookery course with a motley assortment of other widowers and learnt to cook. In fact he learnt to be a good cook with a servicable range of traditional recipes. Over time my children insisted that some dishes had to be made by Grandad or at least follow accurately Grandad’s recipe. Norman clearly enjoyed cooking for his my children and his face would beam as they attacked their plates with enthusiasm. One particular favourite was Grandad’s Smoked Fish Chowder here is the recipe
1lb/500 gms Smoked Haddock
2 pints or 1 litre of water or fish stock.
8 oz/250 gms potatoes peeled and diced
2 medium onions sliced
2 oz/50 gms butter
2 level tbsp flour
6 oz/175 gms grated carrot
5 fl oz/150 ml single cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Chopped fresh parsley to garnish
Simmer the fish in 2 pints/1 litre of water or fish stock for 10 mins until tender. Drain, keep the liquid, once cool flake the fish coarsely, discarding skin and bones.
Saute the onion gently in the butter until soft, then stir in the flour. Gradually add the fish stock and bring to the boil stirring constantly.
Add the carrots and potatoes and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Stir in the cream and add the flaked fish. Season well and reheat to serving temperature but do not boil. Garnish and serve with the best quality bread you can find.
That’s it, simple, honest and yummy.
A point well made at the funeral was that we should take opportunities to remember and talk about Norman. I think in our family Grandad’s chowder will be made for a couple of generations, as my children/young adults like it a lot, I’m sure they will cook it for their own families in due course.
I often twitter on about a frugal approach to life but frugality in all things is not a virtue. Norman had a generous approach to life, laughter and love that touched family and friends and therefore he will be with us for a while yet, gone but not forgotten, at least while we can taste fish chowder