Her handwriting runs across the page, a delicate but rambling scrawl. It reminds me of stumbling over my own hand written notes from long ago, where I need to pause a moment to make out the haphazard pen marks hastily scratched on the page without a thought to neatness, and as I recall the place and time belonging to the note, the indecipherable word becomes clear like a memory. Even with its familiar shape and style, my Grandmother’s handwriting feels like reading a language I’m only beginning to learn. Those flourishes and tightly packed letters are comforting, reminding me of year upon year of sweet birthday cards containing little love notes in squiggly script.
I’m reading her recipes, noted down in a teal covered Invicta Diary from 1981 held together by masking tape. At times I can make out her instructions easily, but then a narrowing letter and hastily written string of words leaves me searching the recipe for clues, sleuthing to work out how to bring together the ingredients, battling against oil stains, cocoa and faded ink.
The diary takes me by the hand, leading me to childhood; her strawberry mousse light on my tongue, hot little Queen Cakes all buttery in their paper wrappers leaving crumbs on my lips and eating cream and fruit in delicate glass bowls with teaspoons used mostly at Christmas. The tried and true favourites are marked clearly with ticks and flourishes, ‘Lumberjack Cake’, ‘Best Lemon Cake’ and ‘Plum, Nectarine and Fig Compote’. Transported, I’m sitting in the kitchen watching her wooden spoon beat sugar and butter, licking the bowl and in general watching in awe as she rules her kitchen. My Grandmother would never consider herself a great cook, I know the particular chuckle she would give me if I told her so. But, as I hold her recipe book broken at the seams, I know it all boils down to love. You can’t go wrong when love as your key ingredient, that… and a little bit of cocoa.