It’s Mother’s day this coming Sunday and unlike all the other years, this one feels quite different; it could be that my mom and I have finally become friends because I took my ego out of the equation and made the effort to consider what her life was like when she had the trying job of bringing me up. Since we’re opposites (she’s tiny, quiet, introverted & doesn’t show her emotions whereas I’m tall, noisy, extroverted and show my emotions in technicolour) it hasn’t always been easy but I try & concentrate
on our similarities now: we’re both bookworms, we both love cooking and we both love without question: she lived for my dad & I live for my children and grandchildren. Her life was no walk in the park and I was a strange & complicated child who questioned everything ‘energetically’, read everything I wasn’t allowed to read and trampled on their rules for the sake of trampling on them – patience testing in every way. Today we’ve settled into a comfortable, loving relationship and whilst it cannot be anything like the one I have with my kids simply because she’s not me, I’ve become sufficiently mature to accept that it’s great the way it is and enjoy it. It seems almost absurd that it took me all this time to discover that my mother actually enjoys curry but there it is – this pork vindaloo will not blow your mind, it’s medium strength but if you’re nervous, lose the seeds in the chillies.
- 500 g pork shoulder (you could mix shoulder & belly if you like), cut into cubes
- 2 onions, peeled & finely chopped
- 1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 ½ tsp coriander seeds
- 6 black peppercorns, left whole
- 3 green cardamom pods, seeds only
- 3 cloves
- 1 ½ cm piece cinnamon
- 1 heaped tbsp fresh, peeled ginger, grated
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 4 fresh red chillies
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- Sea salt to taste
- 65ml grape seed oil
- Start off by toasting the coriander seeds, the peppercorns, the cumin seeds, the cardamom seeds, the cinnamon & the cloves lightly (non stick pan for about a minute) and then popping them in a spice grinder & grinding them until they’re quite fine.
- Now, using your food processor, process all the garlic, the ginger, the chillies and the white wine vinegar into a paste.
- Combine the paste with the ground spices until they’re well mixed & then add salt to taste; massage the mixture into the meat, using your fingers (as Jamie Oliver taught us) after which you set it aside for 2 – 3 hours to marinate.
- Fry the onions in a little oil until they’re soft & golden brown in colour and then add the meat cubes & fry until they’re golden brown on all sides; turn the heat down, pop a lid on the saucepan & cook for about ¾ hour, stirring every now and then; if it gets too dry, add a teeny bit of water but only as much as is needed – this is chunky dish & mustn’t have any superfluous liquid.
- I saw a programme on television a little while back where they fried some mustard seeds & cashew nuts & then stirred this into the curry as well – it may be quite nice but I haven’t tried this myself; serve with rice.
We’ve been honouring our mothers with celebrations since time immemorial & the festivals of Cybele & Hilaria bears witness to this. Hilaria took place in mid March and when Rome & Europe converted to Christianity, the celebration was converted and put on the liturgical calendar & called Laetare Sunday & in the 16th century everyone went to the mother church or local cathedral on this day (it was called going a-mothering). Much later, a Mothering Sunday was introduced & all servants were given the day off to go and attend a service in their mother church – this usually meant going with one’s mother & the rest of the family (peasant families worked 7 days a week and holidays didn’t exist in those days). That was their one day off. Children would pick flowers on their way to church to give to their moms & it’s possible that the mother’s day gift tradition began there. By the 1920s the day had fallen into disuse in Ireland and Europe but in the USA a woman by the name of Anna Jarvis brought it back to life. By the 1950’s it was celebrated throughout the UK
I think I finally understood what it meant to be a mother when my youngest left home. I thought my life would end that day when he took his last few things over to his new flat (of course it didn’t help that my father died around the same time) and I experienced ‘empty nest syndrome’ in the worst possible way; of course I got over it eventually, albeit with some difficulty, but I still miss having the children home and probably always will because I like the noise & the muddle and I love cooking for hordes; in other words, being a mother is essentially about loving and about grace. I never did stop to think how my mother felt. Mothers love unconditionally and illogically and no matter how busy they are, we can always be sure that we are the basis for their existence. I promise me that I will try and remember this every day of my mother’s life from now onwards.
LETTER TO MY MOTHER
I’m writing this letter to say thank you for giving me life, for the nourishment, the nappies & the exhausting hours that you spent awake trying to pacify me, for the handmade food you insisted on making because you refused to feed me ‘some arbitrary person’s jar of junk’, for boiling glass bottles in a pot because plastic wasn’t good enough for me, for those hideous little cardigans you knitted despite the fact that you loathed knitting as much then as I do today, for the plasters, the bandages & for not using plain Dettol because it burnt, for the beautiful birthday cakes, for the daily gifts when I was ill in Salisbury and for the gifts when I was better, for allowing me to claim all the guest gifts at my birthday parties, for those jellied oranges that I love to this day, for the special meals on birthdays (especially the chicken pie), for the books you read to us, for instilling a love of books in us, for being way too strict because you were scared something would happen to me, for my sister, for my brothers, for teaching me how to cook, for the cookbooks you gave me (or allowed me to take for myself), for allowing me to wear that hideous outfit when I flew to Australia, for taking me right back to the store when I wanted to wear that purple wet-look outfit to Kelvin Grove, for sitting with me right through the day when my Lisa was so sick, for the advice you gave (without which I wouldn’t have managed to bring up my kids), for reading the same story to Richardt over & over again for months, for answering Stefano’s never ending questions & for finding his bottle when he was four, for looking after my kids each time I asked during the course of their lives, for making your home my home whenever I needed it and for pretending that you don’t understand any of my political arguments because you know one never discusses politics with one’s children, for being my mother and most of all for the letter you wrote me on your birthday – I know how difficult it was for you. I will treasure it always.