Steavenson family memories are food memoriesby Wendell Steavenson / July 19, 2017 / Leave a comment
The last time Dad was released from hospital we thought we were taking him home to die. He was very weak and confused. He could barely sit up on the edge of the bed to eat, two of us sat on either side to steady him. We fed him chicken broth and mashed potato, pastina with a little butter, yogurt and honey. He could not hold a spoon. On the third day I asked him if he would like an aperitif. He looked up with a smile and said clearly and emphatically, “Campari!”
Miraculously, he recovered from this crisis. He was still in a wheelchair and needed dialysis twice a day for his failing kidneys, but, having moved into the palliative zone, we cut down on the medication and he was sparkier and less muddle-headed than he had been for weeks. Two months later, to celebrate his 82nd birthday, he conceived the idea of inviting a few friends to a private tour of his favourite museum, the Wallace Collection.
Afterwards we had a lunch party at home. Mum made lobster salad; I made a three tier Campari-and-orange cake. At one point during the prep, Mum had been up to her elbows in green slimy lobster muck for two hours, carefully pulling whole claws from the shell, and she was exhausted.
“What are we doing this for?” she asked half-rhetorically. “It would have been easier to have gone to a restaurant!”
I stopped whisking the orange curd for a moment to get the third cake out of the oven. “It’s what we do,” I said, “you and I, we feed people the best we can, with care and attention. It’s how we show love.”
We had a lovely lunch. Dad drank two glasses of champagne and demolished a big slice of cake. He always loved cake. He was diabetic, he wasn’t supposed to have it, but in the last couple of years when his sugar levels were being regulated by insulin, we let him eat it anyway. I made lemon drizzle and upside down caramel-orange, chocolate sponge and walnut and coffee. Dad, tired, struggling, his left hand trembling, would look up from his placemat at the end of dinner, and ask, hopeful, “is there any Wendycake?”
There is an apocryphal story of a profligate Duke in the…