The first morning I was with my Mum, I went at her primary food cupboard which hangs off the wall over the work-surface between the hob and the oven. Like many elderly ladies, my 97 y.o. mother has shrunk from a rather tall-for-her-era 1.75m to something at least 10cm shorter - it's the bone density, silly. She can, therefore, barely reach the top shelf of this cupboard let alone see the surface. Nobody, or no kind person, is going to recommend that she gets her wobbly pins up on a step-ladder or stool to reach the back. Accordingly, I found some interesting things up there. With macular degeneration and a rheumy right eye it is impossible to read the sell-by date and she often can't find whatever she's looking for . . . so she buys more. I found 6 cartons of Cadbury's Bournville Cocoa, 3 opened; 5 slabs of Green&Black organic chocolate; 7 containers, various, of white pepper; 4 containers of black pepper; three small tins of Lyell's Golden Syrup two open; two ancient packets of flour. It's a hassle living on your own because you cannot buy 50g of flour to make a white sauce.
In between eye-drops, we had plenty of time to catch up and Mum told me about the olde days (within my life-time) when the local grocer had biscuits displayed in 30x30cm tins with glass tops. As a naval wife, she had to shift house every year or two which meant establishing a relationship with another grocer. If you sell biscuits by the pound [450g] or half-pound, there are going to be broken biscuits in the bottom of the tin. These were sold cheap as Broken Biscuits and were a source of shame "That Mrs Doohickey, I heard her ask for broken biscuits at the grocer, her husband drinks and that's all she has to feed the children". Our family [no shame] bought them regularly because they were an essential ingredient of cattle-cake
- 8oz + 3/4 broken digestive biscuits
- 3oz butter
- 2oz sugar
- 2oz cocoa power
- 1tbs golden syrup
- note 1oz/ounce = 28g
- melt butter in saucepan,
- cast thereto sugar, cocoa and golden syrup
- stir into broken biscuits
- press into swiss-roll tin to set (fridge recommended)
It also explains the presence of so much cocoa powder and golden syrup in my mother's store cupboard. The neighbours are not above dunning the Oldest Person in the Village for a batch of cattle cake when the village fête, or a cricket match, or the duck-race, needs something to go with an urn full of strong tea. I came away with half the pepper, and the oldest cocoa that was sell-by 28 04 2014 and a tin of syrup sell-by end May 2015. As well as shrinking, elderly people get a bit sketchy on the immune front and readily succumb to Listeria etc. and I don't want my Mum to go from a terminal case of botox.
On the morning of the Blackstairs Challenge, I thought it might be Der Tag to make up a batch of cattle cake which I proceeded to do, using a tin of, now bendy, ginger biscuits (which I found
Notes: two questions will have occurred to the curious:
- Why cattle cake: not because of its resemblance to the compressed protein-rich livestock feed cobbled together from the byproducts of the brewing industry or ground-nut Vigna subterranea oil factories. It was so called by my elder brother when, in short trousers, he was helping make a batch in the mid-1950s. My mother brightly asked the young shaver what they would call the new treat and he looked dreamily out of the window at a field full of Friesian cows.
- and what's with the 3/4 biscuit on top of the 8oz of digestives? That seems a spuriously accurate quantity given the long-as-a-piece-of-string "tablespoon" of syrup. I guess that one batch, long long ago, turned out a bit gloopy and someone threw in an extra biscuit to thicken up the mix. I do that - throw in a handful of extra oats - with my flapjacks. It's a bit like Primo Levi's famous story of a [paint] recipe that demanded 23 [not 22 or 24!!] drops of one component.