I get my love of cookery from both friends and family, but I think my grandparents first gave me the cooking “bug”. Grandma Mundle (mum’s mum), from Northumberland, was famous for her Yorkshire puddings, jellies and blancmanges, and took a whole host of cookery courses back in the 1970s that made her the queen of dinners and cocktail parties. Grandma Williams (dad’s mum), from Birmingham, is the grandmother who made the duck egg sponge, and was also fantastic at classic British puddings, pies, cakes and biscuits. She came from a family of bakers and went on to work in the Cadbury factory at Bournville. Grandpa Mundle (mum’s dad), from India, wasn’t a baker but, true to his roots, made some wonderful curries. And Grandpa Williams (dad’s dad), from Wales, liked to eat!
Thankfully Grandma Williams kept a record of her life growing up, including some pretty in-depth information about the family bakery. Here is an extract:
"...in Harborne, after armistice was declared on 11 November 1918, [Father] was not asked to join the family bakery firm, so decided to purchase a shop for bread and confectionery in Birmingham. He bought a van from Grandpa’s bakery and was then able to load bread, cakes etc which he drove to his new shop in Ryland Street. He managed to hire a girl assistant, Mrs Allwood - a very pleasant 16 year-old with light auburn hair.
Not long after the shop was opened, the bakery acquired a full-time driver so father had his shop’s requirements delivered every day. Business increased.
Father decided he would buy another shop, this time in Summer Hill Street, then a further one in Ledsam Street. There were three lady assistants working at Summer Hill Street and one at Ledsam Street. At the Ryland shop father decided to make his own ice cream. He bought a recipe from some fellow who advised him to use sterilised milk. He had delivered a quantity of ice which was tipped in the gullyway at the rear of the premises, and in due course the ice cream trade began. However the shop was too busy to produce ice cream all week, so he opened it up as a special treat on Sunday mornings and it really was a success. 2d for a wafer, 1d for a cone and 1/2d for a cup. Lovely biscuits too.
I went with him occasionally to a cheese warehouse, where cheese was tasted in rounds, always cheddar. Selling along with the bread and cakes was a huge á la mode beef in large rounds and carved very thinly - 1d per quarter. There were small English tomatoes at 6d per pound. Sugar was weighed from large hessian sacks and transferred into small blue paper bags selling at 1d. Loose tea at 1d a bag but packets of Typhoo and Liptons Tea. Butter was 6d for 1/2lb.
Bread 2 1/2d per 2lb loaf. Tall glass stands held a variety of cream cakes all at 2d. These stands were all tiered to enable currant buns, chelsea buns, eccles cakes and a host of other delicacies to be seen from the windows. All three shops were pro table. But it meant that Father had to do all the money checking after closing hours and so he didn’t arrive home till about 10pm."
As well as discussing topics covered on my upcoming MSc in Gastronomy, I’m going to feature recipes from both sides of the family plus some given to me by several family friends, who also played a big part in teaching me to cook. As a theatre design graduate, I am also going to include a few bakes that are more creative. I’ve been on some wonderful trips in recent years, mainly to cities combining my love of art and food, so I’ll share a few tips for places to visit, as I do an unhealthy amount of food research before each trip.
I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I enjoyed this chocolate mousse...