Yesterday my Nana passed away in Timaru, NZ. Nana (aka Nancy, Great Nana Smith, Mum, Ann and for the last 10 months Great Great Nana) was an awesome lady who lived to the ripe old age of 94. In the last few weeks we have reflected on her life, the different memories we have and the foods we associated with her. Nana was a very practical and sensible lady who I will always remember for her calm and controlled manner. I never saw her with ruffled feathers or heard her raise her voice although I did give her cause to raise her eyebrows and use a stern voice from time to time.
My Nana always believed in me, no matter what, and never gave up on me even during those dark times when I wanted to give up on myself. Small in stature she has always been there as a solid rock under which I could shelter, or lean upon or stand aloft and claim the world.
Nana cooked, Nana baked, Nana made jam and yet Nanas kitchen was never a mess – except when I was allowed in there to make pin-wheel scones for Grandpa.
Nana, and Grandpa, ate their meals in the old patterns: Grandpa came home from work for his lunch every day and they had a hot lunch with pudding – if there was to be ice-cream grandpa always put his in the warm stove while he ate his lunch. The evening meal consisted of something light such as scones, sandwiches, pies or the like. Lunch was a formal meal eaten in the dining room using proper table manners. Tea was less formal and I recall this being eaten in the lounge by the fire during winter, on the porch in the warmer months and at the table as well but no matter where it was eaten those proper manners were always expected.
There are some stand out meals that the family associate with Nana but for me the first food I associate with Nana is the egg-nogs she made Anne-Louise and I for breakfast in the house at Rhodes Street when I was about 8 or 10. Designed to fortify and nourish these were made from egg, milk, vanilla and a pinch of nutmeg with the vanilla and nutmeg providing a small amount of sweetness. My dad fondly recalls the Fish and chips that his mum carefully brought home, wrapped in paper, to be served with hot minted peas. Nana loved fried chicken – KFC, and prior to that Homestyle, was a treat that was regularly taken to her by family.
What would this reminisce be without the baking – there was home baking for morning and afternoon tea but it went further than that. There were the afternoon teas at bowls where all the ladies trotted out thier best efforts and we had to choose carefully what to try, there were the afternoon teas at Farmers in town and best of all the Devonshire teas at Temuka Pottery.
The family often gathered at Nana and Grandpas for Christmas and although I don’t recall the main course, desert was always a hit. There was the double ended trifle with hundreds and thousands at the kids end and Chocolate sprinkles on the adults end – the adults end also had the sherry. There was also a large Christmas pudding that hid surprise five-cent coins for each person and it was by some feat of magic hat there was always one coin in each portion served.
Nanas trimphant meal was always the family roast for however many people were there. The greatest compliment I have ever received for my cooking was when my brother Steve declared that my roast was really good – almost as good as Nanas.
You would think with all this food that Nana would be a solid lady, but no, she was a small and petite, almost birdlike….and that was how she ate. A bit of this and a bit of that with all things in moderation.
My Nana – My inspiration.
Please feel free to add comments with your memories of Nana.