Over the last few evenings our local BBC news programme, Midlands Today, has been including a feature on how people are coping with the "credit crunch". Last night's item was about buying meat and how people are turning to less costly cuts and old style recipes. It featured some catering college students who were learning to cook with things like mutton, offal and pigs trotters. The presenter also interviewed a local butcher about what kinds of meat he was selling and his customers about what they would be prepared to buy, cook and eat. Most drew the line at pig's trotters. Where is this leading you ask? Well, it was the mention of pig's trotters that sent my mind whirling back to my early childhood and my visits to granny's house. Granny Rose was my paternal grandmother, as opposed to Grandma Florence who was my mother's mother, and she was a sprightly, twinkly, button of a character. Small and neat with little round glasses and a bun full of hair pins. She used to struggle along on her bowed legs - something that, had she been born later, could have been easily corrected in childhood. She would always wear a black dress covered with a wrap around pinafore to protect it against the dust and dirt caused by everday cleaning, cooking and polishing.
I loved Granny's house just as much as I loved Grandma's house. In her parlour or living room she had a huge table, usually set ready for tea when we arrived with her pretty china tea service kept for special occasions. I used to play on the rug in front of the fire whilst she and Mum would chatter and natter. On the back wall were two painted mirrors, her pride and joy apparently, as they were the first things she bought after she was married. One I recall had a piled up bowl of fruit on it the other flowers and a bird. I liked the mirrors but best of all I loved to get into Granny's front or best room with its chandelier dangling in the centre. In the window was a huge table full of family photos and on the opposite wall an upright piano, its top also covered in photos. In the middle of the table was a huge display of waxed flowers under a glass dome. I was always rather fearful of this as it reminded me of a similar dome of flowers that she had pointed out to me once when she took me to the local cemetery to put flowers on grandad's grave. She would always stop at a very small grave halfway up the path and say to me 'That's little Emily, she died young'.
What about the pig's trotters I hear you ask? Well, they were one of Granny's favourite foods and so she always put them on the tea table, along with lots of other food like sliced ham, haslet or tongue, bread and butter, tomatoes, beetroot and celery, tinned fruit in small bowls and little cakes on a stand. My Mum, in her usual fastidious way used to say to me very quietly, 'Don't eat the pig's trotters'. Not that I ever would have done, I thought they looked rather gruesome. One day I asked her why and she said she didn't trust them not to make us ill as Granny 'kept them for too long'.
Granny died at the age of 84 in the early 1960s, not I hasten to add anything to do with the consumption of elderly pig's trotters. As she lay dying her beloved Salvation Army came and played hymns on her front lawn under her bedroom window. After her funeral Mum came to me and said that Granny had left to me and my cousin £50 a piece and we were each to have one of the mirrors; I was to have first choice. I chose the mirror with the bird on it and I still have it even now.
It seems strange to be talking about having meat on the table as we haven't actually eaten it for over twenty years; we don't call ourselves vegetarians, though, as we do eat fish occasionally. I honestly can't remember the last time we ate meat or how we used to cook it but I remember my visits to Granny's house like they were yesterday.