‘It’s as though granny is there in the kitchen be­side me’

Prima (UK) - - Magical Memories -

‘The sweet­ness and spicy aroma trans­port me back in time’

Gill Paul, from London, re­calls fond mem­o­ries of her grand­mother, and the fruity dumpling recipe that still fills her with nos­tal­gic warmth.

Granny Gra­ham was 71 when I was born. I sup­pose she knew she might not be around for long, so she spent as much time with me as she could. To my mum and aun­tie, she had been a stern par­ent, but I was her first grand­child and she was putty in my hands. I have strong mem­o­ries of how safe it felt to sit on her lap; of the smell of tal­cum pow­der and musti­ness when I crawled into her bed; of the ab­so­lute cer­tainty that if I asked to go and feed the ducks for the fourth time that day, she would take me.

She taught me to knit, sew and cro­chet, to play bingo and bagatelle, and she let me help to cook in her cramped, stone-floored kitchen. This was the 1960s and Granny did not have mod cons. She hand-washed clothes in the sink, wrung them out in a man­gle, and hung them to dry on an over­head pul­ley. She only had a tiny stove but the most de­li­cious aro­mas would waft round the kitchen, none more en­tic­ing than the spicy, trea­cly scent of her fa­mous fruity dumpling, a tra­di­tional Scot­tish dessert made with flour, suet, bread­crumbs and dried fruit. It was my job to mix the in­gre­di­ents, then wrap three­pence bits in grease­proof pa­per and bury them in the dough. I’d try to mem­o­rise where they were to ‘win’ one later, but it never quite worked.

Granny died when I was eight. I couldn’t talk about her for ages and car­ried the huge weight of miss­ing her in­side my chest. Then one day Mum asked if I wanted to make a fruity dumpling and, as it steamed on the cooker, it was as if Granny was in the room. If only I could turn fast enough, there she’d be in her flow­ered apron and gun­metal perm, with stock­ings wrin­kled round her an­kles.

My sis­ter Fiona was born af­ter Granny died but she learned to make fruity dumplings with Mum and me, and I taught her daugh­ter Flo when she was three. We make it ev­ery Christ­mas, although in­fla­tion has seen the three­pences be­come pound coins and it’s served with brandy cream rather than cus­tard. Ev­ery year, the gooey sweet­ness and spicy aroma trans­port me back to a time and a place when

I felt ut­terly se­cure and well-loved.

• The Lost Daugh­ter by Gill Paul (Head­line Re­view) is out on 18 Oc­to­ber

Left: A fruity dumpling just like her granny used to make. Right: Gill with her grandma

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