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Tuesday 1 September 2015

Food & Nostalgia: Dishes my father liked

I've always loved the date September 1st.
After January 1st it's the best time for new beginnings. Symbolising the end of the summer and starting a new term. It's a positive, rejuvenating date...well it was until six years ago when it became the day my ubba (father) would depart this world. 

Every year I write about him on this date because it's a chance for me to reflect on his life and everything he taught me. This year's theme is food.
The foods that fill me with nostalgia and remind me of him. 

Malted Milk Biscuits
Every Bangladeshi father has a thing for biscuits. Whenever mine visited Bangladesh he'd carry empty tupperware in his suitcase, which he'd bring back to the UK, filled with traditional biscuits. They were sold loose by weight, so he'd take the packaging from home, as you needed something to put them in. 
But when the stash was finished he'd have to resort to British biccies. Scottish shortbread was an early favourite as were Sports biscuits but Malted Milks were the reigning champion. He clearly had good taste because they really are the ultimate dunking biscuit. I don't eat them often but I'm going to buy a pack today.

Milk and Rice
This is something I remember clearly during my childhood. After we'd finished our evening meal of curry and rice, cooked by my mother, sometimes she'd make him a special dessert (just for him), which consisted of leftover rice cooked in warm milk. It was like a really basic rice pudding. It never sounded or looked very appetising to me especially as when she made proper rice pudding it was delicious, but this strange dessert was something he liked. Maybe it was his nostalgic food. He was certainly very happy when he ate it.

Crunchy Nut Cornflakes
Ubba's breakfast consisted of egg on toast with honey and a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, mixed with muesli, then heated in the microwave with milk (the third milky dish that appears on this list!). He had a sweet tooth and anything honey flavoured was welcomed.
LucozadeNot strictly food, but other than drinking 1/2 cups of tea throughout the day and the occasional Indian Tonic water (which was a much revered drink in our household), Lucozade was ubba's favourite tipple, he always had a bottle in the house. 

I have other fond foodie memories too like him buying monkey nuts when we were kids and treats from Greggs bakery like apple turnovers, London cheesecakes (pictured), and swiss buns or ring doughnuts. We didn't have a lot of money but he always made sure we had something yummy to eat after school.

After my mother died he lost his appetite. I missed her cooking so much, but it was worse for ubba. He had been living on her home cooked Bangladeshi food for over 30 years so to suddenly have that taken from him - it's something he never spoke about, or I ever asked him about; it's only now that I think about the emotional and physical effects that would have had on him, and on anyone in a similar situation.

One day he got really upset and angry with me because I bought some supermarket samosas. At the time I thought he was being mean, but maybe it's because he just missed my mother's?

In losing his appetite ubba moved away from Bangladeshi food and started eating Western food, but I'll never forget the time (shortly after my mum passed away) that I made him veggie burgers for dinner. That night he had the worst stomach pains of his life, probably because after years of home cooking his body wasn't used to processed food. 

I spent a lot of time with him when I first moved back home after university and we always ate together - it was a bond we shared. Eating together is so much better than eating alone.

I didn't anticipate it, but this has been the most difficult piece to write about him. In previous years (2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010) it's felt more joyful recalling his memory, but food, I've just discovered is very personal and nostalgic, making this much more of an emotional experience. 

I'm not one for dragging out long cathartic blog posts, I'd rather take some time out now and think about him in my prayers than type away on my laptop, so I'll leave it at this. 

Looking forward to dunking a Malted Milk biscuit into my tea for elevensees this morning, feel free to join me! 

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