Pork chop – nice and thick, kidney still in – with sprouts, a carrot-and-swede mix, mashed potatoes and gravy. Now, that’s a proper meal. And after, fruit pie and custard or cream. A proper, home-baked pie, mind you – none of your tins and packets. Proper, wholesome, homely food – what my husband Derek used to call ‘a bit of all right’. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach and that was certainly true with Derek.
But a lot of them, these days, they don’t want that. It’s all burgers and fries. Milkshakes, some of them. Well, that’s not a proper meal, is it? Not what I call a proper, sit-down meal. With my three, every night, there was meat and vegetables and a pie afterwards, never fail. Or sometimes a crumble, or a jam tart, or a trifle, but always a pudding. Always. Not like these mothers now, with their yogurts and their fruit if you are lucky. And the kids all picky and refusing to eat. I’d have them eating soon enough, I’d crack the whip. No getting down until that bow’s clean. Come on: chop, chop, eat up, or you’ll waste away. No danger of that with my Stephen. He had a good appetite. Went to Singapore for the bank but he phones at Christmas. Carl, my younger one, he ate well, too, though he’s smaller since he left home. He drops in from time to time. Brings the kids, but never for long. I always ask, ‘Will you stay for a meal?’ but he says he’s busy and I’m sure he is.
Steak – that’s popular. Quite a few of them ask for steak, and when they do, I try to get a nice one in, which is normally possible. I do a good steak. It was one of Derek’s favourites, steak and kidney pudding, too, but sometimes just a nice, simple, lean, fried steak. A nice layer of oil and the pan at the right heat, which is as hot as it will go. The problem with steak is, it’s quite a long way from the kitchen to the Row. You’ve got to go out of the canteen block then across ‘Y’ yard and up three flights. It can take a few minutes, what with the security grilles. Really, with a steak, that’s not the best thing. ‘I won’t think it’s rude if it spits on me’, Derek used to say and he was right. A steak should be out of the frying pan and on to the plate and then straight into your mouth, all hot and melty. You don’t want to wait around for a steak. In a way, they might be better off with a stew or a pie. Something that keeps its heat. I don’t think any of them think about that – though why should they? It’s not like they haven’t got plenty on their minds already, my God. The chips will be OK, though. Most of them want chips. Or ‘French fries’, they write. Well, the educated ones do. I think a chip should be thick, but if that’s what they want, I’ll do them stringy. I’ll do what they want.