CHILDHOOD SWEET TREATS

My father liked to round off our main meal of the day with ‘something sweet’, a desire my mother was often hard-pressed to satisfy. Not only was she a reluctant cook, but we lived far from town and our local grocery store stocked only basic items – the ‘essential for survival’ ones. This meant that the default pudding was jelly – easy to store and both quick and easy to make.

Mom would ring the changes by producing a jelly of a different flavour or colour; beat up the jelly mixture with ice cubes to produce a ‘frothy’ look; add tinned milk (Ideal milk) to the jelly; and would occasionally make a jug of custard to serve with the jelly – then my brothers and I would all clamour to get the ‘skin’ of the custard! More rarely, she would add fresh mulberries to a dark purple jelly, or a small tin of sliced peaches to a peach jelly. Jelly was mostly a summer treat though. I still enjoy jelly: the wobbliness of jelly; the way it splits or tears open if you have a large blob of it; and the lovely cool feeling of jelly making its way down your throat. I never tire of jelly, even though I have seldom made it since our children left home.

How can I forget the instant puddings? Fresh milk was in short supply, unless my parents brought milk from the farm after spending weekends there. The powdered pudding simply requires the addition of milk to create wonderful flavours such as caramel, strawberry or even chocolate (which we quickly dubbed ‘mud pudding’ and which was a firm favourite).

During winter, such as it is in the Lowveld, my favourite dessert was bread-and-butter pudding. Of course this was an excellent way of using up stale bread. What I liked were the plump raisins or sultanas as well as the sweet crispiness of the crust. As my father had a very sweet tooth, we were always allowed to pour a spoon of golden syrup over our serving. Although I seldom make it anymore, I still enjoy bread-and-butter pudding sans the additional sweetness.

Mom’s Christmas puddings (like her fruit cakes) were legendary, packed as they were with fruit and, in the days before decimalisation, a few tickeys and a sixpence or two! This was usually served with brandy butter or cream – if it was available.

Fresh fruit wasn’t always readily available: my father would order a box of apples every year; we picked oranges and mangoes from the farm; gorged on mulberries in season; and occasionally had bananas, lychees or fresh peaches. We had pawpaw trees growing in our garden and during the fruiting season we would either get half a pawpaw to eat (Dad always sprinkled sugar over ‘for the crunch’) or use them as the basis for a fruit salad. I made a very early vow to always have fruit available when I was ‘grown up’.

Reluctant cook or not, with four children to feed, Mom used to bake biscuits once or twice a week in sufficient quantities to fill the tins stored in the pantry off the kitchen. Favourites were ginger biscuits, fruit squares, vanilla biscuits and rock cakes (which my father, whose Afrikaans vocabulary was very limited, called Klip cookies). I took over the family baking when I was a teenager, poring over recipes and narrowing my choices according to the ingredients available. Bought biscuits were very rare in our home – I imagine they were expensive too – and we were strictly limited to having two only with our tea.

I don’t bake very often anymore and seldom make a dessert either – unless our children or grandchildren come to visit, we have invited guests, or we have something special to celebrate.

28 thoughts on “CHILDHOOD SWEET TREATS

  1. Thank you Anne. I loved your post this morning. There was always some form of dessert with our evening meal, each of us leaving a little room for the treat.

    Our family also had a sweet tooth. My favourite was chocolate sprinkles on buttered toast – oh so decadent. And as a kid I enjoyed licking clean the mixer blades from my Mom’s latest home made cake.

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  2. My uncle “Ome Jan” used to refer to jelly as “Zenuwe pudding” – Dutch for “Nervous pudding”

    Our favourite was chocolate flavoured custard topped with whipped cream.

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  3. Jello is my least favorite edible ever. I love biscuits (cookies) of all sorts. I have not been much of a baker over the years. I do bake when an occasion comes up such as a birthday. This post did bring up lots of childhood memories about what I could think of that was goodies to eat. My sister got the baking gene. I have often benefited from that.

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  4. I loved your reading your dessert reminiscences, Anne. Although I love sweets, too, we are not in the habit of having them regularly, esp. since learning how bad sugar is for us – no fun! They are regulated to special occasions now, but the list is long of ones that I love. 🙂

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    • Eschewing desserts is yet another lifestyle change as we learn more about ourselves and what is good for us. By serving something sweet on special occasions makes them seem all the more ‘festive’. 🙂

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  5. Now I’m hungry…..so many memories there. My mom made jelly with fruit salad and bananas only at New Years and Christmas. It was served with real whipped cream. I guess the idea was a light dessert after a heavy turkey dinner. And chocolate and butterscotch pudding with milk made on top of the stove and often eaten when it was warm was wonderful. I was still making this up to about ten years ago when it was discontinued and replaced with a cold instant mix which was not the same, so now I just buy those instant pudding cups and heat them in the microwave. I never developed a taste for bread and butter pudding, although it was on the hospital menu all the time and people raved about it. My mother was more into pies and cakes and we would have dessert often, as my father was a dessert eater. At least once a week would be baking day. Desserts are still my weakness as I’d rather bake than cook.

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    • Warm butterscotch pudding … now you are talking! We have a delicious South African baked pudding, called malva pudding, which is just the thing for winter 🙂

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  6. I have always liked Jell-o gelatin and Jell-o pudding as well. The pudding made from scratch using milk and still warm with the skin on as soon as it forms are good memories for me too Anne. Butterscotch was my favorite. My mom used to make tapioca pudding (which she called fish eyes and glue) and rice pudding, both were favorites of mine. Bread pudding was a favorite as well. I’m making myself hungry and I don’t bake.

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      • I always liked it and my mom would buy the larger-sized “pearls” and call them fish eyes and glue. Warm tapioca with some cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled on top – mmm. I’m not much of a cook or baker, so I often dream of the nice desserts from back in the day when my mom was still here. 🙂

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  7. Anne, sweet memories! I still love the jelly, can’t eat the instant pudding any more due to lactose intollerance, but it is sweet memories. And fruit salad. I alos loved wafers, also something I can it if I do not mind to regret it afterwards.

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