Based on a handwritten notebook of recipes from Dorothy Eliza Barnes, my grandmother, a shepherd’s wife, who had worked as an Edwardian cook
With girl’s fine nib, in blackest black
you scratched down with your steel pen
‘Puzzle Pudding’, ‘Feather Cake’,
script tiny, taught, as you were then.
Next, sky’s blue strays into the mix,
light as fire’s flare through kindling sticks.
Pencil races. ‘Elderberry.’
Then biro trembles. No more pens.
‘B.P.’ for Baking Powder. Why?
Self-raising flour came too late.
Nor did you have penicillin,
Pethidine, or the Welfare State.
‘Cake with no eggs’, ‘dried egg’, the pause
in your employers’ rich food through wars.
‘Slow oven’. By my birth, you could
swap coal for cooker, need not wait.
Still you kept adding recipes,
lighter, not heavy, blue, not black,
chocolate cake, with cream, snipped from
The People’s Friend, brand-new Gas Marks.
With sister, daughter dead, you made
fine curds, great pies, quick table laid.
Why did you never show me this?
‘Beat four eggs well.’ Do not look back.