Mom died in early April. She died of old age; a very full life of 99 years. For me there is the lingering sadness of loss and the inevitability of death but this is balanced by the all the good memories and a feeling that it was a natural ending. She seemed to have been fading away over a long period.
Three months on, due to my sister Anne’s efficiency, the will has been sorted out and about a week ago a bit of money snuck itself into my bank account causing me, and the bank manager, some surprise.
So I thought we should have a little memorial, not solemn or formal, but a celebration inspired by her personality and likes. Well she liked food, dressing up and going out, particularly with family. Even by the time she couldn’t hear the conversation or see the people around her she loved being in the company of her children, their partners and the ever-increasing number of grand children (9 Children, 28 Grand Children, 27 Great Grand Children*, 1 Great Great Grand Child)
And she liked fish and a glass of sparkle and maybe a glass of rosé. She liked the fish pie I sometimes made for her when we dived up to Birmingham to visit her. A seafood tapas meal could be seen as a deconstructed fish pie if you really stretched your imagination and that’s the route we took (along with a lot of other liberties).
Last Saturday was the day. Sue intended to start with avocado/lumpfish caviar canapes to soak up the sparkle but the Waitrose “ripe and ready” avo which had arrived 8 days before would have needed the back of an axe to mash it. Its deconstructed remains went in the bin.
Mom was a religious women so we turned to the bible:
Penelope Casas has not just one but two tuna canape recipes to hand. Sue’s choice: a little chopped onion, olive oil, wine vinegar, mustard, ketchup, salt & pepper mixed into tinned tuna and served on triangles of Bethesdabakers Beetbrot Toast (accept no alternative). Heaven delayed by five minutes.
Next up (we were probably on the rosé by this time) a truly fabulous Centollo a la Donostiarra – Crab in Wine, Brandy and Tomato Sauce. Finely chopped onion, spring onion, carrot, leek, garlic cooked with smoked paprika, salt & pepper plus the crab meat, white wine, Spanish brandy and tomato sauce – sprinkled with Bethesdabakers Breadcrumbs (accept no alternative), dotted with butter and baked.
The crab really stands up to the robust sauce. Too good.
All of this occurred over a period of several hours and at some stage (maybe here) we sat in the garden for half an hour and read the paper.
Then came a really simple, and good, way of cooking raw crevettes – Llagostino a l’Allioli (prawns grilled with garlic mayonnaise). Lay them out close together in columns on a baking sheet with a little olive oil.
Grill for a couple of minutes then turn and grill the other side for a couple of minutes more.
Run a line of garlic mayo along each column, sprinkle with Bethesdabakers Breadcrumbs (accept no alternative), dot with butter and grill until golden.
I don’t think I need describe how good these are.
They do not last long.
By this time (not entirely sure what time – still light isn’t it?) we had stopped slumming in the kitchen and adjourned to the living room where Sue had brought out the family heirloom tablecloth along with roses from the garden.
We must have been on the Bordeaux Rouge by then (was there a bottle of white somewhere along the line?). Fortunately Sue had put the empties in the recycling by next morning so I didn’t feel too bad.
One of the most laid-back aspects of a leisurely meal, one tapa at a time over a period of hours, is that it can adapt and evolve. So a duff avo isn’t a disaster and the question, “do we need patatas bravas?” resolves itself in its own good time. Eventual answer, “I should coco!”.
Which brings us to the last of the savoury tapas: Montadito de Jamon y Pescadilla – fried fish with serrano plus aforementioned Patatas Bravas (everyone knows what Patatas Bravas is). Another really simple tapa – small pieces of white fish laid on a slice of serrano, dipped in flour, dipped in egg and quickly fried until golden.
Finally, after a long pause, the meal was rounded off with a chilled glass of Sue’s Lemon Posset – lemon juice, sugar, and double cream – not just divine but about all we could manage.
Wonderful meal, wonderful day. And we don’t usually let her but this time Mom picked up the bill.
* With perfect timing, on this very day, Mom’s 28th great grandchild, Isaac Anthony, was born to my neice Rose and her partner Rob. This made my brother Pete a grandfather for the first time (so he says).