Tea With Ruth O’Malley #100DaysOfOldDays

Day 100 #100DaysOfOldDays

My 100th post of our #100DaysOfOldDays project, is a little different to the others. This is a piece of fiction that gives an insight into some of the characters in my novel, Secrets in the Babby House, which I plan to publish later this year.

The story is set in Bailieborough, Co. Cavan and it spans over three decades; from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies. You might recognise some faces in the photos, but these characters are completely fictional. Thank you to my very good friends Roisin, Jackie and Roza who came for “Tea With Ruth O’Malley”.

In the upstairs living quarters of a drapery shop in Bailieborough, Ruth O’Malley was preparing tea for her best friend—and fellow devotee of the Legion of Mary—Goretti Lynch.
Goretti and her daughter Flossie often went to Ruth’s for evening tea.

As Ruth shelled hard boiled eggs, she pondered over the prospect of her only son John, marrying Flossie. Not just any girl would suit her John. The Legion of Mary women referred to John as the most desirable bachelor in town. Eligible, they said he was.
Flossie was a quiet respectable girl with no intentions of gallivanting the world, like some people. She and John were still fairly shy in each other’s company but Ruth knew it was only a matter of time before they would begin a courtship.

She dressed the eggs with dollops of salad cream and a good sprinkling of parsley. She stood back and admired her spread. She had paid extra attention this evening because Goretti’s sister-in-law Bridgey, was coming too. (Extra sherry in the trifle.)

Goretti Lynch wished she could be more like her friend Ruth; popular, stylish, confident. And well-off! Goretti’s late husband Eddie, was a good man of course, and had provided well for his family so she shouldn’t complain. They did well bringing up their three children; Danny the priest, Catherine the nun and Flossie the soon-to-be school teacher. And if Goretti’s prayers were answered, soon-to-be wife of John O’Malley—the Catch of the Parish!

Goretti repeatedly praised her daughter’s talents in front of Ruth and Frederick and it was paying off. My John would be very lucky if he were to marry a girl like your Flossie, is what Ruth said one evening in Molly Fagin’s house. And she could tell that Flossie was growing more attached to John; that wistful and desirous look in her eyes lately. A courtship was on the horizon for sure.

Bridgey Lynch wasn’t the type of woman to be ungrateful towards others. But Ruth O’Malley irritated the hell out of her. The woman talked far too much—about herself and everyone else.
Bridgey no longer considered herself a country woman. After thirty years of living in Dublin, her natural affinity for Bailieborough had greatly diminished, just like her tolerance for meddlesome people.
The long bumpy bus journeys to the rural town where she grew up were for the sake of Flossie. It was her job as her aunt to make sure she didn’t get bullied into a life she might regret—like Catherine and Danny. Bridgey was in the humour for a good big glass of sherry (or two).

Flossie Lynch walked a few steps behind her mother and her auntie Bridgey as they headed across The Green towards Main Street.
She was relieved when Mrs O’Malley told them earlier that unfortunately John and his father would be out for the evening and they’d be having tea without them.

Flossie was quite certain she’d cope for the evening without John staring at her through his thick glasses and suffocating her with his mothball odour. They had absolutely nothing in common and she had no doubt that he found her just as boring as she found him. Flossie’s belly rumbled. At least Mrs O’Malley always served up delicious food…the only reason she liked going there.

Bridgey brought a big box of Lyons tea and cinnamon biscuits with her. And two bottles of French red wine. Ruth liked to see Bridgey having a wee drinkie, presuming that the only time she could be herself was when she back in her hometown. She’ll probably retire in Bailieborough when the time comes, thought Ruth.

Flossie brought Flowers and Goretti brought her usual homemade apple tart.
‘I’ll put them into the vase you bought me for my birthday,’ purred Ruth as Flossie handed her the bouquet of chrysanthemums and gerberas. Ruth knew rightly that it was Goretti who bought the vase and it was probably Goretti who bought the flowers too.

Then Ruth noticed the slit up the side of Flossie’s pencil skirt. ‘That’s hardly a skirt you’d wear to work Flossie.’
Goretti sniffed sharply and looked sideways at Bridgey.
Flossie flushed slightly and glanced up at St. Therese hanging on the wall. ‘It’s not for wearing to work Mrs O’Malley. Auntie Bridgey gave it to me.’
‘What’s wrong with it?’ Bridgey snapped.

Ruth scrunched up her face. ‘The big slit up the side.’
‘She’s not a child anymore. And it’s only a wee slit. ’
Ruth handed Flossie a glass of red lemonade. ‘Is that what they’re wearing up in Dublin?’
Bridgey didn’t answer.

‘Auntie Bridgey said I can have sherry seeing as I’m not a child anymore. I’m eighteen now.’
‘What do you think of that Goretti?’ asked Ruth.
‘Ah Ruth, a wee sherry will be fine.’
‘Well, you may drink that lemonade first,’ said Ruth.

Flossie liked her auntie Bridgey. She was different than her mother and Mrs O’Malley. They have small minds, Bridgey once said. And Bridgey also said that Flossie could go to Dublin and live with her if she wanted—as soon as she was eighteen.

After what Flossie heard about Frank Connolly she might just do that. Get away from this place and everyone in it. Then she wouldn’t have to think about him…and Alice.

Goretti and Ruth drank wine at the table. Auntie Bridgey drank more sherry—more than Flossie had ever seen her drinking. Flossie didn’t care much for it at all and just had tea.
‘Did you hear about the young Connolly lad?’ Ruth began.
Bridgey helped herself to a serving of sherry trifle. ‘I hope you’ve plenty of flavouring in this Ruth.’
‘Just for you Bridgey…plenty of it.’

‘What about the Connolly lad?’ Goretti probed.
‘Well, he’s got himself involved with that Ward lassie from the mountain and…’
Bridgey interrupted again. ‘I was saying to Flossie here that she should come to Dublin and study teaching…get the right qualifications.’
Goretti turned her attention from the gossip to her daughter. ‘Qualifications? You can’t do that. Sure isn’t Miss Kennedy teaching you all you need to know!’

‘I’d die if my John talked about moving away from home,’ Ruth sighed.
‘Flossie won’t be going anywhere and that’s final.’ Goretti poured herself more wine.
‘Come out to the good room Goretti and I’ll tell you what Molly Fagin told me yesterday.’ Ruth guided her friend out to the sitting room.

Bridgey smiled sympathetically at Flossie. ‘I’ll talk to her tomorrow. Tonight wasn’t the right time.’

A different plan formed in Flossie’s head. She looked at the framed portrait of John that hung on the wall below his parents’ wedding photo. Maybe she should get to know him a bit better after all.

Rotten #99WordStories

The masked face stood over my dread-filled body. Inhale through the left nostril, exhale from the right; they said to do, in a book I read once. So I did. Imagine having your feet massaged. Visualise soft hands gently kneading away your fear. I did that too. But I couldn’t relax my tremoring body. I dug my fingernails into the palms of my sweaty hands as his latex fingers came at me.

I cried inside as I imagined life without lemon drops and fudge. I tasted blood. I felt dizzy. Then it was all over. Another rotten tooth extracted!

Written for Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch. #99WordStories. In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about extraction. What is being extracted and from where? 

Thin Arrowroot & Marietta #100DaysOfOldDays

Day 65 #100DaysOfOldDays

Fancy biscuits were for Christmas time and other special occasions. My mam bought chocolate and cream filled biscuits whenever she’d host a Tupperware or make-up party. The parties were usually on a Friday night, so we didn’t have to be in bed early. We weren’t allowed near the sitting room where the party was being held but we’d hang around on the stairs waiting for the women to finish their tea because Mam would always give us the left-over biscuits. It’d seem like hours before she’d come out with the trays and empty cups. Often we’d fight over the last chocolate biscuit, and argue about who got it the last time.

My sister-in-law Margaret, reminded me of the days when buttered plain biscuits were a treat. Margaret remembers getting Thin Arrowroot biscuits from her grandfather; plain on a plain day, buttered on a good day!

Arrowroot biscuits were/are the plainest of all biscuits. I’m not sure if they are still available in Ireland.

A chocolate digestive was the Roll Royce of the biscuit world and an Arrowroot was the Lada.

However, when you’d sandwich two together with real butter and a blob of strawberry jam, they became a Ferrari to a 70’s child.

My great-granny used to give us Marietta biscuits, but not with butter or jam. We didn’t mind either way. A biscuit was a biscuit and it wasn’t every day we got one!

Eye Tasting Mains #100DaysOfOldDays

Day 50 #100DaysOfOldDays

I’m still talking about dinner parties from the 1970’s. First we looked at some of the canapés these super women dished up in the 70’s. You can read the post HERE. And if you’re interested in treating your eyeballs to some very interesting looking starters, you may go HERE.

Today, on our half-way point of our ‘100DaysOfOldDays Challenge’, I’m talking main courses. (These photos are from a little book I got from a friend; 70’s Dinner Party by Anna Pallai.) I’m amazed at the sight of these dishes…really!

🍅 🥑 🍗

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was during the 70’s that scientists began to study how the appearance of our food affects how we perceive the taste of it.

I mean…just look at how creative they were with their dishes. As for appetizing…well, that depends on whose eyes are upon it!

This is veal covered in a jelly of some sort.

Had gelatine only just been invented? They really did enjoy wrapping savoury food in jelly. Good ole ‘Vintage Recipe Cards .com’ has the recipe for these jellyish eggs. Find it HERE!

A similar recipe for the Chaud-froid of chicken can be found HERE – if you’re able for it. Surprise surprise…you’ll need gelatine!

The only thing I’ve ever dressed a cauliflower with was béchamel sauce.

This next dish very much appeals to me. I’m a gamey girl! I found a similar recipe HERE.

I couldn’t help but throw in some desserts! Cheesy desserts because they looked the most interesting.

I’m not sure where exactly the cheese is in this pineapple and apple dessert. It’s called Cheese ‘Pineapple.’ Oh…wait…it is a load of cheese shaped into a pineapple?

I’m sorry, but this blue cheese ball is not visually attractive. I don’t want to look up the recipe for it. Sorry!

This prune whip looks delicious and yes, it would probably keep you regular but…not so sure if I could stomach it. You?

Lucy’s drawing today is of seafood mousse. A dish I actually have eaten before and it’s very nice.

This is only a ‘taste’ of what you would find in Anna Pallai’s beautifully illustrated 70’s Dinner Party Book. If you fancy some more, her book is available to buy here!

Perfect Starters #100DaysOfOldDays

Day 49 #100DaysOfOldDays

Following on from yesterday’s post – Canapé in a Fish Bowl – where I talked about the canapés of a 70’s dinner party.

I’m even more wowed by the splendiferousness (there’s a word to remember) of the starters in my little book of 70’s party dishes!

If you fancy whipping up a perfection salad, you’ll find the recipe HERE.

This potato salad log puts my modest potato salad to shame.

When did we stop doing beautiful things to corned beef?

Tomato aspic; still a popular dish in certain parts of the world. Lots of recipes on the web for this. Here’s one!

These prawn stuffed tomatoes look delicious. These I would try for sure.

Yesterday we looked at canapés at the 70’s dinner party. You can read about it HERE.

And for the main courses and desserts of the 70’s you may go HERE.

I’m slowly coming round to the idea of throwing that 70’s dinner party I was on about yesterday.

Canapé in a Fish Bowl #100DaysOfOldDays

Day 48 #100DaysOfOldDays

A friend gave me this little book a couple of years ago because she knows I love delving into the past and I also love food and cooking.

I wasn’t born into a posh family; dinner parties didn’t happen in our house. I didn’t know what a dinner party was until I was well into my 20’s.

However, I’ve had a few dinner parties down through the years and I love to experiment with food. I contemplated throwing a 70’s dinner party but after looking through the dishes in this little book…I’m not so sure I have the culinary skills to pull it off. My dinner guests would usually expect to be served pasta dishes, curries, one-pot meals, salad dishes, and ice-cream for dessert.

The effort it must have taken to put these dishes together. The detail and presentation involved. This is like something out of MasterChef!

Today we’ll look at some of the canapés from this little gem of a book. These creations have me respecting the 70’s housewife in a whole new light!

As you can see, the images are ingeniously captioned by the humorous author, Anna Pallai.

I found a recipe for the next one – if by any chance you fancy giving it a go! Sardine Egg Canapés Recipe.

I have absolutely no idea what’s in this goldfish bowl!

I found a recipe for these party cheese balls. Here you go, if you want to make an impression on some of your cheesy friends! Party Cheese Ball Recipe. I’ll pass, thank you!

I have no words for the Worcester Beef Croúte. Thank you Esme Salon for finding me a recipe for this. See it HERE.

Lucy’s drawing of a young woman wearing an apron. A very chic 70’s housewife indeed!

Cock HERE to read about some of the starters the 70’s housewife served her dinner party guests! Some of them look more like desserts!

And HERE we look at some of the visually attractive main courses and desserts!

The Way Mammy Used to Make it #100DaysOfOldDays

Day 27 #100DaysOfOldDays #WQW

“Ample food an sturdy drink, a pillow for your head.  And may you be 40 years in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead!” – Irish Blessing

“Make it like Mammy used to.”

That’s what a husband dared to say long ago. He wouldn’t get away with saying it nowadays. If he insinuated in any way that his wife’s cooking wasn’t up to his Mammy’s standard, one of two things would happen; the tolerant wife would pretend she didn’t hear him and he’d eat what he was given, or the intolerant wife would send him home to his mammy with his suitcase!

“I’m not ignoring you…I’m practicing selective hearing.” Linda Poindexter.

But we must admit, there was something special about the Irish stew, the treacle bread, and the boxty. Even the jelly and custard was different back in the day.

What was the secret? Was it all the salt? Or the bitta sugar that went into everything. The Yummy Mummy of today wouldn’t dream of adding sugar to her carrots.

Maybe the secret is that it was made with love!

♡ ♡ ♡

Maybe boxty was so good because it was fried on a hot skillet or in a pan of lots of grease; probably lard. It tasted too good!

‘Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan, if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man.’

Maybe that rhyme encouraged the young women to perfect the boxty recipe!

Here it is for anyone out there trying to grab the attention of a promising young Irish bachelor!

Peel and grate 4 potatoes. Mix with 2 oz of plain flour,1 egg, pinch of bread soda and a pinch of salt. Heat oil of your choice, (and a wee knob of butter) on a frying pan. When you ‘hear’ it sizzling, form your mixture into separate little patties and fry on the pan for about 3 minutes on each side.

There’s nothing more homely and comforting than the sight of a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven. I think the traditional Irish soda bread was so good back then because they didn’t measure the ingredients. Here’s how my mammy used to make it.

A couple of handfuls of flour, a good big lump of butter, a bit of salt, a few spouts of buttermilk, a small spoon of bread soda and don’t forget the sugar. Stick it in the oven until it’s nice and brown. If the oven gets too hot, open the door of the range a wee bit.  

Coddle was a one-pot dish made with the leftovers from the week. Potatoes, onion, carrots, bacon and sausage. I’m sure it’s a stew you could put anything into.

Colcannon was another common dinner in Irish homes. Simple and nutritious. Creamy mashed potatoes with cabbage mixed through it. Often served with boiled bacon. Still a favourite today in some households. The good ‘old bacon and cabbage!

“There’s no place like home Bridie.” Nedzer

We can’t talk about Irish food without the mention of Irish beverages.

Irish Coffee. There’s a special way to make it. I’ve mastered it!

Lightly whip about two tablespoons of cream. Pour freshly brewed coffee into a hot mug or heatproof glass. Add 50ml of Paddy whiskey. Stir in ½ – 1 tsp of brown sugar. The next part is very important. Warm a teaspoon. Gently pour the cream onto the back of the spoon while holding it close to the coffee. As soon as it ‘touches’ the coffee, it should spread nicely across the top of it, rather than mix through it.

Guinness. Guinness is on the go since 1759. I will be dedicating a full post to Guinness sometime during my #100DaysOfOldDays.

I usually drink Guinness when I’m in a pub. It’s a good session drink because once I get to my 5th small glass I’ve had enough, and it never gives me a hangover. (Yes, I know I know…five small glasses is hardly a session)

They say there’s eating and drinking in Guinness, which is a good thing when you’re from Cavan.

Jameson whiskey. One of the oldest distilleries in Ireland and Stephano’s favourite whiskey! Like Guinness, I will be giving Jameson a post of its own at some point during our #100DaysOfOldDays

Hot whiskey. According to my in-house whiskey expert, Paddy makes a good hot one. (Not Paddy from over the road – Paddy the whiskey.) Now, you can’t have a hot whiskey without a slice of lemon studded with cloves. You just can’t. Your sense of smell will miss out on the true experience of a hot Irish whiskey!

“Nothing is more memorable than a smell.” Diane Ackerman

Today’s post is also part of #WQW over on alwayswriteblog.Topic: 5 Senses.

Lucy’s drawing today is of an old style Guinness bottle.

Stephano Just Made my Day #SoCS

Linda G Hill’s Stream of Conscious Saturday (#SoCS) prompt this week is “icing in the cake”. Write about the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the phrase “icing on the cake.”

I was sitting here in the kitchen with my pen and pad, thinking about the cliché, the icing on the cake, when in walks Stephano with a bag of groceries. Interrupted my thoughts yes, but then handed me my new favourite sweet treat…coffee traybake from Supervalu. I squealed like a child who just got a new puppy! These coffee traybakes are not always available — or maybe they are but we’re just not quick enough to beat the rush.

Supervalu Coffee Traybake

This all started last year when I took a sudden notion that I wanted coffee cake. You’d think it would be easy to find but no. None in the coffee shops, or the bakeries, or the supermarkets.

Then one day Stephano arrived home with these absolutely scrumptious squares of decadence. Spongy and moist, rich with the flavour of coffee. But it’s the icing on the top that makes these the most delicious cakes I’ve ever had. So creamy and melty, with little shavings of nubbly dark chocolate sprinkled on top. I can’t help but close my eyes as the textures mesh together in my mouth. Savouring every morsel.

I’ll have another one at four o’clock. Today is a good day!

It’s probably just as well that they’re not available all the time.

I Want a Medal for This

I swear I wouldn’t win any prizes for my baking skills. I can barely manage to make the simple Irish soda bread. My scones are flat and cake making takes hours (for me).

So, you can imagine my excitement when I made the perfect Yeast Artisan Bread this morning! “Straight out of Mary Berry’s oven” perfect!

Just 4 ingredients. Flour, yeast, salt and water! Now, I have no idea what Robin Hood Blending Flour is, so I used ordinary plain flour. It must have come from his merry men, because it did the job for me.

When I removed the cling film from my dough, which I made the night before, it looked very sticky, but as soon as I began to shape it into a ball it was very obedient and came together nicely.

Looks messy!

I don’t own a Dutch oven—I didn’t know there was such a thing—so I used the dish from my slow cooker. Oven safe with high sides. There’s always a way!

The smell of my bread baking and my coffee brewing, wafted through every keyhole in the house. Even the dog was smiling!

The hardest part of this process was waiting for the bread to cool.

You should have seen the super smug smile spread across my sweet face, (say that fast) as I spooned some of my homemade greengage jam all over my warm bread!

I’m afraid I’ll have to hide it from myself!

Of course…you’re waiting for the link to the recipe, aren’t you!

Esme Salon has many fabulous tried and tested recipes on her blog. Do have a wander around when you’re there!

Here’s the link to the Yeast Artisan Bread! Enjoy! 5 Easy Amazing Bread Recipes for Beginners

Broccoli #SoCS

When I read the prompt for this week’s #SoCS from Linda G Hillfind a word with ‘roc’ in it – the first thing that came to my mind was broccoli.

It’s one of those vegetables that you either love or hate. I was never that gone on it but I’ve always eaten it because it’s good for me. My children never liked it and I used to hide it in certain dishes to get it into them.

The funny thing is, for some strange reason, I’ve started to really like broccoli. Steamed and well done. Are my taste buds changing? Is it anything to do with being in my 50’s? Perhaps it’s another sneaky symptom of the onset of the menopause. Mmm…

Well, I blame Big M for everything else!