Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Nursery supper - Milly Molly Mandy potatoes

It has poured with rain most of today - the cat barometer has been fluctuating between damp and soggy ever since we got back - but the weather in Northern Ireland last week was beautiful and we had a lovely holiday. We got back last night and just managed to get to the cattery in time to pick up the kits a day early. They were very pleased to be home and both immediately went out and got us a present which they each laid carefully on the study floor and shouted until we went and looked. Pook was a bit on the grubby side when we dropped him off but he came back not just grubby but smelling as though he'd been billeted with some pigs. He must have given up washing during his holiday as he's back to his only slightly grimy self again already. We hadn't let ourselves go to quite this degree while on holiday, but we had eaten out every night and we fancied something nice and comfortingly simple tonight. I was contemplating the phrase 'nursery supper' just because I like it, and it reminded me of a meal from childhood, so I introduced The Scientist to it: Milly Molly Mandy potatoes.

Milly Molly Mandy is a character in a series of children's books. She lives with her father and mother, her grandparents and her uncle and aunt in some sort of extended linear family utopia all in one house in a little village. I loved reading these books but the only story I remember is when Little Friend Susan came to stay one evening, and Mother made them lid potatoes - or Milly Molly Mandy potatoes as they became known in our house. They are, very simply, baked potatoes with a lid cut off the top, the filling scraped out and mashed with butter, salt and pepper, and all put back together again with the lid on the top. We made ours a bit more grown up by adding some mustard and cheese, too, and they were *so* satisfying! They were one of those dishes which are greater than the sum of their parts - somehow mashing the potato with cheese and a little marge is nicer than adding exactly the same things to the top. I haven't had MMM potatoes in years but I think they'll be staying on our list of comforting meals.

The only other children's literature-related food memory I have is based on the Mrs Pepperpot books. Mrs Pepperpot was an old lady who was normal in every respect except that occasionally, and with no warning, she would shrink to the size of a - you guessed it - pepperpot. Luckily it never happened while anyone was around, and being an extremely practical lady, she always managed to make the best of things and get all her chores done anyway. I have a very clear memory of sitting at the seemingly enormously high table in our kitchen, pretending that my spaghetti was a plate of skipping ropes for Mrs Pepperpot. Munchkin Granny, bless her, either didn't mind me playing with my food or didn't know, and I'm sure that's why I'm such a literature lover to this day. In any case, we're about to round off our nursery supper with one of the most nursery (albeit not at all home-made) desserts I can think of - Angel Delight. Munchkin Granny used to let us eat this for breakfast occasionally just to get some milk inside us. I dread to think what we were like in restaurants with our pasta-twirling and preference for chocolate pudding. Luckily I have mainly grown out of that and The Scientist is willing to accompany me to eat out nowadays. We didn't eat anything tremendously traditional in Ireland, though we did tour the Bushmill's whiskey distillery, and I both ate and brought back a lot of soda and wheaten bread. Eating potatoes on our first night back seems all the more appropriate to make up for it.

Waterfall in Wicklow National Park

Sunset in Wicklow National Park

Bushmill's whiskey distillery, Co. Antrim

Giant's causeway, Co. Antrim


Johanna said...

this post bought back some wonderful memories - milly mollie mandy and mrs pepperpot were childhood delights for me too - and your photos of ireland are lovely (never managed to see the giant's causeway but it always has looked lovely). And sounds like your cats had an interesting holiday too :-)

Anonymous said...

lovely memories and no I don't think I noticed Mrs Pepperpot's skipping rope. Do you remmeber how we had to order 'spaghetti bolognese without the bolognese' for little un in the Pizza restaurant?? Only way to get a simple plate of spaghetti for her.
Oh and you were all a delight on the occasional occassions when we ate out !!! Munchkin Granny

Lysy said...

I'm very glad to hear that we didn't embarass you when we ate out! I think I'm more embarassing now - this on the side and this sauce with that pasta, and can you miss out some other vital ingredient...It's amazing I don't get kicked out.

I'm so pleased to hear that MMM and Mrs Pepperpot were around in Australia, too (not that the author of Mrs Pepperpot at least sound English so we could hardly have a monopoly on her!). I think that the cats are happier to be back at home. If staying grubby was a sign of malaise then pooky seems to have perked up again, thankfully. White cats, eh?

Juddie said...

Oh my gosh - this post brings back memories! MMM and Mrs Pepperpot were two of my favourite characters as a child, and my sister and I loved making MMM potatoes too.

I also loved Pippi Longstocking - did you read the stories about her too?

Swain said...

Hello....I tripped over your blog because I was drafting my own blog post about Nursery Supper. This post about Milly Molly Mandy Potatoes brought tears to my eyes. Really...it embodies everything I love about food and cooking and reading, and illustrates how I'm trying to tie those things together in my blog. I made the potatoes tonight for my kids and they loved them. May I please link to this in my post? Thank you so much, this was a treasure.