Granny was responsible for the earliest gastronomic experience that I remember, when I must have been about four. Granny, my mother’s mother, lived alone in a small cottage at the bottom of the garden, and when I got bored, I’d drop in on her knowing that I would cosseted with a cup of hot chocolate with evaporated milk and a biscuit.

I can’t remember now how she made the chocolate. It would’ve been whatever was available in 1951, which was probably rather crude by today’s standards. Powder certainly. Rowntree’s or Cadbury’s, I’d guess.

Granny whipped the evaporated milk with one of those beaters that had a handle on the top to hold it steady and a handle on the side the you could whizz round and round, driving the whisking balloons.

The surface of the chocolate was a glossy brown. In the middle of it sat a fat atoll of the whipped evaporated milk. The faintest curl of steam drifted up from the mug.

The foam of evaporated milk was a cool cushion to my upper lip, while the chocolate was warm and sweet and slightly musky, leaving a light, winey tang as it slid over my tongue and down my throat.

(I forgot to add this -)

There was always a battle between the desire to down the whole mug of chocolate as quickly as possible, to drown in sensation and pleasure, and the more measured, rational, equally indulgent response to swallow it bit by bit, savouring each small sip, stretching out the bliss for as long as possible. I’ve never yet been able to reconcile these two competing instincts.


  1. What a great memory. My grandparents too lived in a bungalow at the end of the garden, and I could always drop in unannounced c.1958 and was given Jacobs Cream Crackers with butter and jam on them. Never have them now, but might like to!

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