The Ifit

A weekend of the occasional catering reminded me of one of my mother’s enduring lessons in the kitchen…

The Ifit.

What’s an Ifit? Well, it’s a made up word that goes back to my mum (as well as being useful for scrabble)

I inherited many things from Mum when she died, not least her collection of thirteen glass mixing bowls and ten measuring jugs, but the one that is most important, which most reveals the essence of that woman and food is a little wooden sign that now hangs above our tea caddy (does anyone else think it’s odd that we have a tea caddy and a golf caddy but no other form of caddy? What does a dried leaf that creates the ultimate refreshing drink and a smart-arse heaver of clubs have in common? No idea. Where was I?

mum and sam

Where was I? The sign? Yes, sorry.

No matter wherever I place my guests
They always like my kitchen best

Mum’s kitchen was her second happy place after her garden. She would occasionally visit other rooms for sleep/guests/miscellaneous bodily functions but they were duty visits.

She cooked to feed, to inspire, to sustain, to console, to love, to mend, to compromise, to mollify and just for the sheer joy of it. But there was one rule, in her kitchen – no, that’s rubbish, there were plenty, but the one I’m thinking of now is the one that said

Thou shall not waste so much as a grain or seed

She would not, could not throwaway food (and if she really really had to because it had developed a fungus whose colour you would only otherwise find on the colour charts for 1979s sanitary ware, it ended up as compost.

Carcasses were boiled into stock, stale bread made into puddings, peelings were either juiced or composted. If jam went mouldy then the mould was scraped off and the underlying, and in her view, untroubled lower layer used as if nothing untoward had happened.

And so it was that we might be confronted with a meal that smelt fantastic but had the look and consistency of wallpaper paste. The ingredients may have once been a chicken and a potato but any semblance of those physical characteristics might have long since disappeared. No recipe was troubled in the making of this feast, no ingredient too humble to be excluded. And they always tasted delicious.

Ifit2

What are we having, Mum?

When asked what we were having, she might purse a lip, furrow a brow and continue to stir the pot.

It’s a sort of chicken casserole, darling…

We all knew what was coming

… ifit works

And so it was that the family had another uncharacterizable yet eponymous ‘ifit’ for lunch or dinner. Chicken and lamb ifits were regulars; after Christmas the turkey ifits were ubiquitous. I don’t recall many dessert ifits but I’m sure there were many.

I inherited many other things from Mum, a lot before she died and one is that no dish is ever ruined by an extra ingredient. My family awaits a lasagne or cottage pie with a certain trepidation if I am the chef. They have been known to play Geoff the Chef bingo to see how many ingredients they can spot in any one dish. No one is surprised if the pork cassoulet has been enhanced with kumquat and chia. In part, it is because, like Mum, I hate to see things go off. But really it is my attempt, in these days of plenty, to pay homage to the simple and homely ifit meals of my youth.

That’s the other thing she passed on: a love of the kitchen. I’m often sent on courses by the family in the hope I might be corralled into the tyranny of recipe fascism. This is me, a while ago, pretending to be able to fillet a fish

Ifit1

Note the stiff fingers; they’ve actually frozen to that piece of haddock. I think I’ll stick with mum’s approach.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in cooking, memories, miscellany, philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

47 Responses to The Ifit

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Love those photos Geoff and of course your mum’s ifits are obviously a success. I am not so good at adding extras but hubby is and no dish he ever cooks is the same twice!
    Have you got “a round tuit ” in your house… A very obscure thing?
    We have 😁

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Annone Butler says:

    I loved this. I try to cook in the same way. No leftovers have been in the fridge so long that they cannot be tossed into something else. I think that the result is that most of my concoctions look very similar but they seem to taste OK. I’ve not killed the family yet…..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joylennick says:

    Great post, Geoff. I bet many have had interesting ‘kitchen Mums.’ (Did you count your fingers after the fish filleting?!) Because of WW2, and a case of ‘needs be,’ my own Mum was good at finding different ways to eek out our diminishing food portions. NOTHING was ever wasted and potatoes, pastry and bread was used in ingenious ways to fill corners. Mondays bubble and squeek was a must. Luckily, many had allotments or grew vegies and fruit in their back gardens and several people took to keeping chickens…so we were, thankfully, never hungry. Cheers!

    Che

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes that aLl resonates with me too. We ate healthily and I don’t recall a lack of food. Now heating was a different matter. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to worry too much about my food and heating bills but I can’t help but wonder at my parents listening to the current discussion about people who can’t afford heat and food. Back then you put in more clothes and chipped the ice off the inside of the windows. Not having enough to eat is a different matter

      Like

  4. Pam Lazos says:

    Stories of your mom continue to inspire, Geoff. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Darlene says:

    I love your mom for many reasons but especially because she would not, could not throw away food. I inherited this trait as well and hubby gets some interesting concoctions, but he has never complained (well not to me anyway!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. noelleg44 says:

    Now I see where you get your creativity, Geoff. My mother was the same way- no leftover went to waste. Wish I were the same way but I generally ignore things I can’t figure out how to use and then throw them out after a month or so!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so easy to fillet a fish properly. I did it once! I totally recognise the Ifit, and the Round tuit!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. gordon759 says:

    Did you think I wouldn’t know the answer to the question posed at the beginning.
    One is a Malay weight of about 1 1/3 pounds. You bought your tea in caddies. Interestingly the smallest tea caddy I own holds about on caddy of tea.
    The other is French cadet mangled by a Scotsman.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. petespringerauthor says:

    Great memories, Geoff. My mom would have gotten along well with yours. She never threw anything away, and Dad was the human garbage can. They were the definition of thrifty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      My mother hated getting rid of anything. If my father ever persuaded her to a clear up and three years later some project came up, she would remind him of something he’d got rid of. Memory like an elephant

      Liked by 1 person

  10. JT Twissel says:

    My grandma lived in her kitchen too but my mother was a prepared and fast food sort of gal so I guess it skips a generation. My kitchen is the biggest room in the house! I’m also guilty of throwing in a surprise ingredient or two! Generally a jalapeno pepper or mushrooms!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I enjoy cooking and this was an entertaining story.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. joylennick says:

    I’m with you re the heating, Geoff…I often traced my name in the ice inside my bedroom window…..

    Liked by 1 person

  13. trifflepudling says:

    A lovely family tale, thanks. It’s sometimes better to bung in random stuff, isn’t it.
    You and the Textiliste probably don’t remember or maybe even thought it was deliberate, but I once miscalculated quantities for a lasagne and had to put a tin of baked beans in as the upper layer! I quite enjoyed it but have never repeated it…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. 😉 I am out of the game, because for me the kitchen is more like a workshop. Lol I love the products coming out, but have no patience to stay there longer than necessary. xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Jennie says:

    This warmed my heart. What a perfect phrase for using leftovers. ‘Waist not, want not’ was drilled into or brains as children. On your side of the pond, your parents survived WWII (and you never forgot it). On my side of the pond, our parents’ parents survived the depression, and we were grilled in ‘ifit’ dinners. Like you, I have wonderful memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I loved your memoir about your mom, and this is just another example of why. I have some ifits to add to whatever concoction I make tonight. In fact ifits are often the main ingredient. Lol. Thanks for the heartwarming share.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Just when I believe I cannot possibly feel greater fondness for your mother (whom I know only through your stories) you tell another and I’m smitten afresh. I shall have to add “ifit” to my vocabulary (thanks for the Scrabble tip, by the way). In my childhood home, meals pulled together from odds and ends were called “nothing” (Us: What’s for supper? Mom: Nothing!) because that’s what they were made of, both in quantity and in particular.
    At any given moment, at least half my refrigerator is taken up with jars that hold some tiny comestible bit that I either have in mind for something or am confident I can work into something. As for recipes, I consider them texts to be interpreted. They are great for inspiration and the occasional reference to proportion or technique, but I almost never follow them faithfully. And no one has died yet – to my knowledge. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Widdershins says:

    We’re like that too. Leftovers often become soups/casseroles or sandwiches. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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