Lemon meringue pie: the Sunday favourite. After dinner, family members would poach scraps of juicy pork from the roasting tray, dip cold left-over roast potatoes in lukewarm gravy and spoon a dod of apple sauce onto a shard of crackling.
Sometimes after nursery they would bake together, mother and daughter. Mother crimping and egg-washing a steak and kidney pie for dinner, daughter rolling out the pastry scraps with her plastic rolling pin and cutting out shapes with a set of metal cutters; crinkly circles, birds, and people. She would secretly pop little grabs of shiny, stretchy raw pastry into her mouth when mother wasn’t looking and lovingly brush each shape from a small bowl of milk, sprinkling on grains of sugar. They’d eat them warm from the oven, spread with a little butter and jam, washing them down with a cup of tea and a yellow beaker of milk at the breakfast bar before the rest of the family returned from school and work, shattering the mother-daughter peace.
Mother doesn’t cook now; she’s cooked for instead. Black plastic trays of mid-brown portions go into the industrial oven, their fork-pierced lids uniformly lined up in rows on a vast baking tray. The indistinguishable contents are slopped out into bowls as the bibs are fastened around everybody’s necks at their numbered tables with their cheerful vases of flowers. Whether chilli, spag bol, shepherd’s pie or beef casserole, their flavours are as hard to decipher.
After the Aunt Bessie’s fruit pie and carton-carried too-yellow custard, they all shuffle through to the wipe-clean pale blue winged armchairs or are wheeled in to the television room. They watch Eastenders and tut at how ridiculous it all is, muttering that nobody is really like that. Then they turn over to BBC2 for The Great British Bake-Off and falteringly reminisce about the days of Sunday roasts and lemon meringue pies.