My grandma has a cheeky sense of humour, a keen smile and doesn’t mince her words. I love her company. She knows exactly what she thinks and what she wants and she doesn’t hesitate to state it openly. She is 88 and comfortable in her own skin. So when I called her to say I wanted to learn to make sorrell she told me she was out and I had to come another day. When I rang her bell she opened the door and greeted me with a smile that would melt a snowman, and a gentle hug from her tiny frame. This is the woman who nurtured my mom in her womb and gave birth to her. This is sacred ground, and she is the queen of it.
She begins by telling me she’s grated all the ginger before I came, to speed it up. I explain to her I am taking notes, and ask her how much ginger to use and she says ‘a lot’ – that’s the best I’m gonna get as far as details are concerned. I impress her with my knowledge of how good ginger is for our health and she smiles a smile that says “your mom did a good job”.
She finds the pot full of grated ginger and as she takes off the lid I’m engulfed in the overwhelming aroma. The pot is bigger than most and when I ask why she bought a pot so big she answers me with a look that says ‘it must be obvious’, and explains that its for cooking rice and peas for when the family come around. We don’t use her big pot nearly enough.
She takes out a packet of linseed held shut by a rubber band and throws in a tablespoon. As she mixes it in, she casually recalls a story of almost having a miscarriage. The doctor in Jamaica told her to take some linseed with ‘something from the sea’ (she can’t remember what it was but hopes it will come back to her, I try my best to jog her memory in case some future child depends on it, to no avail) – and her baby was born healthy. Her sister, she remembers, had the same experience with the ‘something from the sea’. She talks about not having money for doctors and using natural remedies and how the free NHS makes healthcare accessible but then lacks the wisdom of mother nature.
I tell her I’m thinking of going and she tells me she’s about to cook, which means I’m staying. I arrived starving from London once and brought food on the way to her house. She is not easily offended but I knew not to do it again. Why did I think she wouldn’t have food on the stove? I’m used to millennials. As we eat she tells me she doesn’t like to ‘cook sparing’ meaning just for herself, because she likes to feed anyone who pops in. I want to be the kind of woman who has a pot that’s way too big to ‘cook sparing’.
Here is her recipe in her own words:
- A lot of ginger
- Some linseed (depending on how much you want to make)
- Enough sorrell
- Some sugar (to taste)
- Sanatogen or whichever wine or even some rum (to mek it taste good)