By Noel Coogan
Putting a pot of gooseberry jam into my basket while shopping recently in a home town supermarket brought back pleasant memories of enjoying early tastes of the delicacy back in the fifties. As Mary Hopkin would later sing, ‘those were the days’, days when food menus were so different to these modern times.
In my home in a rural part of County Meath there was a small area at one side of the house where gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes provided sources of food, as also did a vegetable patch where potatoes, cabbage, peas, etc., were grown.
Gooseberry jam was one of my favourite treats and, of course, cooking methods were rather primitive during the famished fifties when people was one of this country’s main exports.
Gas and electric cookers were a bit further down the road with the blackcurrants and gooseberries being placed in a pot with accompanying ingredients before the mixture was placed over an open fire.
Of course, there were no fridges to keep the jam cool in those far-off days but still the conserves were preserved well and the product always tasted good and sweet, especially when put on bread, often made over the same fire.
Before the advent of toasters, bread was toasted with a fork over the open fire. The end produce was perhaps tastier than after being heated in the modern-day gadget.
Money was not near as plentiful than as it is now and meals were much more modest. Porridge was often referred to as ‘stirabout’ and jelly and custard was a popular dessert, mostly on Sundays.