Monday 28 December 2009

A Gift from Pop on Blog Takeover Day

My friends call me Frank, but to my family I am known as Pop. If you’ve ever read one of my granddaughter’s stories and it has featured a very tall, slim, dignified gentleman with high cheekbones and blue eyes, chances are you’re reading about me.

I was born in 1895 and I had three sisters and five brothers. My father was killed in Rotterdam in 1908 when he fell into the dry dock. Some say he was drunk. Some were probably right.

Until then he worked for the GER on the Amsterdam as a fireman. But enough about him, this is about me and I’m much more interesting. If I could I would add a twinkle and a wink to that sentence, but I’ve been dead for nearly thirty years and I haven’t yet got to grips with this new technology.

The year my father died my mother emigrated to Canada taking me with her. Just me. We left from Liverpool and lived for a while in Canada before moving down to North Dakota and finally settling back in Manitoba. My mother worked as an exhibition cook. She was tricked into marrying a man who used to beat me and probably her too.

But this isn’t about her or him, it’s about me. Twinkle, wink.

Eventually my younger brother joined us. He made the trip to Canada alone. He was 11.

We weren’t the only immigrants living in Sifton, Manitoba. There were a lot of Ukrainians there too which brings me to my New Year gift to you. A simple recipe, but more of that later.

My younger brother and I joined the Canadian Army and returned to Europe. When it was all over we went home to Canada. Our step father died soon after our return and we brought our mother back to England the same year.

I ended up working as a chief cook on the boats – steamships they were then, where we often had stars like Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester on the passenger list.

I had permission to wear a specially made chef’s hat. Instead of the tall one which was the issue, I had to have a shorter one made as the tall ones used to get knocked off my head by the galley ceiling and no one wanted my hat in their soup.

And I was one of the first people to be given Penicillin. It saved my life and then many years later, damn near killed me when I became allergic to it.

I never used a recipe in my life, but I have tried to recreate a family favourite here for you that I made every Christmas (as well as the mince pies and sausage rolls) until my daughter took over.

This was of course in the days before mum could go to Iceland and party food came in boxes. We’d have roast chicken with my own version of sausage meat stuffing for lunch on Christmas and Boxing Day and at tea time we’d have cold chicken, cold stuffing, sausage rolls and Russian Salad.

I know that most people refer to a potato salad as Russian Salad, but I never have. Potatoes belong in potato salads. No room for spuds in my Russian Salad I’m afraid.

There is nothing like cold meat turned pink with beetroot juice and the clean crisp flavour of celery as a delicious antidote to all the traditional heavy Christmas food.

So here it is. My Russian salad. Still made by my granddaughter to this day – but she doesn’t eat meat so she has her quiche turned pink, which isn’t the same at all to my mind.

First you need a bunch of celery. Dirty if you can get it. But wash it of course. You don’t want to eat the dirt. Chop it into small pieces and put in a bowl.

Beetroot, freshly cooked if you can bear to spend the time (and leave some stem on to stop it leaking that wonderful red juice all over your saucepan). Use a jar if you must. Chop it into small pieces and mix it with the celery.

Add a chopped onion. Small, big, medium – whatever your taste. Pour on some vinegar – again to taste. And that’s it!

Quantities? As much or as little as you like. It’ll keep in the fridge for a good few days.

It’s perfect with cold meat. Ay? Oh the owner of this blog says it’s perfect with quiche too. Tuh!


  1. A marvellous recipe! I will try that one. Not sue I'd like my quiche turned pink though! It might encourage my daughter to eat it, though - she likes anything pink!

    Happy New Year!
    Julie xx

  2. What a fascinating post! And yes, I love beetroot too.

  3. Hello Pop, it's very nice to meet you. You sound a lot like 'Stefan', who is one of my stock heroes when I write stories based around WW2. He's in my Pocket Novel, The Secret of Helena's Bay, and was in one of the first stories I ever wrote. I'm extra delighted to find out there really are/were men like you in the world.

    The salad sounds gorgeous! Not sure I'd eat pink quiche, but the meat option is perfect for me!

    Happy New Year to you and your lovely granddaughter.

  4. What a fascinating life you lived, Pop. Thanks for telling us all about it.

    Off to write down the recipe now and Happy New Year.

  5. Hope you like it, Julie. There would be a riot here if it wasn't served up.

    Beetroot is very good for you, Helen.

    Stefan sounds great, Sally. I used to love sitting on the quay with a couple of old friends putting the world to rights and exchanging stories. Happy days.

    Happy New Year Debs.

    Thank you Suzanne.

  6. Teresa

    Just catching up. What a pleasure to read this post. I really enjoyed the way it was written, from your grandfather's perspective. Will have to try the recipe too, sometime.

  7. Nice to meet you, Pop. Have you ever considered writing a book based on the story of your life? I think you would be perfect as the dashing hero.

  8. What a fascinating life, and a great story, Pop. It's obvious that your granddaughter has inherited your talents for a good story.

  9. Thank you, Martin.

    That's very kind of you to say so, Elizabeth. But my mother's story is far more interesting than mine, although I did have my moments.

    Thank you Annieye - as for my granddaughter, I bet she wishes she'd listened more carefully to all my stories now I'm gone!

  10. Very interesting to hear how your Blog host got from A to B then back again! Love the recipe.

  11. Thanks Antonia. He has so many stories to tell and sadly I proably only remember half of them.

  12. In fact I probably can't spell as well as having a poor memory!

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