Salt, mustard, vinegar, pepper,
French almond rock.
Bread and butter for your supper,
That’s all mother’s got.
The words of the skipping song surfaced in my memory. Perhaps primary school was the last time I heard it sung. Of course, it would have been the girls that sang it, it was generally only they who skipped, it was certainly only they who had the degree of agility to skip at the speed set by the rhythm of the song.
Perhaps the song was responsible for the notion that bread and butter represented meagre fare, that it was what one ate if there was nothing else in the larder, that it meant you hadn’t the money for anything more substantial.
The song surfaced in my memory because I decided upon bread and butter for lunch. There is ample food remaining from Christmas in the refrigerator and cupboards of my mother’s kitchen, but it seemed time for the excess to stop. Weighing more than thirteen stones and feeling a tightness on the waistband, some frugal weeks seem necessary.
Two slices of brown bread with no more than a skim of butter, I picked up the plate and my mug of tea.
Bob came to remembrance at the moment I took a bite from the first slice.
Bob had a farm of good land and a house that would have made a fine home for a family, had Bob ever been given the opportunity of meeting someone. Canada had offered him a future, but his parents played upon his conscience, ensuring he stayed at home until it was too late to begin a new life.
Bob lived frugally, his kitchen had remained unchanged in at least fifty years and his lean frame reflected the plain diet that was part of his daily life.
‘I have no biscuits and no cake to offer you with your tea,’ he said, ‘but you’re welcome to a slice of wheaten bread and butter.’
The bread was fresh, the butter soft, the taste was pefect. The bread and butter was the finest fare that one might have been offered.
Perhaps it was the spirit in which the bread and butter had been offered, perhaps it was the mood of the gentle, softly-spoken man that added taste to the food.
Bread and butter was all that Bob had to offer, but meagre fare it was not. The next lunch of bread and butter will be eaten without thoughts of skipping.