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Lemons, Radio 4, and Turning Into My Mother


One morning a little while ago, I was standing in the kitchen in my apron, making apple pie. I was rolling out pastry made to my mother’s recipe, and in the background, Radio 4 was playing. Probably I was listening to an interview with a redoubtable old lady who had trekked solo across the Arctic with a band of huskies. Or maybe some comedians were struggling to get to Mornington Crescent, or a resident of Ambridge was worrying about whether he’d be able to dig up the potatoes in the South Field before the rain started.

Anyway, I was feeling completely content and in my element, until a realisation struck me – I had become my mother. Everything about the scene – the pastry, the radio station, the apron – was the very essence of her.

This moment had been coming for some time. My mum always used to say,
“Every week, I buy a lemon. I never know what I’m going to need it for, but I buy it just in case. And every week, I always do need it”.

My husband Anthony had heard her say this, so every time I bought a lemon, he used to asked in anxious tones whether I knew what I was going to use it for. He was checking that I hadn’t bought it ‘just in case’ – which would be a sure sign that I was turning into my mother.

These days, I use lemons in all sorts of recipes and tend to have several in stock at a time, so they can no longer be used as a becoming-my-mother-indicator. Indeed, my friend Adi came over a few weeks ago on the Jewish Sabbath for a post-synagogue meal. It was a last-minute invitation and so I hadn’t prepared anything – or indeed, done any food shopping for several days. So I explained that all I had to offer her for dessert was a lemon or an apple. Then I checked, and realised we had run out of apples.

She said she didn’t want the lemon, and personally I think that’s quite rude. When you’re invited to eat in people’s houses, you shouldn’t turn down the food you’re offered. I felt my hospitality was just thrown back in my face.

Anyway, back to my mother. I asked Anthony yesterday, for the purposes of this blog post, in what other ways he felt I was turning her. He said that he was unable to answer that as it would only get him into trouble. No amount of pressing would get him to say anything else, so I can only guess.

If I ever find myself watering the garden while it’s actually raining, the die will finally be cast.