A huge dog-leg of a section, 2 Saulbrey Grove, off White's Line West in Woburn, is the largest remaining piece of the old Saulbrey family farm and the site of the magnificent red-brick house built by my grandfather, Jack Saulbrey. When I used to visit as a child, it had the most extraordinary vegetable garden.
Grandpa Saulbrey's trade as a brickie was not only manifest in the house. The back garden was dominated by a big raised bed built in brick and a large glasshouse where the vines would be heavy with tomatoes for much of the year. The fencelines were planted and in the far corner of the yard the chooks pecked and squabbled in a pen.
As I've written before, Grandpa suffered great sadness in his life, losing a wife and a daughter in terrible circumstances. It was when his second wife began to slip away that he occupied himself more and more not just with the garden but with preserving its produce. He pickled all sorts: cucumbers, betroot, the lot. The cupboards were full of jars when he died. My mother disposed of most of them. He was never very fussy about properly sterilising the jars, she says.
He was also infamous for his garlic sauce, which contained a goodly helping of chillis from the garden too. We don't think of his generation (he was born in 1911) as having had much truck with such things, but Jack did. Apparently when he had the garlic sauce on the go you could smell it from the end of the street. (I've transcribed the recipe in his exact words below --- the "Ian" mentioned is my father. I might have a go.)
His dream kitchen wasn't what we'd build today. It was small and quite dark, although the ceiling was high. In place of a table there was a diner-style booth. Proper meals were had in the living room next door.
I remember chickens hanging in the kitchen, and the time he greeted us off the plane and told me he'd made rabbit gumbo for me. I'd never had anything like the gumbo, but it was magic and I loved it. Mum recalls the perpetually unruly pressure cooker and Grandapa's old-fashioned habit of boiling cabbage along with the corned beef and how bad that smelled, but not as bad as the fish-head soup, which no one else ever ate.
But it was the tomatoes more than anything by which I recall him. The powerful, fresh, hoppy smell inside the glasshouse, the ones I'd pick fresh and the ones he'd endlessly bottle and serve. The red of the tomatoes and the bricks and the family's ginger locks all blend now together, into the colour of memory.
Jack Saulbrey's Infamous Garlic Sauce
Half a gallon of vinegar
2lb of treacle
Half an ounce of cloves
Half a teaspoon of ground ginger
Half a pound of sugar
Two and a half ounces of chillis
Half a pound of garlic
Two large onions
2lb of apples
Mince garlic and onions and cover with the other ingredients, stand overnight
Boil one hour or perhaps a little longer
Strain through Ian's underpants and add a small bottle of Worcester sauce (not necessary)
Put in empty whisky bottle -- or throw out window. Which is it?
(Good for a hangover -- two gulps and you'll never have another one)