Are we there yet? The question would be repeated, a high pitched whine, at 10 minute intervals between Palmerston North and Hastings.
First the winding road through the Manawatu Gorge, waving out to the train as we spotted it on the other side of the river, speeding in and out of tunnels, high above the rushing water. Then Dannevirke, Norsewood, Waipukurau … all manner of one-petrol-pump, one-pub towns … on and on until we got to Hastings.
Grandparental hugs and kisses followed, washed down with glasses of Nana’s homemade lemonade; the painted pop-art patterned glasses as integral to the experience as the syrupy tart cordial within them. Ahh. Bliss. We’d arrived.
Sheila’s lemonade (who says happiness can’t be found in a bottle?)
zest of six lemons, taken off in strips with a potato peeler
1.2 litres water
600ml lemon juice
Add lemon peel to water and sugar and heat gently until sugar is dissolved, stirring often. Strain and add lemon juice. Mix well and pour into bottles. Dilute the lemon syrup with water, sparkling or still, depending upon how festive you’re feeling. If you’re a grown up, a tot of vodka wouldn’t go amiss. If there’s a nip in the air, substitute whisky and boiling water for an instant lemon toddy.
The very thought of lemons is a promise of summer to come – a glimpse of that sunny yellow on a dark day takes me back to an idyllic week house-sitting for my sister, who is fortunate enough to possess a backyard lemon tree – for five blissful days I gave in to the impulse to do nothing much other than laze in a shaded spot in the garden, buried in a book, gin at the ready, listening to cricket on the radio.
I couldn’t help myself. The lemons made me do it. Their charms were irresistible. And while I daydreamed, their scent carried across the lawn towards me, whispering sweet nothings of curd and meringue-topped pies and sticky semolina cakes drenched in syrup and pancakes and other, more savoury delights … mussels, roast chicken, risotto …
A bit of a squeeze, you see, is never a bad thing.
But back to Hastings again. At the end of the journey, there would be lunch. Which always meant pudding. Sometimes it might be icecream and Nana’s bottled apricots. More often it would be something hot. Lemon Delicious was a firm favourite, the mixture magically separating into a light sponge with lemony custard underneath.
three large eggs, separated
half a cup of self raising flour
one cup of sugar
grated zest of one large lemon
quarter of a cup of fresh lemon juice
four tablespoons of melted butter
one and a half cups of milk
Preheat oven to 180C. Separate eggs. Beat whites until stiff. In another bowl, beat together the yolks, flour, sugar, lemon zest and juice and melted butter. Gradually stir in milk. Slowly pour lemon batter onto beaten egg whites, folding through lightly. Pour into buttered casserole. Stand dish in a roasting tin or cold water and bake for about 1 hour. Cover loosely with foil during the last 15 minutes if the pudding is browning too much. Serve warm with runny cream. Makes enough for four to six people.