The cupboard

FOOD Glorious FOOD - Oliver!
(For American readers, larder = pantry).


Mum christened our house ‘Kia Nyama’, which means ‘house of meat’ in Shona. Our friends assumed that ‘nyama’ was spelt ‘yummer’ and thought it most accurate. It was the house of food.


On a sunny day (because childhood is perpetually sunny), we three kids would tumble in from the garden, shake off the mud, and skid across the floor to the larder. The door was graffitied with our gallery of artwork, happy splodges of chaos and colour. We would open it with pride when friends came round and start foraging for goodies.


The larder door was always slightly ajar; it was too full to close.

There were the boxes of cereal on the left: cartoon tiger cereals with plastic treasures to be found if you plunged your fist in deep and rummaged around; bran-based cardboard flakes too, muesli and granola and sometimes duplicates if we were running low on one brand. We’d sit at the table with a wall of these cereals in the middle, mixing the gloriously sugary combination in our bowls, slurping down the milk, sneaking seconds or sometimes thirds. We’d run back and stuff the boxes all back in the larder before brushing our teeth in time for school. (There always seemed to be one box too many to fit on the shelf.)


If you could reach up into the cavern, there were jars: jams, sauces, ketchups, honey – both runny and set, pickled things, syrups; on the door, three boxes of foil and plastic bags all bundled into each other; traffic-light jellies if you knew where to look, hidden behind the packets of soup and spare herbs. Once, we discovered there was a small window on the left, completely concealed by the boxes of biscuits and cereal bars.


Mum kept the sweetie jar there too, full of mini-size treats. Each Saturday, we would come to the sweet shop, hand over our imaginary 20p and select our favourites: white cylinders you could pretend were cigarettes, chewy pink fruit delights, chocolate-caramel mouthfuls. We gathered the loot on our laps and sat approximately 10cm away from the television while a cartoon cat chased a cartoon mouse at high-speed and top volume, laughing on cue as the clarinet squealed and cymbals crashed and the cat got a rake in his face.


On the larder floor was the big stuff: fire-hyrdant sized bottles of lemon and orange fizz, packets of dog food that we dragged across the floor. Once, when my sister was little and the house had gone suspiciously quiet, my Mum walked in to find her hiding in the bottom of the larder, her mouth smeared a guilty brown, her hand emerging from the packet of dog chocolates, fist full. The ingredients listed on the packet included stuff like fish bones, but my sister thought them delicious.




The ghosts of hunger in my mum’s childhood floated somewhere at the back of the third shelf up, four tins deep, but we never spotted them. We never even smelt them.


Like Roman soldiers we charged in: we saw, we grabbed, we ate.


Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practise writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a horse, a book, stairs – and today the cupboard. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment.


Amber is taking a break from concrete words and I will be hosting for the next little bit. The prompts for the next few weeks are as follows:
Feb 18 – the cupboard
Feb 25 – the instrument
Mar 4 – the dress
Mar 11 – the bottle


Won’t you join me? Link your post below and read and comment on others’ abstractions on the cupboard.




Over to you:

  • Can you relate to realising you took something for granted as a child?


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26 Responses to The cupboard

  1. Ashley @ Draw Near 20th February, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Tanya, so packed with juicy detail. You remember and recount it all so well. And then, even though I’ve seen this in action before, how surprised I was to read in the end how that filled cupboard was your mum’s response to her own hunger. This (and all the comments to follow) so rich, as you say. What bounty spilling forth from the cupboard you painted. Blessings, friend.

    • Tanya 21st February, 2013 at 9:20 am #

      Thanks so much for coming by, Ashley, and for your kind words – I really appreciate you taking the time to come on over! Much love x

  2. bluecottonmemory 20th February, 2013 at 7:48 am #

    Oh, I love this. It seems the older my boys get, the better they are at rummaging and finding my favorite goodies in the back top shelves:) I think your mom’s larder is delightful and I want to visit! Well, I really want to rummage, too – not the dogfood, though! LOL

    • Tanya 21st February, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      Thanks for this! Rummage is such a good word, isn’t it??

  3. Jo Inglis (@Piano_Jo) 19th February, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    I love this phrase “The ghosts of hunger in my mum’s childhood floated somewhere at the back of the third shelf up, four tins deep, but we never spotted them.” How so many of our mums compensated for their own childhood lack.
    Also the sweets and Tom & Jerry – perfectissimo. (I know T&J is everything ‘-ist’ out there, but it is deep in many of our childhoods).

    • Tanya 21st February, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      I hear you on the T and J! I showed it to my boy, thinking he would love it, and he looked totally bemused as to why I was promoting such a violent cartoon… Which is a good point! Things date so quickly…
      Thanks for stopping by!

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