WE found the tin of Princes peaches in grape juice at the back of the cupboard. On the bottom it said ‘BBE Feb 2007” so they were ten years out of date. We don’t worry about little things like that so we ate them, eventually. No one fell ill.
They’d have come from my mother in law’s store cupboard. She died ten years ago this year so she would have bought them, probably, around 2005.
The tin had hung about our cupboard until I unearthed it while rooting through trying to find some marrowfat peas, the kind in pea-ey liquid that helps to make a good gravy if you’re in a hurry. I said we’d better eat them for tea. It took us a month or two to get around to it.
It was partly in tribute to Margaret and her husband Alan and partly because I wanted to revisit my own Fifties childhood. On Sundays we had tinned peaches for tea, sometimes with evaporated milk, which was to us then what cream (or crème fraiche) is today. Most families did. My father insisted on us eating the peaches with slices of bread and butter. That used to rankle with me but with three growing boys you have to eke out a Sunday tin of peaches.
My wife has the same memories, only her father would sprinkle his bread and butter with sugar if he thought no one was looking. My father saved the sugar for his lettuce.
Sitting at my family dinner table I silently vowed that when I grew up and left home I would have my tinned peaches without bread and butter. And so it came to pass. I found myself alone in my bedsit with a tin of peaches on a Sunday evening. I opened the tin and ate the fruit. But something was missing. It didn’t feel right. So I went to the bread bin and buttered a slice of bread.
I soon got out of the habit but we haven’t bought a tin of peaches for years. Come to think of it, I haven’t had evaporated milk, either. It was always a feature of Chinese restaurants’ businessman’s lunches, three courses for half a crown (12.5p today), soup, chow mein and tinned fruit ‘with E. milk,’ as the menu put it.
All this went through my head as I opened the tin. I was slightly surprised to see it had a ring-pull but it was obviously an early prototype because it cut me. That tin must have been waiting years to do that. But the peaches were pretty good.