Special Recipe: a fun short story from our archives

Cooker top with bake tin and muffins

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach – but Mum’s recipe wins!

Enjoy this fun story by Della Galton


“What’s your favourite pudding?” I asked Michael this question soon after we met when our romance was still heady and young. When I would have done anything to please him.

“Treacle tart,” he said without hesitation. “My mum does a great one.”

I should have been warned by those casual throwaway words, but I wasn’t. I set out to make the perfect treacle tart. I got a posh recipe from Delia – that had to be pretty special. I followed it to the letter, slaving over a hot stove. When I finally presented it to Michael he didn’t look that impressed.

“So?” I pressed, after he’d taken the first sticky-sweet mouthful.

“Not bad,” he said. He smiled. “Very nice, in fact.”

“As good as your mum’s?” I shouldn’t have asked that question, should I? Years later, I realised you should never ask that question.

Michael’s hesitation was all the answer I needed. Oh, and the small frown line that crinkled between his eyes. He always does that when he’s anxious. Although he later tried to lie that of course my treacle tart matched up, I knew the truth.

She wouldn’t give me the recipe

I tried a different even posher recipe.

“I don’t think Mum puts cream in it,” he said when pressed as to why it wasn’t the same. “It’s really nice though.”

Really nice wasn’t quite good enough.

Across the years I tried every type of treacle tart in existence. None of them were as perfect as his mum’s. Once I even asked her for the recipe but she wouldn’t give it to me.

“I’m afraid it’s a family secret,” she said, wagging her finger and smiling broadly. “Honestly, Wendy, if I told you I’d have to kill you.”

We’d got on really well up to that point!

When she died she took her recipe to the grave. It got even harder to find the perfect treacle tart, though I did keep trying to find the secret ingredient.

Katja was a sweet girl – and competitive!

Years later, I realised my mistake. I realised I would never be able to make a treacle tart like Michael’s mum made. But I didn’t truly understand why until our own son, Ben, got married.

He and Katja regularly came round for their Sunday dinner. We’d usually have roast followed by my upside down plum pudding – Ben’s favourite.

Katja was a sweet girl, a dark haired slip of a thing. She never ate a huge plateful of roast like Ben, although she did always tuck in to my upside down plum pudding.

“This is gorgeous,” she used to say, running her spoon around the dish to scoop up every last trace of custard.

“Isn’t it?” Ben would reply, glancing at me fondly. “It’s my very favourite thing in the world.”

“Is it now?” she said.

I saw that look in Katja’s eyes – the unmistakable gleam of a competitive streak.

Create your own signature dish

About six months after they’d been married Katja came and asked me for the recipe. “I’ve tried a couple that I found online,” she said, her pretty face creased up in a frown. “But he says they’re not as good as yours.”

“I’d like to give you the recipe but I’m afraid it’s a family secret,” I said with a little smile. “If I told you I’d have to kill you.” Her face fell and I added thoughtfully. “But I can give you some advice that will be a lot more helpful than giving you my secret recipe.”

“You can?” Hope flared in her eyes.

“Yes. Forget the upside down plum pudding. Make him something else instead. Create your own signature dish, bring your kids up on it, and never pass on the recipe.”

“Will that work?” she asked, puzzled.

“It will,” I said. “I know it will.”

You see, I had discovered finally, Michael’s mum’s secret ingredient, which wasn’t to be found in any cookbook, but was actually a pinch of nostalgia, wrapped up with love and happy childhoods. The memories of sweet sunshine filled days that would never come again.

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Karen Byrom

My coffee mug says "professional bookworm" which sums me up really! As commissioning fiction editor on the magazine, I love sharing my reading experience of the latest books, debut authors and more with you all, and would like to hear from you about your favourite books and authors! Email me kbyrom@dctmedia.co.uk