A Soapy Surprise for Dinner


3/20/20243 min read

In the quaint and orderly life of a 1958 RAF Cosford family, routines were the unsung heroes that sculpted each day into a predictable and comfortable pattern. Among these rituals, one stood out for its universal appeal and steadfastness: Fish Friday. It was a tradition held dear, not just in our household but in many across the land, a testament to the simple pleasures of family life.

Mum, the heart and soul of our family, orchestrated these weekly culinary events with a mix of dedication and love that only a mother could muster. She was a woman of unwavering patience and affection, especially when it came to her children. In her eyes, I was an angel, her incorrigible child whose mischief was always met with a smile and a gentle reprimand. But beneath the surface, I harboured the restless energy of a child who was, admittedly, a handful.

On this particular Friday, Mum had enlisted my help in the kitchen, a strategic move to involve me in the family rituals and perhaps steer me away from the usual shenanigans. The task was simple: wash the fish she had carefully selected for our dinner. To any onlooker, this was a moment of maternal guidance, a child learning the ropes of domestic life under the watchful eye of his mother. Yet, the twinkle in my eye should have been a dead giveaway; I was plotting a culinary adventure of my own.

Armed with the innocence of childhood and a mischievous streak a mile wide, I approached the task with a unique perspective. Instead of water, I reached for the Palmolive dishwashing liquid, a staple in every post-war British kitchen. With a devilish grin, I lavished the fish with the soap, ensuring they were well-coated, bubbles and all. In my mind, I was conducting an experiment, or perhaps I was simply adding what I believed to be an extra layer of cleanliness. After all, what could be cleaner than dishwashing liquid?

The moment Mum turned around to inspect my handiwork, her expression shifted from anticipation to bewildered shock. The fish, now glistening unnaturally under the kitchen lights, were a testament to my creative but misguided efforts. With a sigh that carried a mix of amusement and resignation, she set about rinsing the fish, attempting to salvage what she could of our anticipated dinner.

Despite her best efforts, the essence of Palmolive lingered, infusing our meal with a flavour that was, shall we say, unprecedented in the annals of culinary history. That evening, as we sat down to our unconventional feast, the atmosphere was thick with anticipation and a hint of soap. Dad's face, usually the picture of composure, was a canvas of confusion and mild horror as the first bite revealed the soapy surprise.

The dinner that followed was filled with laughter, incredulous shaking of heads, and a unanimous decision that perhaps my talents were best suited away from the kitchen. But in those moments of shared amusement and family bonding, we found something precious—a memory that would be recounted for years to come, a story of a mischievous child, a bottle of Palmolive, and a fish dinner that became legend.

In the melange of life's moments, it's these unexpected blunders, these detours from the ordinary, that weave the most vibrant and enduring memories. That Fish Friday at RAF Cosford became more than just a meal; it became a symbol of our family's ability to find joy in the imperfections, a reminder that even the most well-laid plans could lead to the most unforgettable adventures.

And so, as I look back on those days with a heart full of nostalgia, I can't help but smile. For in the end, it was the unexpected, the unplanned, that truly defined the warmth and character of our family life. After all, isn't that what family is all about?

© Peter Pickering 2024. www.peterpickering.com