Thursday, 3 February 2011

In Praise of Pinnies and Sunshine on a Cloudy Day Soup

Time was when pinnies (aprons) reigned supreme at home. A clean pinny or sleeveless, cotton, wrap-over overall was donned first thing in the morning and only removed minutes before the man of the house returned from his labours of the day. Like wearing a girdle or a corset, it was not the done thing to be seen anywhere without one - the pinny-wearing neighbours would consider it uncouth, uncivilized - shabby, in fact.
A clean pinny, clean underwear, clean house, clean children (if that was possible) were signs of endless optimism and hope in the face of the relentless grim tide of smog and smoke stained rain that left its smudge of dirty thumbprints everywhere.
And just to show who had the uppermost, these pinnies were not at all perfunctory. There was never any question about the point of decorating them with evening hours of bright stitching. They were all made delightful. One of my first tasks before beginning cookery classes was to spend an entire term making and embroidering a pinny. You can see more embroidered items in the on-line collection of the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachussetts by clicking here.
Time to get my pinny on. If I cannot have Schiaparelli Beetroot risotto on a winter's day, then the next best thing is Sunshine in a Bowl, or Three Root Soup. For two people you need four chopped parsnips, a diced small onion, two or three fat cloves of garlic if you like, a good thumb of ginger grated, a teaspoonful of ground turmeric and a salt spoon of salt. Melt all these together in a tablespoon of your favourite cooking oil or knob of butter for about 5 minutes - then add just over half a pint of soya milk. Dairy milk will curdle on account of the ginger - so if you haven't any soya milk in the house, use stock and just before serving swirl in some yoghurt, creme fraiche or cream. Simmer for about half an hour until all the flavours are absorbed and you can squash the parsnips with the back of a spoon. Then blitz. I like this soup so I can stand a spoon up in it, but you may like to slacken it with more soya milk or stock depending on your taste. But there it is on a cold grey day - sunshine in a bowl to warm your heart. But don't get any on your nice clean pinny!


  1. My first school needlework project was an apron made when I was about 9 years old. I remember using a navy/white striped fabric and stitching on orange ric rac braid with herringbone stitch. I later made a skirt from a green/white spotted fabric which I later cut up for one of my first patchwork projects in my teens.

  2. Uau!An apron from Portugal;)
    Have a great week end
    From Portugal;)

  3. All my memories of my beloved Gram are of her wearing one of her aprons. The type that went over the shoulders and tied in the back, with deep pockets that could hold clothespins since she didn't have a dryer but a line to hang clothes on. An apron that dried the tears after you'd fallen down or that smelled of the garden flowers she'd been tending. When she died and I came back for her funeral an aunt told me to go in the house and pick something of Gram's for myself. I went to her bureau and chose one of those well worn aprons. I'm always six years old again when I take it out now and then to bury my face in.

  4. Ah yes, my grandmother always wore an apron. It was so much easier to wash and clean an apron than her dress. I still have some of her aprons tucked away for safe keeping.

    I cannot say for the entire U.S. but in the part of the country where I live, what we call pinnies are the little colored tops that have a front and back joined only at the shoulders and tied at the lower sides to differentiate the teams in a team sport, generally in a phy ed class activity.

  5. I remember my mom and all my aunts always wearing aprons...I wonder why they are nearly extinct? Granted, we don`t tend to work as hard doing housework as our mothers/grandmothers did, but it would still be nice to keep our clothes clean when we are working...

    My first sewing project was also an apron...I think it was for 4-H sewing...I have no idea where it even is now...

  6. I love your apron stories - until now I had forgotten the smell of my mother's pinny which she would wear when bathing me as a child. Sometimes it was a baking smell, sometimes soap depending on what she had been working on. So your coloured sports tops were pinnies - how interesting - we called them bibs!