6.2.21

Oxford Marmalade

 


I’m eating a lot of toast this winter. For some reason I've reverted to thick white sliced, which I know isn’t the best health-wise but is cheaper and strangely comforting. I have also had a craving for marmalade and I am unusually particular about marmalade. It has to be Oxford Marmalade (with a capital M).  Now there’s nothing cheap about Oxford Marmalade, but as I’m eating so much toast, I have decided it counts as a proper and necessary food staple.

I’ve formed a little ‘bubble’ with Jean-and-Brian-Next-Door. We are all self isolating and the other week Brian drove me over to a local Co-Op, as I couldn’t get an online delivery in time to save me from having to concoct a meal from the contents of my fridge, which consisted of half a jar of ancient pickled beetroot, three lemons and a small chocolate mousse of uncertain age. It was the first big shop I’ve been in for nearly a year. Mask on, I drifted about, instinctively learning the strange pandemic dance of avoiding other people and not blocking the biscuit aisle for too long. Then I spotted it. Frank Cooper’s Fine Cut Oxford Marmalade. I saw the price, hesitated, then had a ‘sod it’ moment and put it in my basket. 


When I was 19, I moved from a damp bedsit in Bournemouth and life on the dole, to Oxford, to start my art education. I instantly fell in love with the town and greedily drank it all in - sketching in the Ashmolean, discovering real ale, exploring the lovely shops in Little Clarendon Street that I couldn’t afford - yet. Because naturally, I dreamt that I would one day be a well known artist, maybe living in a nice house in the Jericho area, with a studio and well able to afford little luxuries. Back then, there was a dedicated shop on ‘The High’ for Frank Coopers jams and marmalades. I can still remember venturing up the steps and through the slim pilasters that framed the arched doorway,  feeling very daring and buying my first jar of proper thick cut Oxford Marmalade, a real indulgence on my meagre income. 
It was handed over in a fittingly nice white paper bag with a drawing of the shop on both sides and soft string handles. I still have that bag, as I used it to keep Christmas decorations in, although it is of course, older and very worn now - rather like myself. 

The Oxford shop on the High Street shut many years ago and became an antiques centre, which is still there now. But I never lost my early love of the dark, bittersweet - almost sour - flavour of proper marmalade and every time I  taste it, I am momentarily a 20 year old art student again, hungry for artistic fame and wanting to eat the world. So long as it is spread with Oxford Marmalade. 


7 comments:

Betty said...

I haven't heard of Oxford Marmalade but your post has made me want some! I like a nice bitter marmalade, my grandma made it, I have never tried. It was lovely reading about your bygone days, thanks for sharing.

Granny Sue said...


My mother loved marmalade, the bitter kind that I have never learned to stomach. I bet she'd have enjoyed that brand.

Gerry Snape said...

I haven't made marmalade this winter...just lemon curd with all the cheap packs of lemons that the potter gets in the local Tesco each evening at 8pm!!...love x

Saffa Barkhordar said...

Love your blog here Gretal ❤️ I too have a thing for toast but with (a too expensive) raspberry jam on it, can't get enough of the stuff! Sometimes I even put it in my porridge (which we religiously eat every morning) must try your Oxford Marmalade though, sounds delicious! And worth the extra pennies, a little (well earned) luxury! Safxxx

Jee said...

Love Oxford Marmalade, it's such a nice dark marmalade - the thin cut lightcoloured stuff is too sugary. We were gifted a fabulous jar of marmalade from Fortnum and Mason but Cooper's Oxford is still our favourite ( once a week for breakfast because of cost). Like marmite and Tiptree Little Scarlet strawberry are necessary treats at the moment.

Pam said...

Oh yes. Yum.

Tiffany Dawn Smith said...

I don't think I've ever had marmalade. I hope your jaw didn't drop too far, heh heh. I wonder if it's anything like mango chutney...?