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The Lost Dinner Parties



IRYNA HUMENYUK, HOST: The things we leave behind can send echoes through generations… Marine Saint discovered a rare portal into her grandmother’s life.

 


MARINE SAINT, BYLINE:


A couple of summers ago, my family and I were clearing out my grandparents’ house in rural Berkshire. My grandfather had died, and the white-washed two-storey house was going up for sale. My grandparents had been together for over 40 years… so there were a lot of boxes to go through. 


In one of them, I came across a paisley print diary. I opened it to find the dinner party recipes and plans of Pamela Saint, my grandmother. Each entry had its own theme, guests, and even details for the flower designs. 


My grandmother was famous for her cooking, though I knew very little about her social life - she died of a brain tumor when she was 67 and I was four. 


Family lore holds plenty of stories about the lengths she’d go to with her cooking…..she made and flew with an elaborate pavlova more than 350 miles for the christening of my twin sister and me. Layers of whipped cream, fruit, and sugary meringue traveled the length of England intact. 


She even had small business catering anniversaries and corporate lunches, getting to the flower markets at 4am to find the perfect bouquet. The money she earned funded flights to her hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand. 



DIANA STEWART:


She just had that, bon viveur, sort of, you know, enjoy life kind of attitude, She had such warmth, I think, and that came through in her entertaining as well, and generosity. 


SAINT: Her best friend Diana was a regular guest at the Saint dinner parties.


STEWART: I was 70 this year, and I think, Pam didn't even make 70, and it just is so unfair,  because she had so, so much to offer to us all. She was just very, very special. 


SAINT: Diana says on her first visit to the house after my grandmother’s death, my grandad Nicholas made sure the signs of Pam’s hosting remained.


STEWART: So he had the champagne and he'd got a little smoked salmon done on brown bread. It was quite surreal actually, because it was as if she was going to just walk into the room. We were so touched. We thought, gosh, you know, you've trained him well, Pammy.


SAINT: Sadly, my own glimpse into my grandmother’s feasts is now irretrievable. I chose to add her diary to my grandfather’s coffin as a symbol of some of their happiest times. But in the course of a very emotional funeral, her diary was mistakenly lost in the cremation.


Yet….she still inspired me to travel across the world to study, and I’ve even taken on some of my own modest culinary feats, like baking birthday cakes for housemates, always presented on one of her delicate glass cake stands.  


HUMENYUK, HOST OUTRO: Marine Saint is planning to recreate some of her Grandmother’s dishes…even if it means solely going off family memories. 


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