It's been quite a fortnight for women – it was International Women's Day on 8th March, which fell in the middle of National Pie Week. How can half the planet's population be worth only a day, yet a pastry-based food item merits an entire week? Both of those momentous events may have passed you by (put them in the diary for next year now), but the big one is still to come: this Sunday, 18th March, is Mother's Day.
Mother's Day, or Mothering Sunday, as any bar-room bore will tell you, did not originate as a way for grateful offspring to reward their mums for 364 days a year of thankless toil by giving them a lie-in, a card, a box of chocolates and a Richard Curtis DVD.
In fact the Mother in question was the “mother church” and it was a tradition for Christians in Medieval times to return to worship at their home church on the middle Sunday of Lent. Travelling back to their birthplace also presented families with a rare opportunity to reunite at a time when many children left home to work, or marry, often at an early age. It's a small imaginative leap from these beginnings to the habit of presenting your own Mother with a present at the same time.
So much for the origins; it would be a brave son or daughter nowadays who would leave their poor mum with no flowers, chocolates or lunch at the pub, insisting that Mothering Sunday is nothing to to with her. Mums are generally a pretty tolerant bunch when it comes to the foibles of their nearest and dearest, but, come their special day, woe betide any offspring who don't play the game.
What should you do to make your mum feel special? You don't need to throw money at the problem and even if you are strapped for cash there are still plenty of ways to spoil your mum without even having to open your wallet.
The sound of someone else doing the hoovering (as long as it doesn't disturb one's lie-in) is music to the ears, as is the soapy slap of a son or daughter wielding the mop on the kitchen floor. And don't forget to do all the washing up if you offer to cook Sunday lunch.
With just a couple of quid to spend, a bunch of the cheapest cheery daffs and a homemade card are always welcome.
If money is not so tight, then good chocolates can be yours – oops, I mean hers. Chocolates are very much personal taste, but even the most discerning chocolate connoisseur will be impressed with the quality of Hotel du Chocolat's offerings. They have a branch in Guildford (and instore at John Lewis in Kingston) and, while not cheap, they are definitely what is technically known as a bit special.
However, if your mum is anything like the ones I know, a bottle of something special is not going to go amiss. Regular readers may recall that I assembled a crack team of mums last year in order to road test some pink fizz, tasted blind.
Without re-hashing the results in their entirety, I'll summarise here: Moët et Chandon Brut Rosé NV and Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé NV (which will set you back somewhere between £30 and £40 depending on where you shop) both had their fans and came top overall. However, a very creditable runner up was the bargain-priced Jacob's Creek Sparkling Rosé (widely available at around £10, but currently £8 at Sainsbury's). Its easy-going, creamy red fruit and gentle fizz won over the jury that night. However, in case anyone from my own family is reading, my particular favourite was the Veuve Clicquot Rosé. Just sayin'...
On the whole I am not a believer in “wines for the ladies” as distinct from wines that appeal to men. Here then, is a selection of wines for current drinking that have impressed me recently and would be perfect for any wine-loving mum (or dad).
Trimbach Riesling 2009 - £10.99 at Majestic
Riesling is the great grape variety that wine writers want you all to love, but you just won't. It's a mystery. Is it the tall bottles? The risk of it being sweet? Who knows. Please have a crack at this one, from Alsace in eastern France: it's dry, but gentle with nicely integrated acidity; the flavours of citrus and a certain stoniness linger. Sauvignon blanc drinkers: do yourselves a favour and give it a go.
Camel Valley Atlantic Dry 2010 - £11.95 from Camel Valley's online shop or £13.50 from The Wine Society
Something tells me that English wines are going to be big this year. This could be your tipple of choice at any Jubilee street parties come June. Don't worry too much about the slightly spooky-sounding varieties in here – Bacchus and Reichensteiner, plus some more familiar Chardonnay. Focus instead on the lovely fresh, floral nose and deft, grapefruit-y palate. This would be a delight with posh fish and chips.
Humberto Canale Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2009 - £15.95 at Great Western Wine
Argentina and wine generally mean two things: Malbec and Mendoza. However, down in the cool and wetter far south of Patagonia, there is a wine growing area where cooler climate varieties such as Pinot Noir thrive. This Gran Reserva has had plenty of oak thrown at it, but this does not obscure the beautifully smooth pinot fruit. A wine that it is all too easy to love.