Hello! And good evening, wherever you are tonight. I’m typing away at the kitchen table while the baby sleeps next door. The jobs are all done, and a slow dusk is spreading over the garden. It’s been a busy weekend.
This weekend was my cheat weekend. It came about as a result of a cancellation. Myself and the husband had received a gift voucher to some cookery course, and we chose from their list of options ‘Biscuits and Tray Bakes’.
However, they cancelled. The woman on the phone couldn’t understand why I was so upset, but frankly you’d be upset too. I never eat anything pleasant any more, and I wasn’t sure I would know how to if I tried. This evening was going to be a cheat, a treat, a night off from all the relentless dieting. And now that night off, was off.
Bah. Bah, say I. So I decided to have this weekend to be about the treats. I would find myself at random moments of the day planning what would be included in my tray of vice. Biscuits, of course, for obvious reasons. But also a Victoria sponge, as it was one of my mother’s favorites, and baking is all about sentiment. Chocolate cake, of course. And a Lemon tart.
And, in keeping with the idea of sentiment, we should have others about as well. So I invited my dear friend Fiona (who also bakes like a demon) over with her hubby and three children, and my brother Paul, who has a sweet tooth to beat the band. Now all I needed to do was get the stuff cooked by Sunday at 2pm.
The whole thing started on Saturday morning. I had the pastry done and in the fridge in no time.
Then the cookie dough.
And then the base for the chocolate cake.
By now I was wondering if I was, perhaps, overdoing it too much? Me, go to extremes? Naaaah!!!!
Sunday, up and at ’em. Cakes iced. Victoria sponges, cooked and cooled. Biscuits, done. All that had to be done was the lemon tart. I actually had three recipes to consider; Mary Berry’s, Claire Clarke of the French Laundry, and Michele Roux. Claire Clarke is regarded as one of the best pastry and dessert cooks in the world, but it was Michele Roux’s recipe that was by far the most complex. Instead I went for Mary Berry’s. She had included all manner of tips to ensure that the tart was presented perfectly.
At ten to two, things were pretty much wrapped up, but I still had to tell the two men in my life to start setting the table and get the place ready for visitors. Before long, the guests had arrived with the best brownies I’ve ever tasted, buns, lemon cake, roulade… Mark had made scones with cherries and white chocolate as well. Ruddy heck.
Photos don’t do it justice. We’re still eating now, I’ll have you know, and it’s only the fact that I swim 1500 meters three times a week that stops me from panicking. And what was it like?
I’ll tell you. My mum was a lovely cook. Home was where there was largess, richness of flavor, all manner of lovely things. I still have a Pavlovian response to bad weather, because it was then that Mum would pile on the desserts. If it rains, I still expect nice things. I want that. I want to continue that. I have in my head an image of a kitchen table holding a vase of flowers in bloom and a plate with something kind waiting for whoever lives there. I want that for my son and to create that kind of home. It’s a way of being near to my Mum. Men get history books, women inherit cook books. Spending the weekend the way I did, with family and friends, I feel as though a ritual as old and important as a tribal rain dance has been enacted. We weren’t alone, and we were loved. We didn’t wait till Friday, but we made joy today. That is a very good thing.
So yes, it was a good weekend. I hope there will be more. I intend there to be.