Last week one of my clubmates, who had both partaken of the birthday cake I had made and sampled my cakes at the Gentlemen, asked me if I also cooked savoury goods. Clearly, he’d not been quick enough to taste either my pissaladiere nor my savoury cakes.
I explained that baking was a recent passion for which I’d previously not had time to indulge but that my repertoire covered the entire spectrum. There was nothing I enjoyed more than a week end cooking for a crowd of people. He asked if I had always cooked and I explained that I’d started cooking when I’d met my beloved as the way to his heart was most definitely via his stomach.
I had hardly cooked at all while I lived at home and had suffered stoically through an entire year’s worth of cookery classes before being able to throw in the teacloth. Nothing good ever came out of these lessons. I recall leaden bread rolls which if they’d been launched from a cannon would have been weapons of mass destruction. I think it’s fair to say I displayed no interest whatsoever in these lessons nor in the preceding year’s ones in needlework. To this day, if a button falls off something, you might never see me wear it again.
Both my mother and maternal grandmother were excellent cooks and I, therefore, never felt either the urge nor the need to cook at home. Although I did start cooking at a restaurant where I worked on Saturdays earning myself the “Best Breakfast in Birmingham” award. At university I elected for self-catering accommodation where I enjoyed cooking for myself and my flatmates. I also cooked cakes for my course mates and lecturers prompting some to joke that my degree would be in “Baking and Finance” rather than Banking.
I didn’t meet my beloved until the start of my second year ie after one whole year’s worth of cooking for myself and my flatmates. My beloved used to hate the “breakfast and chips” doled out in Halls on Wednesday evening. So I started to ply him with all sorts of savoury goodies. At the time I didn’t realize that his mother was a truly awful cook and that even food in Halls was a distinct improvement on anything she turned out.
When my beloved and I first got married, I was still at university, so money was tight. We were living in Leicestershire, home of “pick it yourself” so I used to make jams and chutneys as Christmas presents. Later I started making Xmas cakes and Xmas puddings sometimes turning out in excess of 30 cakes in the run up to the festive season.
When we moved to London, I had less time to spend in the kitchen but still enjoyed inviting friends round for dinner and throwing parties. My motto was “the more the merrier.” That’s still true today. I’d rather cater for 50 than just me.
The French are fond of inviting you round for drinks and nibbles. I threw a party not long after we moved in by way of an apology to my understanding neighbours who’d endured plenty of dust and noise while we renovated the apartment. They were shocked to discover that I had made all the nibbles myself rather than buying them from the local traiteur.
From time to time, I invite some of my elderly neighbours around for a typical English afternoon tea which they simply adore. They’re a very game bunch of ladies who arrive beautifully coiffed and manicured, tottering on their high heels. They’re an inspiring bunch who never, ever complain about their ailments and have lots of interesting tales to tell. Keen to maintain their sylphlike figures they enjoy a couple of tiny smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches, scones with my home made jam and some petit four sized cakes washed down with tea, served with lemon, never milk.
I did say that the chocolate and raspberry fort cake was the first birthday cake I’d ever made. Completely forgetting that I had previously catered for a friend’s son’s birthday party. I had been staying with them prior to our move to London and for their son’s 8th birthday party I did all the catering. I made all the typical kiddy crowd-pleasers: pizza, garlic bread, sausages (no sticks), strawberry jelly and cream and a large chocolate birthday cake.
As the dozen or so children turned up, the boy’s mother, along with all the other Mums enjoyed a few bottles of wine from the safety of the lounge, watching proceedings through the windows while I entertained the kids. I can honestly say we all had a great time. Every kid won a prize, they ate all the birthday tea and went home tired and happy. My friend’s son declared it his best birthday ever and a couple of the other Mum’s enquired whether I was for hire. I wasn’t, but maybe I missed my forte!