For those of you who know me, I have probably already astounded/bored you with tales of my Mother’s cooking exploits. In my circle of friends, some of these stories have now become the stuff of legend. For anyone not familiar with the deadly combination that can be achieved by placing my Mother in a kitchen with a recipe book, prepare yourself.
Back in the 1970’s, my Mother was a fan of clipping recipes from publications such as ‘Woman’s Weekly’ or extracting fiendish concoctions from her ‘Jimmy Young’s Radio 2 Cookbook’. Damn that man. All these delights were placed before myself, my Father and my Brother with such a success rate that we called her cooker ‘The Altar’, in memory of all the innocent ingredients that were sacrificed there.
She is the first to admit that she can’t cook very well and I gladly admit that I am my Mother’s son sure enough. Even the simplest of things can fox both of us and I could probably burn water if I put my mind to it. However, I have to say that despite the odd singed item, my Mother’s Sunday roast is still a favourite of mine. That is, unless she greets me with the statement “You may find that the beef is a bit more brown than usual today…”
The difference is that I wholly recognise my lack of culinary expertise and have no desire to ‘better’ myself in that department. Despite being battered by an endless stream of cookery shows and celebrity chefs, I don’t give a toss about my lack of kitchen skills and I have no wish to improve. Unfortunately my Mother made us endure years of experiments before she accepted that same conclusion. Even our black Labrador (Sam) cottoned on to my Mother’s cookery skills and he would wait patiently by the altar before Sunday lunch, because he knew that at least one small Yorkshire pud would emerge with burnt edges and he had first dibs.
Part 1 – Crooning cakes and how to scare a dog with bread.
A recipe which sticks in my mind from those days was one called (excuse the spelling) ‘Singing Hinny’ or somesuch. It was, in theory, some kind of large, specially mixed scone. The ‘special’ bit, according to the recipe was that during the mixing process, excess air would be trapped in the mix. The upshot of this was that as the thing heated up, the air would force itself out through the now cracked crust. In short, those villains at Woman’s Weekly claimed that it would ‘sing’ whilst cooking. We gathered around the altar with our ears eagerly scanning the frequencies but no sound was heard. Perhaps it screamed instead and at a frequency too high for our ears to detect, too high for Sam even. Perhaps it wheezed a few inaudible bars of ‘Please Release Me, Let Me Go’ before expiring. We will never know.
I can’t recall what happened to the creation. I don’t remember eating it so it either went straight to Sam, got thrown out for the birds in the back garden or Dad might have used it to help jack the car up when he was changing the rear axle.
Another experiment I can remember was the glorious day that my Mother attempted to bake her own bread. In those days, gas cookers came with a ground level warming drawer and our old dog at that time (Shep) used to love curling up for a snooze on the square of carpet that had been placed in front of the drawer for him.
All seemed to go well I think, I don’t recall any cursing. Once mixed, Mum popped her dough in to a dish and then in to the warming drawer to prove. Shep then realised that the oven had been lit, ready for a sacrifice and his square of carpet was getting nice and toasty. He curled himself down in to a tight ball and drifted off to sleep.
Some time later, Shep awoke with a start, got to is feet and stared intently at the warming drawer. Slowly the drawer began to open and a strange substance began to ooze forth. Shep did that kind of confused head tilt that only dogs can do, as the drawer inched further towards him. It transpired that Mum had used at least double the amount of yeast specified in the recipe. Why? Who knows. It looked like she had discovered the forerunner of that foam you spray in to holes in brickwork which then expands to fill the void and becomes as hard as rock. The birds in our garden ate well that day, well kind of.