“Can we bake?”
I was sure I’d misheard my scallywag. Thought she asked me if we could bake. Ha! Good one. Yeah, let’s bake. And while we’re waiting on the oven, maybe we could do a spot of embroidery, too. Run up a tablecloth out of a few pairs of old knickers…or get a start, maybe, on a patchwork quilt? Find some use for my skinny clothes, it’s not like they’re going to fit me anytime soon…But no. She was serious.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I do know what an oven is for. It’s for roasting chickens and other dead things. And for roasting spuds along with the dead things. It’s for lasagnes and casseroles, and on lazy days it’s for frozen pizzas and oven chips. I can actually use my oven. I use it frequently, and I can make an apple tart. But proper baking is outside my skillset.
Here we are in the post-feminist, post-modernist, post-tiger, post-mortem, postman-pat-and-his-black-n-white cat era, I’ve told my scallywag she can be anything she wants to be – anything at all – except for an accountant, maybe – and today she voices an aspiration to bake. I’ve got to do a check on my parenting skills.
It’s not that I’m against baking, far from it. It’s just that I think it should be left to the professionals. Like architecture. And quantum physics. And pole dancing. Those who do it for a living. You want a cheesecake? Off with you to the bakery, every town and village has one. Just don’t try manufacturing one in my kitchen, OK?
But it’s ten in the morning, school holidays trundle on, it’s raining, Scallywag is bored, and by God is she going to bake. Cookies, no less, and I just want to go back to bed…
She has been googling. We need butter. We need sugar. We need flour. We need an egg. We need chocolate for the chocolate chips. She has checked. We have everything we need to make cookies. She even found vanilla essence lurking in the back of a cupboard, probably been there since 1987, but she doesn’t care, it’s all systems go, and like a mini Stepford Wife she’s off. I rummage wearily in the bottom drawer for my almost never-used electric whisk. I think that was the first mistake. Using the whisk. We didn’t cream the mixture, like the recipe said, we beat the bejaysus out of it. It ended up so light and airy, I thought to myself; these will be the very best, lightest, fluffiest, yummiest…I really did try to get into the spirit of things.
Out came two baking trays and we dolloped the liquid mixture on in sticky spoonfuls. Put them in the oven. About five minutes later, we were left with a pile of hot sludge like you never saw, it was oozing off the trays and down the oven walls, out the oven door – it was like a Hammer House of Horror movie, The Devil’s Biscuit, or some similar title. I turned the oven off, took out the trays, chucked them in the sink and we gazed at them in dismay.
“I can’t bake” she said.
“Neither can I” I said. “But everyone’s got different talents. Can’t imagine Rachel Allen playing the trumpet, can you?”
“Maybe she’s a great trumpet player” she said.
“Yup. Maybe she is” I said. “But probably not as good as you.”
“What’ll we do now?” she asked. Before she could suggest knitting or crochet, I said –
“Go for a swim? And stop in the bakery on the way back? Get some goodies?”
“Done” she said.
Tonight when she’s in bed, I’m going to fiddle with the Parental Control thingy on the TV thingy, and see if I can block all the cooking channels. I mean, you can’t be having impressionable, innocent children watching stuff like that, it’s just not right. Food Porn, isn’t that what they call it? Disgusting….
“Can we bake?”