Island Blog 110 Love and Syrup

2013-11-07 11.28.13

The cake is dry.  What do I do with a dry cake, a dry fruit cake even?  It’s not really a question I expect answered as I know fine what to do with a dry fruit cake, after I have recovered from the mild tantrum (well, a couple of mild tantrums) the remorse at the waste of raisins that said they were sultanas on the packet and the sultanas that were sultanas…so a LOT of sultanas to feel remorse for.  Add to that all the other bits that went in, the time it took and, worst of all that argument with my new whizzer which cackles like an old witch with loose bones so that I have to stand well back in case she breaks her moorings and takes me out.

I googled my question.  It doesn’t matter how stupid my question is, somebody has asked it before, because the internet has an answer.  This is both alarming – I fear the world is slowly losing any purchase on Common Sense – and, reassuring, at least momentarily.

Syrup, they told me, warmed and drizzled in small amounts over a period of time.  Well, I rarely have one of them anymore so I poured over half a slightly warmed can and it sits there still, sticky enough to keep everyone away and even more unuseable than it was before.  So, I put the lid back on, bash it down (as punishment) and shall ignore it until the storm abates and I get over myself.

But, it got me thinking.  You see, the cake, through the oven doors and outside of them looked perfect.  Lightly bronzed on top and decorated with a festoonery of almonds, it promised moist mouthfuls of yummy rich fruit captured and held in a sensitive cakely hug. We would all love it, because of how it looked.

Some people are one thing on the outside and dried up prunes on the inside.  Some of us actually believe that if we look right, we will be right, but what is more frightening and always was to me, is that we can open doors by presenting an acceptable outside.  We are believed, credible, trustworthy, one of the Right Sort of People.

I love to turn up in the wrong trousers, because I must challenge this worldly nonsense.  People should look into eyes, not take a mental picture of clothing, one that tells them just who they think I am.

At 60 I can do what I like, wear what I like, but I still can find myself lost in the dark folds of various items of clothing, just to get it right for the occasion.  In the past, I have gotten myself upset enough to stay at home, for fear of being judged, pidgeon-holed, typecast, rejected.

Nowadays, if I see someone, anywhere, who arrives in the wrong trousers, then I just know we are both the full fruit cake, with no need of any syrup at all, and, that I am going to love them.

Island Blog 108 Left Over Right

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Last night we had Leftovers for supper.  Actually, to be honest, we often do.  I have never been that sort of a cook who follows recipes, noting down what I might need in order to cook a certain dish and then trotting off to buy it.

Is this, I wonder, because I am too lazy/impatient to don my prescription specs and follow a recipe?

Could be.  I remember once thinking I was dutifully following one cake recipe when I was,in fact, following two.  I did wonder at the imbalance and curio-factor of blending two unlikely bed mates into one cake, but the wild and colourful in me rose to the occasion with a skip of excitment.  The cake, or cakes, arrived as one rather wonky lump, listing dangerously to one side and quite impossible to present on any level surface. I make up my own recipes now.

Back to last night.  Well, first I must open the fridge.  I creep up on the door and swoosh it open suddenly.  This is an old tactic and can often prevent anything escaping.

Aha!  I say with a cook’s gleam in my eye.  Opportunity presents itself and I grab it quick and hold on tight.

Next, onions.  I always need onions and garlic and I rarely run out of them because they lie artfully arranged in a nice basket from Portugal and in full view.  Any old vegetables, chopped, julienned, grated, diced, depending on what lies floppily inside the salad drawers.  Olive oil, infused with whatever I can more-or-less identify as herbs in the herb garden.  I know I should know which is which, but the voles have shifted the labels around.  Big pan, light on, favourite wooden spoon ( I never cook with metal weapons) and off we go, but to where is quite another thing.

As each ingredient is added, the house fills with tempting aromas that  join together in a rising sound wave until I turn down the heat.  As one animal now, it simmers and softens into a harmonious chorus.  Now, what would lift this dish?  I taste a little and let my instinct guide me.

What?  Mint you say, and dark chocolate and fresh nutmeg?

Never doubt that voice.  It’s not a left brain thing.  This could be casserole or cake.  Just don’t argue.

I comply and taste again.  Delicious.

I notice 3 old bananas hanging on the banana hook, all in a big brown huff.  What can I do with you I wonder?  I check the fridge – a tub of elderly natural yoghourt, lemon juice, and in the drinks cupboard which is still called that even though it isn’t any more, I find a teaspoonful of banana liqueur.

I chop the bananas and fry them in butter, adding a spoonful of wild honey and the liquer.  Whizzed up in the whizzer to a fine  puree, I add three serving spoons of yoghourt.  Meanwhile some almonds have been toasting in the oven.  I pour the mixture into two glasses, top with toasted almonds and pop them in the fridge, which is empty again.

Or is it?  One woman’s empty fridge is that same woman’s chance to shine. It’s all about self belief and no 24 hour shop down the road.

In that famous parting line from Fanny Cradock’s tv series, spoken with such confidence and encouragement into a thousand homes by her husband and assistant, Johnnie…..

May all your doughnuts look like Fanny’s.