Saturday, 12 March 2016

The monotony of a long term cook

Putting the last candy sweet, acid bright lick of icing onto a showstopper challenge cake, lifting a glass cloche to unleash a puff of fragranced steam, watching a swoosh of rich jus being painted, just so, onto the pristine white of a porcelain plate. These are sights that I cannot get enough of on my television screen.

The Great British Bake Off is must-see viewing for all the family, and I can be found, surrounded by a squirming sea of boys, glued to the soggy bottoms whenever the series airs. The orgasmic groans of Gregg Wallace as a particularly delicious pudding melts its way down his throat have me in paroxysms of joy, and don't get me started on Heston's Feast. When he crafts a jelly baby out of ox's blood and angel's breath (or something equally implausible) I can hardly contain myself.

Which is why it surprises me how dull I find cooking nowadays. You would think that someone with shelves bulging with bright ideas from Nigella and Jamie, a monthly subscription to Good Food Magazine and a family-sized belly to prove my enthusiasm for the consumption of food would enjoy the process of the creation of food more than most.

It was not ever thus, once I did relish whipping up a delectable feast for lovers, friends and sometimes, at a push, even family. I remember my first serious relationship, which spanned my late teens and early 20s, was measured in grand meals I would cook for our unappreciative young friends. They would happily live off Pringles, booze and huge chocolate bars, but was determined to be 'grown up' and host sophisticated dinner parties replete with herb-crusted lamb and lavender-infused panacea.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that, old before our time, that boyfriend and I reached that stage of boredom with one another that wouldn't usually hit until mid life crisis years and split up when we were just past 25.

It was with a real sense of abandon that I threw out my aprons and matching dinner sets. For a good year I subsisted on Kit Kats, Special K and vats of white wine. While I am sure that I paid the price internally, that divorce diet of hedonsism and self neglect was ideal in terms of slimming me down ready to find my next catch.

Part of the attraction was that my new man helped to restore my deep affection for food and we spent our courtship enjoying romantic meals a deux and lovingly crafting meals for one another.

Then along came children. At first this did little to abate my culinary activities. I remember the night I went into labour I had just put the finishing touches to a chocolate bread and butter pudding ready for a dinner party that weekend. The arrival of a newborn put paid to the party, but we did enjoy the pudding, warmed up from the freezer, some months later.

When it was time for solids the neat, blonde, neon-white smiling Annabel Karmel, nestled herself between the quirky charm of Nigel Slater and the haute cuisine of Gordon Ramsay on my book shelves.

I learned what a mouli was for, and why it should be avoided at all costs, and could find my way to the butternut squash section of the supermarket with my eyes closed. My fridge was soon clogged by icebergs of tiny cubes of frozen mush. Meal times became a fraught battleground as I tried to persuade my son that he would not die if he let a mouthful of courgette pass his lips. I lost, as he is quite right, these are the Devil's vegetables.

This was perhaps the beginning of the end of my love affair with cooking. After spending hours pureeing and mashing all manner of exotic fruits and vegetables, wasting time that could so much more profitably have been spent, slumped, asleep, in front of the TV, seeing it tossed to the floor without even being tasted was soul destroying.

Fast forward through years and years of serving up teas of fish fingers, pizza, pasta and chicken nuggets to an unappreciative audience of children and my romance with cooking has been cremated. Every night I wrack my brains as to what to feed us all that will be nutritious, tasty and easy to make. I fall back on staples that are dull and do little to excite the appetite, but I have neither the will nor the inclination to try harder.

I thought that when my husband took over cooking duties when I went back to work things might improve, but within a month he had that same rabbit caught in headlights look when asked what was for supper.

I used to wonder why my mother said that my grandmother's fondest wish was that they would invent a tablet you could give children that would fill them up and provide them with all the nutrients they needed. Now I know just what she meant and hope that some bright spark will make her wish come true.

1 comment:

  1. Tell me about it - I have massive food ennui. I think part of it is the long winter and needing to change to a more spring / summer diet (bring on the grill) but even with the same menu plans we've had all winter I struggle to motivate to cook at the moment