Sunday, 23 September 2012

Kitchens and baking and comfort

Nobody seems to expect thrilling things to happen in kitchens, and yet, when you think of it, they are the places where turkeys are roasted, and apple jelly made, and birthday cakes iced and decorated with pink scrolls and silver balls; and that’s all exciting, especially if it’s Christmas time, or you are the one with the birthday.  (The Two Linties, p 1).

On a day when most of England is covered by a heavy and endless raincloud, I thought I’d think of nicer things than the cold and damp that have brought summer to a sudden end. Baking and a well-equipped kitchen are two very good reasons to stay indoors and keep warm. Cake sliced and eaten warm from the oven tastes just as good as the scrapings from the mixing bowl. Lintie Oliver might not have been a natural cook, but she knew that you can find the start of your adventure in the kitchen and she develops as a writer because she discovers the existence of a childrens’ page in the local newspaper.

Better cooks are to be found at the sugar-scented Cake and Bake Show this weekend and I can safely say that I’m not one of them. It’s enough to make you feel quite insecure as you admire confections that are every Elinor M. Brent-Dyer adjective of luscious and delectable. Some are simply breathtakingly, technically incredible. Plenty of people passed me, slightly sticky from the rosewater and raspberry or passion fruit marshmallows. Others were nibbling from the huge slabs of brownies. There was far too much choice and the massed crowds inside Earls Court made it overwhelming. However, it was a day trip far outside my comfort zone and I’m very pleased that I went. 

Back inside my comfort zone is a gentle vintage novel called The Sugar and Spice. It’s by Mollie Chappell and she’s moved to England instead of her usual Rhodesia. It’s a novel about a family looking after a teashop for the summer and making all sorts of improvements to the shop and a small country town keen to attract appreciative tourists. From tales of strawberry shortcake, to gingersnaps to catering for society parties, this novel shows that you make friends when you arrive bearing cakes. Do read this one if you like vintage novels or cooking as it’s not hard to get a copy and they’re usually around £10.00. Even better, you usually find a pretty dustwrapper like the one pictured.

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