“Let’s be careful out there”
DNA and Baking
Hot today so what better to do on a hot day than bake? I never knew before that biscuits were so easy to make and unfortunately so moreish to eat. Actually, I am quite pleased that I have only just discovered this or perhaps it is more apt to say that my waistline is pleased. I guess I am not alone if the lack of flour is anything to go by. Methinks we have become a nation of bakers. So far, I have made Lemon drizzle Cake, Honey Cake, twice, I am trying to perfect it but not there quite yet. Ginger Cake, Almond Sponge, Oak Crunchies and Victoria Sponge – that was the best with vanilla butter icing. And today I made ginger biscuits. Perhaps a tad too much bicarbonate soda. I am wondering if we inherit baking qualities from our mothers or our grandparents – does it become part of our DNA? Interesting this DNA I remember sharing with one of my therapists – I have had a good few but never been that successful at therapy – that I was always anxious that something was going to happen to one of my children. She said that Jewish women had for centuries had to be ready to flee, and that this anxiety had been passed down through the generations. That’s reassuring I can now stop being anxious over my anxiety. If baking is something, we learn from our mothers then it is no wonder that my baking skills are limited. I am a good cook, but I never learnt that either from my mother or my grandmother. In fact, I would say that my entire family, extended included are pretty poor in the culinary department. It was years before I realised that vegetables weren’t supposed to be soggy, that meat didn’t need to be chewed at least 20 times and that there was something called pasta and rice. I had two specific jobs in my house – both of which I hated. One was to kosher the meat that would arrive from Manchester every month. The meat had to be first soaked and rinsed at least 3 times, then each piece had to be covered in salt and left for 40 minutes on a slatted slanted board. I had to prop it up and invariably I would hear a crash and come running into the kitchen only to find the whole thing collapsed on the floor. Surreptitiously I would rinse it again and re start the process, apologising to whoever might have been watching from a high and hoping I would be forgiven. Everything in our house was always a Heath Robinson affair. After 40 minutes each piece would then have to be rinsed again 3 times. By which time my hands would be red raw and the well salted and rinsed meat would have lost all its flavour. Well it let mum off the hook anyway. My other job was the pressure cooker. I was so scared of this awful piece of equipment and I have absolutely no idea why my mother was so attached to it. It would come to the boil, let out a piercing screech and I would have to immediately cover the steam valve in the lid. If I didn’t it would blow up – I was petrified. What was my mother thinking leaving me alone in the house with this job? All very well worrying about the white slave trade mum but what about third-degree burns. I had every reason to be scared of this little monster for twice it did blow up and once we needed the fire brigade. Who already knew the way to our house as my brother had burnt down the top half when he accidently dropped a match from his illicit smoking, and it ignited with the illicit fireworks he was hiding under his bed? Apparently, my father had said as the fire engines blasted by his tailoring shop “some silly bugger has let off his fireworks a bit early.” Little did he know which silly bugger it was. While my father dished out the kind of punishment that would be illegal nowadays Brian could be heard saying “it was one fabulous firework display”. Timing was never his strength. It is sad really that food didn’t play an important part in my upbringing because in so many other Jewish family’s food was a big event. My mother just wanted to get the whole thing over and done with as quickly as possible. She longed for the day when pills would replace meals. After I left home and discovered real food I would call home and ask mum what she would be making for their dinner only to be told, “it doesn’t really matter what I make as it never touches the sides of your father’s mouth.” It reminded me of a rather brash Australian girl in our school cookery class who would say, when she made a mistake “Aw Ro it doesn’t matter it all goes down the same hole.”
2 thoughts on “DNA and Baking”
Thank you Roma, for your beautiful writing and thought-provoking images. You have brought back such visceral memories, the intensity of that pressure cooker, squealing and screeching on the hob. It threatened to explode and blow us all to smithereens. Created to cook at speed, why the hurry? Where could we possibly have been rushing to in 1960? apart from being propelled through the roof if the threatened explosion occurred !!
Thank you for your thoughts, they’re Gr-r-rest!! Wow, this has turned into a Frosties advertising slogan xxxxx
love your comments Laura – makes me feel good. thank you