Well, my nine month patisserie school journey has finally come to an end. It fulfilled all kinds of cliches: it’s felt like two seconds and ten years all at once. I have laughed and cried more times than I thought possible. I’ve cut myself, burnt myself, and sliced my hand open on a piping nozzle. Twice. I’ve made some truly hideous cakes; I’ve also made some of which I was hugely proud.
Baking in my household has been exam focused over the last three weeks, my kitchen filled with whisked sponges and beaten custards, marzipan roses spilling over my dining table. Suppers have been simple and unceremonious: my mum’s thoroughly inauthentic spag bol, eggs in various different guises, and my old failsafe, peanut butter noodles.
Last week was the wedding of two of my closest friends.
We’ve been friend ten years almost to the day; we’ve been friends through engagements and bereavements, we’ve shared drunk tears and sober laughter. We’ve read the same books, we’ve held the same babies, and we’ve watched the same people get married. They are so inextricably a part of my life and who I am.
Until last Sunday, I had never been blackberry picking. It was inevitable, then, perhaps that I managed to get caught on brambles no fewer than four times during our excursion. But I emerged physically and figuratively victorious, with stained fingers, and overflowing tupperware. After two large boxes, crammed tight with blackberries were wedged into the freezer, for dark crumble-filled days, there was still a surplus of berries. So I made this vinegar.
I bought a huge punnet of nectarines this week. One of those punnets that is designed to ‘ripen in the fruit bowl’, which sounds, when you’re in the cold aisle of a supermarket, like a dream: you will have soft fruit gradually ripening as the week progresses, for you to pluck at whim, your kitchen gently scented by the heady, sweet, honeyed perfume. Imagine Eden with formica kitchen units, and you’re approaching what I envisaged in the fruit aisle.
Almost six years ago to the day, I completed my graduate diploma in law. A month later, I secured pupillage at a fantastic set of chambers, and prepared myself for a lifetime of criminal law. I was absolutely certain that I wanted to be a criminal barrister for the rest of my working life. But, four months ago, I handed in my notice. And yesterday, I left the bar.
In Alice Through The Looking Glass, the White Queen offers Alice ‘jam tomorrow’:
‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’
‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
January has been hard this year. January is always hard, I suppose. But this year felt more brutal, more raw than previous ones. Perhaps that is always the case. But now January is over. And I am celebrating with scotch pancakes.
I accidentally created the best strawberry jam in the history of the world by misreading the recipe.
Two years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of making my own jam, and would have scoffed at anyone who peddled the yawn-worthy line that homemade tastes better. But, unfortunately, it turns out they were right. And jams and chutneys are a really good way to use up left over fruit before it goes off. In all honesty, I tend to make it because I don’t know what else to do with the seen-better-days strawberries in the fridge, and because anything that can be slathered on toast is welcome in my house. But most importantly, it makes you feel smug, and I love feeling smug.
My Mother died in February last year. She was a lioness, and my best friend. She drove me up the wall, and I adored her.
Once I’d delivered the eulogy, and dealt with the myriad of legal and financial admin that goes hand-in-hand with life and death, I was twiddling my thumbs. I became fractious and didn’t like having time alone with my thoughts: it is hardly surprising in retrospect that it is easier to dispose of a loved one’s personal affects than it is the shock that they are no longer on the end of the phone. It can be very, very difficult to stop yourself dwelling on the future that now demonstrably willneverbe. Which is unhealthy and stupid and categorically Not What Mummy Would Have Wanted. But the thoughts persisted.