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.
It’s the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death this week. I know this because I worked out the date prompted by an unrelated memory that sprung up on social media. And then I felt a shock of anxiety and panic that I’d had to work out the date. That it wasn’t, I don’t know, written on my soul, ingrained in my everyday life. That I’d forgotten.
I’ve been lonely this week. I didn’t expect to be lonely, I expected to embrace my partner’s ten day absence on a work trip in a haze of relaxation with occasional stabs of wild productivity. I would clean the oven! I would take bubble baths every day! I would read nineteen books! Instead, I’ve just been a bit sad and pathetic, moping around the too-quiet house.
I’m licking the last of this recipe off my spoon as I press ‘send’ on a pitch about the tyranny of wedding diets. Because honestly, even if I had even the slightest inclination to spend a whole year of my life not drinking wine and demurely declining puddings and pastries, sticky buns and smelly cheeses, not touching blisteringly hot, glassy roast potatoes or crumbling, buttery shortbread, this recipe would be my undoing. Let’s be real, I will never have that level of will power, and I don’t especially long for the ability to deprive myself of the things that bring joy to my personal and professional life, but even if I did, speculoos chocolate fondant would see off any such intentions.
This week has been a week for hibernating. The moment the clocks going back feels almost Cinderella-esque to me: at the stroke of midnight, darkness descends like a blanket, and I want to run away and hide. My mornings are so early that I don’t feel the benefit of the brighter starts, but feel keenly the gloom of my journeys home, my dark grocery shops, and my tentative steps out of the house any time after about 4pm.
By the time you read this, I will have undergone and, I hope, survived, my first technical lecture, my first demonstration, and my first practical of the school year, and already have blithely moved on, and be up to my elbows in mousseline and crème pâtissière. But right now I am a wibbling wreck of nerves and inadequacy; right now I am just a girl standing in front of a patisserie course asking it not to burn her.
By the time you read this, I will be on holiday. In fact, I will be nearly back from holiday. Back, I hope, to crunchy leaves and high-tog duvets and tights fresh from the packet. I’m ready for crumbles and shepherds pies and soups thick with lentils. And mashed potato. I’m ready to eat a lot of mashed potato.
When we were little, there was one pudding that my non-pudding-making mother would occasionally make: pavlova. We would watch it being made, placed carefully into a low oven. We were barely allowed to watch it whilst it cooked, so keen was the fear of cracking. When it came out, little fingers weren’t permitted to pry or poke. Then it was crowned with cream and accoutrements, and placed in the back porch – desperately tempting, and absolutely forbidden. I thought it was the most impossibly glamorous pudding.
It’s raining today, in case you hadn’t noticed. I’ve just filed a long piece about the best pudding to make in high summer and bright sunshine, and now it is raining with blustery gusto. Oh British summer, how you toy with me.
We spent the last weekend in Edinburgh with my goddaughter and her parents. Friends from college days who, having actually put their money where their mouths are, and produced a real live human baby, I now deem impossibly grown up.