The heavy humidity of yesterday has been fractured by an explosive thunder storm. Stark white flares of lightning precede the ominous rolling crashes and the rain is so heavy that the pansies are lying battered and defeated. It’s the sort of day to be snug and comfortable at home. From the kitchen comes the aroma of newly baked chocolate cake, fresh from the oven and resting on the cooling tray which is well back from the edge of the worktop. I learn from my mistakes. A while ago I baked a cake for my friend’s wedding and left it to cool. Between my sitting down for a coffee and returning to the kitchen, the cake had vanished. Along with the baking tin, every single crumb had disappeared. I even re-checked the oven thinking I must have imagined getting it out (I hesitate to admit that this is not an unknown phenomena) or put it somewhere inappropriate like in the fridge (again, not unheard of but let’s not go there…) It was a big cake but it had definitely gone. Further investigation was required. Just outside the dog flap I found the grease-proof paper lining and out in the garden was the baking tin. Sleeping innocently in a chair (as he does) was the chief suspect and his shifty looking partner in crime.
Rolf is almost kitchen worktop tall and wouldn’t dream of stealing anything when I’m around but the wedding cake incident alerted me to tha fact that there's a sneak thief in the house. Standing on his back legs he is as tall as me and could easily reach most surfaces in the kitchen. Since discovering this disgraceful behaviour I’ve set him up a couple of times. When I ambush him in the middle of a sneaky thieving spree he turns into the cowardly Scooby Doo, a character that could have been based on him, right down to the warbling vocals. So these days I try to avoid putting too much temptation in his way. And it works out better all round (round being the operative word) if I eat it all instead.
There's something comforting about home baking. I have an old recipe book that belonged to my mum and I get great pleasure from baking as she did. Some recipes have lines scored through things she didn't like or opted not to use, and some favourites, particularly her gingerbread one, are daubed and stained with drops of ingredients from so many years ago.
I imagine her in the kitchen with me, teaching me how to bake all over again, laughing wickedly at the disasters and being quietly delighted with the triumphs. She was a wonderful cook, my mum. A wonderful home-maker.She'd be annoyed at me for showing her mucky old recipe book but it's the spills and splodges that make it special to me. I've never been able to make gingerbread as good as hers was. I'm sure that somehow she looks on now, with incredulity at my efforts, shaking her head and laughing in that gentle, mischevious way. Before reminding me to put it well out of Rolf's reach.