Sunday, 17 June 2012
And so she baked...
As a child, at primary school, we had a choice - school dinners, or packed lunch.
School dinners were mass produced in the school canteen. I have a pervading memory of the smell of the gravy that covered everything savory, and the custard that covered everything sweet.
My Mother was an exceptional cook, and these smells of institutionalised gruels were alien to me, never warming or enticing.
So I was a child who opted to take a packed lunch every day. My Mother's food was always my preference to the unrecognisable slops.
In the mid seventies my Mother was juggling a tight budget around a family of seven, along with school fees and a huge mortgage. So she baked her own bread.
We lived in a small town, where the local bakery was being squashed by the new fangled and cheaper supermarket. The mass produced white sliced wax wrapped loaf was 50 pence. It never went stale. But it tasted of nothing.
So she baked.
She had a houseful of hungry boys who devoured bread to fill their empty legs. So she baked.
She was a woman who could turn her hand to anything, and had time at home to do so. So she baked.
Our kitchen was always filled with the smell of yeast and rising dough. So she baked.
She was a strong and bouncy Aussie girl with energy to burn - she turned her vitality to good use by never ending kneading. And so she baked.
The gas boiler, in the space of an old range, next to the oven, was the perfect rising place. A mammoth stoneware mixing bowl, filled with dough, covered with a well faded, well loved damp tea towel, found its home. And so she baked.
I would take to school with me wholemeal rolls filled with lettuce and locally made cheeses in summer. And when winter, which seemed to take up most of the English year, hung around, these same wholemeal rolls, spread with thick butter, would be the accompaniment to a Thermos of homemade soup. And so, she baked. She baked for us.
I am proud to say she taught me all of her baking skills. I wonder if I can recall them true.
I think I instinctively know the alchemy that is the staff of life. I do not bake from necessity like she did. But I hope her lessons are ingrained never the less.
And so, I bake.
I write this with a happy heart. My Mum is so so so much better.
And in the next week I shall be posting up some sensational bread recipes to honour my Mum. And I shall be running a brilliant bread baking giveaway. So come back soon?