Monday, 17 October 2011

Tarantino Housewarming

Where I live at least, landlords who rent their properties via estate agents usually present their houses in a pretty good condition, often newly decorated and with new, or steam cleaned carpets. The property I moved into in 2000 was no exception, and although it was small, it was very well presented with gleaming (if magnolia can be gleaming??) walls and perfectly fresh minty green carpets throughout.
We had a few friends round, all offering housewarming presents of varying degrees of alcohol content- brandy, vodka, beer and wine. The wine was the problem, for I realised at 10pm that night when presented with another bottle of wine that there was no corkscrew in the house- not packed away in a box or at the bottom of a disorganised cutlery tray- as a 90's ladette I was a confirmed beer drinker, and had therefore never had need for one. The late 90s for me were spent drinking men under the table, swigging beer out of bottles and pretending to smoke. The idea of a corkscrew had never entered my head until that Saturday night, before the days of screw cap wine and 24 hour supermarkets.
My friend Sarah, who had brought the wine with her, was obviously more sophisticated than me and very keen to get into the first bottle of rioja. Without the luxury of a corkscrew, and never one to be beaten, I decided there must be another way to crack it open so collected a selection of implements- pen knife, meat  skewer, kitchen knife, scissors- and lay them out on the side of the sofa like a surgeon about to conduct a very haphazzard and probably illegal operation. Why I thought the living room was a more sensible place than the kitchen is unknown, but I did, and determinedly began poking and prodding in an attempt to remove the cork. The pen knife was too small, the kitchen knife nearly resulted in the loss of my leg and the scissors were too fiddly (this was turning into an alcoholic version of Goldilocks) so I moved on to the meat skewer. By this time the cork was obviously starting to feel the effects of the poking, and the final stab was one step too far.

A slightly less gruesome version of what my front room looked like   

Before I could poke any further, the cork gave in and the wine exploded, with me sitting on the sofa covered in red wine from head to toe. It was all over my hair, my clothes, the sofa, and the wall. The newly painted magnolia wall. After the initial shock, then hysterical laughter of everyone else, I got up to see the wall and ceiling looked like a scene from a Tarantino film- blood red wine, flecked with lumps of brain matter-esque cork was splattered across the previously immaculate surfaces, with a clear magnolia stencil of the woman who had been sitting there minutes before. That scene in Pulp Fiction where Marvin's head gets blown off in the back of the car? This was it, but with wine instead of blood. As it turns out, red wine is just as difficult to remove from paint as blood, and several paint jobs later it was still visible when the light was on. We never did get our deposit back on that place.


Monday, 3 October 2011

I bet Michelle Obama has got a hand whisk

The disastrous baking episodes are still alluding me at the moment, and I made Rosie a more than passable birthday cake this year. It's starting to anger me slightly now.

Go from this..
When I say passable, I mean not disgusting, I'm under no illusion that I'm suddenly going to be crowned Queen Baker at the W.I, but I realise I must try harder these days to create disasters so will be attempting something meringuey this week. If that doesn't work it's all over. this...

If you've ever tried to whip cream using just a hand whisk you will appreciate that it takes a REALLY long time. Every time I' ve ever done it, I've nearly given up after about 10 minutes, but suddenly something miraculous happens and the previously runny liquid turns as if by magic into the holy grail that is described as "soft peaks". The other day, I was whisking the cream that was going to sandwich together the chocolate birthday cake and truly nearly lost the will to live.. After 8 minutes I had sweat starting to melt my upper lip and it still looked the same as it had when I opened the pot. It hurt. 9 minutes in, I was calling both the cream and the whisk very rude names.

Then I caught sight of my right arm, which, muscles flexed, looked really quite impressive. I liked it. Suddenly the pain became good pain, and as the soft peaks spectacularly and magestically appeared I wanted to start all over again- this time with my left arm. Soon discovered that, not being ambidextrous, the left arm would need a bit more practice as there was cream everywhere except in the bowl.

Later, I was left with not only a not disgusting cake but a pleasant, self satisfied "exercise ache" in my arms- the kind of ache that can make you feel quite smug, and allow you to convince yourself you're allowed a bar of chocolate because you went through the pain barrier earlier that day.

..with one of these
It made me realise that proper baking is probably really good exercise. All that wisking, kneading, stirring and folding is a real work out on the arms, and when you add the heat of a kitchen on a summery day I'm sure it's on a level with a zumba class for cardivascular exercise. My nan did lots of baking, and maintained a good pair of bingo-wing free arms well into her 70's- and when you think of round, flour faced grannies in aprons they're nearly always solid looking- huge, yes, but flabby? Not usually. So it got me thinking- who needs to spend money on expensive gym memberships when you could probably do just as well making a couple of cakes every day (as long as you get someone else to eat them). I think I might just set up my own little "gym" in my kitchen, and charge people £30 a month to join in. Even if the majority of my client's bodies may remain rotund, they'll end up rivalling Mrs O on the arm front.