Baking is something I’ve done sporadically throughout my life, starting when I was little in our (first) family kitchen. I’d watch my Mum stirring sweet, doughy mixtures with a wooden spoon. After a while, she let me do it too.
Sometimes, she’d also let me use the electric eggbeaters after careful instruction (“Mind your fingers!”), whizzing dough at the speed of sound in her heavy ceramic bowls with ‘Made In England’ stamped on the undersides. She’d received most of them as wedding presents in 1964.
But ‘baking’ – making sweet things like cakes, biscuits, slices, desserts, cupcakes and such – didn’t tattoo itself upon my soul until my husband and I opened a wee hole-in-the-wall café in 2011. Then it was on for young and old.
I was amazed at how the lessons I’d learned at three, four, five and six in that 1960s Laminex kitchen came flooding back.
I churned out slices, muffins and cupcakes like a machine; the zucchini loaf was a speciality and people would travel miles for a piece of my hedgehog.
It was inspired by a recipe from one of Mum’s old cookbooks, published by the ‘O-So-Lite’ flour company, complete with sprung spine and imperial measurements. Customers would sit silently – reverently – in the corner, holding an earthy, Spanish-style cup of coffee in one hand, and in the other, a giant piece of pistachio-nutted/dried-cranberry/gooey-butter-crème-icing/crazy-choc goodness.
I was born into an era when most suburban backyards were still crowded with fruit trees and women and mothers made everything - from clothes, food and compost to jumpers, rugs, macramé wall hangings and crepe paper flowers.
Every Wednesday I would come home from kinder, get changed, climb up onto the stool, lean on the sharp-cornered bench (“Mind out!” she’d cry again), and watch intently as Mum baked biscuits, an apple or rhubarb pie, or a cake. Then I’d go into the back garden and imitate her by making mud pies in the dirt.