Real men bake stuff
After we booked mums cremation and moved her stuff out of the nursing home we decided to stop for lunch. We went to a local pub for a bite to eat and while, for me, the temptation to get absolutely shitfaced was very strong, I just had a soda and lime. That sort of behaviour, the behaviour I grew up with, the getting shitfacedness must stop somewhere.
Mum had died on the Monday, and all week forty million different emotions coursed their way inside, outside, around and about me, pricking at my conscience, igniting the dying embers of memories both good and painful, making me feel sad and angry. I needed something to take me away from all that was going on inside.
Something good came from the day, thanks to both my girlfriend, who I will never be able to thank enough for being so supportive, but also, and somewhat randomly, to the chef at The Crown and Anchor, Barugh Green who served The Best Steak Pie I Have Ever Had.
This was lunch. With a capital F.
Sublime pastry, tender steak in an ale gravy, with mushy peas and hand-cut chips. It was the pie people dream of. It was the pie other pies dream of being.
All for a fiver.
If you’re around Barnsley way, then do go to the Crown & Anchor for the ultimate pie-gasmic experience. You won’t be disappointed. My clumsy words haven’t described adequately just how glorious this pie was.
All yours for five of your Earth pounds.
Anyhow, I digress.
I’m not sure if it’s an accident of fate, a coincidence of events such as the one described above, the seasons changing, or just a great big PR effort on behalf of those involved in The Great British Bake Off but I’ve had a hankering for baked products of late, and so I’ve started to bake the shit out of stuff.
I used to make bread daily, and I’ve made pastry in the past with mixed success but I went with my instincts this weekend and decided to bake my tits off. So I made a pithivier and peanut butter chocolate squares on Sunday. I made a birthday cake on Monday. Today is Tuesday. What, or who am I going to bake today?
In addition, all of my baked offerings have been made without labour-saving appliances like mixers, blenders, whizzers or doofers. Blood sweat and tears have gone into these things. Not literally of course. That would be unhygienic, but anyhow, I digress. Again.
I’m convinced that baking is as close to scientific endeavour as you can get without going into a laboratory or going into space, but twice as hard. Making pastry is not just a simple matter of putting stuff together and seeing what sticks, or doesn’t. It’s a careful process, a slow process, one which shouldn’t be rushed. Like doing chemistry and stuff. Prolly.
There should be a Nobel Prize for Baking.
Ordinarily flour, lard or butter, water and salt aren’t a meal, but put them in a bowl, mix them together and you’ve got yourself a pastry baby! Fill that pastry with tender steak, and rich gravy, or chicken in a white sauce, or mushrooms, sweet potatoes, carrots and you’ve got yourself a pie.
Real men bake.
Real men don’t eat quiches.
Real men BAKE quiches.
Question. Put together flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate, lots of melted chocolate, cocoa powder and, oh my days we’ve got ourselves some cake mix to bake and shut the front door but a CAKE IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN!
The thing I’ve found though, is maybe do it as a surprise. No-one wants to be told this is what’s going on and then… nothing. Plus, it’s less pressure.
‘I’M GONNA MAKE A BIRTHDAY CAKE’ you shout from the rooftops, put on Facebook, tweet and then instantly regret as the pictures of what you’re going to make all shout at you ‘YOU WILL NEVER MAKE ME. YOU ARE SHIT.’ The pressure is on. The pressure is immense. World Cup Final penalty shootouts are nothing compared to the pressure you’re under when you’ve promised a birthday cake to a 3-year-old. Believe me, I know from experience, as I missed one for Italy in 1994.
You get the right recipe, go shopping, get all the ingredients together, and you start making that most important of cakes.
One hour later you’d better have a goddamn birthday cake made or somewhere in the house is gonna be a child whose face will crumple from an excited smile into a pained grimace, and that sight is gonna be etched on your consciousness forever.
It’ll be the last thing you see before you die.
When you pull that cake tin out of the oven it had better look good, and that cake had better be edible. That buttercream had better be smooth, not powdery. That cake had better be light and fluffy. It’d better have candles on it.
Otherwise you’ve just been some bloke fucking about making a mess in the kitchen for the afternoon, and you’ve ruined a child’s birthday.
Are you a real man? Are you a real woman?
Do you bake?
Thanks for reading.