Monday, 21 September 2015


BLAME the explosion of foodie programmes on TV. The cacophony of celebrity chefs, vying for attention across the airwaves.
Or the recent recession, when we retreated to our kitchens to perfect our pasta and dazzle with our desserts.
Baking hasn't been this cool since the invention of the food mixer. And not just among Stepford hopefuls. Everyone, it seems, wants a slice of the culinary action.
In our family, it's the youngest. For him (he's quick to point out that all the 'best chefs' are men!) the equation is very simple. He likes to eat. I refuse to buy sweet treats. Call me mean. I prefer to think I'm encouraging innovation. Just not mine. 
So the boy learned to bake. In a single summer, he went from zero to hero at the stove, churning out trayfuls of yummy stuff at a dizzying rate.
Many a morning, I would arrive down for breakfast just as a dozen muffins were being lifted from the oven. As for his shortbread, I freely admit I'm jealous.
When my children were little I used to bake two things: banana bread and shortbread. Banana bread was a no-brainer for somebody who didn't enjoy baking. The smug satisfaction of using up overripe fruit, that would otherwise be binned, was bettered by the fact that I could empty all the ingredients into a bowl AT THE SAME TIME and just mix for Ireland. Throw in a few chocolate chips and I was the best mammy on the street. According to my three adoring fans.
Shortbread took longer. Much longer. I would spend hours crumbling the mixture into perfect crumbs, then rolling it, cutting it, baking it. Willing it to be light. 
The boy can produce over two dozen melt-in-your-mouth shortbread in exactly 30 minutes. Far as I'm concerned, the job's his.
A friend of mine is a professional chef. She runs her own catering company, and from her modest kitchen, manages to turn out mouth watering food for vast numbers. My lack of baking prowess baffles her, although she's too nice to say it.
When her own 20-something daughter had a birthday last week, the fact that she lives abroad, didn't prevent her mother from making her a cake. When it was ready, she Skyped her and lit the candles!
Hundreds of miles away, her daughter 'blew' out her candles, while back home, her mother made sure they were extinguished. Then her mother cut the cake and took a bite.
'You eating my cake, Mum?' her daughter asked, laughing.
'It's delicious,' said her mum. 'Enjoy your night out with your boyfriend. I'll have your slice as well!'
When I tell one of my own daughters this story, she looks horrified.
'If I ever move abroad, you are Fedexing my cake to me for my birthday! I can't eat virtual food!'
'Yes love,' I say.
'And speaking of birthdays, you haven't forgotten that mine is next week, have you?'
'No, of course not.' I smile. Her gift is already bought.
'You know what I'd love? A huge three tier triple chocolate cake!' She starts to laugh at the expression on my face. But when you're a teenager, a birthday isn't complete without a cake.
I envision a new challenge for our junior chef.

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