Marge and LMS were making bread this morning. Put in your mind ‘The Great British Bake Off’, (GBBO) where methodology is informed by knowledge and an air of calm determination fills the tent. Well, until the bakers realise that they’ve run out of time, that is. Now put that out of your mind, I was simply messing with you. As indeed they were with me when I was awoken by my favourite sound in the universe – the click of a kettle having just boiled – and LMS knocked on my door to ask if I wanted a cup of tea. In the pantheon of pointless questions, asking me first thing in the morning if I want a cup of tea is up there with do you think Boris’s Johnson will ever exude the air of a man with all the details on the tip of his tongue. I heard the water being introduced to the cup and then nothing. They had a bag of ready mix sourdough bread mix to hand and after tipping the contents into a bowl LMS was immediately confronted with the age-old conundrum of when exactly is lukewarm water lukewarm?
LMS thought I should be the judge of this and came into my room, holding the Pyrex jug outstretched in the same way a priest holds aloft the communion wine for the congregation to bear witness to the miracle of it becoming the blood of Christ. Which he then drinks. No-one thinks this odd, nobody ever stands up and says “There are children here, and your drinking the blood of Christ and a few seconds earlier you were eating his body, like it’s a perfectly OK thing to do!” No, they just sit there expectantly, knowing in a couple of minutes they too can become cannibals and eat the body of Christ. That’s actually what the priest says to you, after you open your mouth and stick out your tongue for him to put the communion wafer on, he says “The body of Christ”
I’d worked out that religion was just nonsense, and had decided at the age of ten, that if my parents were going to make me go to church, I’d much rather be on stage than in the audience. So I became an altar boy, which proved to be a source of great fun for my brother, who would sit in the front row, position himself directly in my sight line and try to make me laugh. Mum and Dad, sitting beside him, were as oblivious to this as they were to the eerie similarity between the congregation at a church service reciting prayers en-masse, and the thousands at Nazi party rallies frenziedly chanting ‘Heil Hitler’. I’d been doing ‘A’ level History so this seemed an entirely reasonable connection to make. Shortly after that I read Darwin and you can guess the rest.
But back to today and my tea languishing half made in a kitchen whilst LMS tips the possibly lukewarm water into the sink and starts again. And I’m thinking ‘If there’s this much disagreement over what exactly is lukewarm water, this doesn’t exactly bode well for the more complicated bits.’ So it proved, as LMS tipped the ready mix into a bowl and began adding the water and after a few seconds mixing the two together, declared it done.
Not as done as the people who pay £5 for a loaf of bread. Maybe its me, maybe I weren’t brung up all proper like, but to me sourdough bread is a triumph of marketing over reason, I just look at a loaf of sourdough bread, think of all the ingredients, the cost of all them and I think ‘There’s no way that cost more than 50p to make, so how can you possibly justify charging £5 for one. Oh, you mean there’s a story. That makes all the difference. Why didn’t you say so earlier? That people can tell all their friends that the baker sources his dough from a remote Sicilian mill that uses only a special type of wheat and is ground using by the hands of local virgins under a full moon. And that the bread is baked in an oven heated by all the hot air generated by the baker’s social media followers. They’ll be so impressed that it makes paying £5 for a loaf of bread seem like a bargain!’
Meanwhile my tea is languishing half made in the kitchen still, I mean we don’t have a still in our kitchen, we don’t brew our own moonshine in there, although the smells that sometimes emanate from the kitchen might explain that. No, the tea is still half made and my bedroom door is half open, meaning I can’t get out of bed without potentially committing an act of gross indecency. What trumps what? No, not another allegation of sexual impropriety by the US President, but does tea take precedence over every other concern? Silly question. Of course it does!
Using a combination of carefully positioned duvet and speed, I was able to effect myself into the kitchen at which point some milk was added to the tea and handed to me – the sugar having been added some several minutes previously. Any fanciful notions of enjoying my first cup of tea of the day in silence were soon covered in flour by LMS who had decided to continually add flour to kneading proceedings, much to Marge’s displeasure. The kneading part of things had just started when it seemed to be over. LMS showed me the result, pulling the dough apart so much so that it resembled Boris’s Johnson in a hall of mirrors. “Is it meant to look like that?” she asked. All my experience of the GBBO meant there could only be one answer, “No.”, said I, quickly followed by Marge calling out from the kitchen, “That really isn’t helping. Please keep your comments to yourself.”
I was on the way out to the garden anyway and I reflected as I basked in the quiet that Marge had been emboldened by last nights culinary success, courtesy of ‘The Roasting Tin’, which isn’t a shed used by Premier League football players for sexual activities of the tabloid and possibly criminal kind, but a cookbook full of meal ideas where you put everything in one tin and roast it. Her cousin Emily has enjoyed great success with it, she told us, before imparting the less welcome news there are now others in the range. “There’s a vegetarian one!” she exclaimed and quite why she though this would be of interest to me is anyone’s guess. Again, maybe it’s me, maybe I weren’t brung up all proper like, but I’m always a bit suspicious of a plate of food in front of me that doesn’t have any meat on it. If other people are fine with that, good, more meat for the rest of us. It’s just when people get right on my wick about it. Like a few years ago, Marge hosted a dinner party to introduced person A to person B. One of the guests was a vegan, so we all had to suffer the hell that is vegan food. I mean in the right hands I’m sure vegan food is great and everything but I resented having the choice being taken away from me. Not that I would’ve eaten vegan food, my first experience of it was bad enough. I was in a café with Marge. ‘They do peanut butter flapjacks.’ she said. My excitement lasted until the first mouthful. It tasted of worthiness and smugness.
Eventually the bread was ready and I remarked to Marge that LMS should’ve charged her 50p a slice for it to be proper sourdough bread. But it was good though.