Saturday, February 28, 2009

Actual Men vs. Gingerbread Men

I'm waiting for something. I don't want blog about it but it means a lot to me. And the waiting is making my heart race and my toes tense. I should go and distract myself with something fun and comforting. Makes me think of being a kid and making gingerbread with my Mum. We made a gingerbread house for Christmas once, and we had cutters in the shape of (among other things) a giraffe, an elephant, a star, a four-leaf clover and, of course, a heart... *sigh*

We also had one that looked like Alfred Hitchcock (I thought so, anyway) and, of course, the regulation Boy shape and Girl shape. I remember being miffed that the Girl shape was defined by her skirt and I insisted that, actually, the one wearing trousers could be a boy OR a girl. I didn't quite get to conceptualising boys in skirts but I guess that's something even the most avant-garde of fashion designers can't seem to make into a workable trend. I could start a boys-wearing-skirts-revolution with my gingerbread baking and decorating! And then eat them all up! *evil laugh*

Okay, I distracted myself.

Gingerbread (in any anti-heteronormative shape you desire)
from The Rose Bakery cookbook (that lovely bright green one from Paris).

125g unsalted butter, softened
90g brown sugar
3 tablespoons molasses
1 egg, beaten
370g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice

Beat the butter with the sugar and molasses until light and well mixed.

Add the egg, then fold in the flour and the other dry ingredients. sifted together. The mixture should come together easily. If it is too wet, add a little more flour; if it is too dry, add one more egg.

Put the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
(I think I should do this also.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line a tray with baking paper. Roll out dough on a floured surface until about 5mm thick. Cut into desired shapes and place on prepared tray.

This is where I add decorations like currents for eyes, buttons etc; glace cherries for mouths and garish jewellery; hundreds-and-thousands for decorative, non-gender specific clothing etc.

Bake 10 - 15minutes until slightly firm and then cool on tray. Then you can add piped icing if you wish...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lovely dinner.

Today it is nine years since my father died.  Year after year I find that the simple fact of the repeated date has the disconcerting effect of snapping me back in time.  The intervening years seem to compress and fade and I am back in the day, the moment, the shock, the grief.

I guess we are programmed by date from a very early age - birthdays, Christmas, Friday the 13th.  I heard a terrible story recently of someone who found out at 16 that his parents had got the date wrong all these years and he had been celebrating his birthday a day late.  It makes a mockery of the whole thing if you do all the rituals on the wrong day, doesn't it? 

Today was sad but it was also a chance to stop and remember without shying away from the pain and some dear friends remembered too and made an effort to tell us they were thinking of us.  That helps.  It's nice not having to explain why today, particularly, I feel sad.  Such anniversaries are public license for emotion and faltering a little as you 'get on' with the stuff of life that fills all the other days.  

And my Mum and I made a small but rich celebration of it.  Linguine marinara for me, 'coin' pasta (large, round discs, homemade) with a rich, red sauce for her, rucola and parmesan salad in the middle and some sharp, clean pinot grigio.  Then coffee and a shared pistachio tart with pear poached in rose`.  It went perfectly with the 'remember when?' and  'remember how?' and the love for a very good man.  It was sad, but lovely.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feeling miserable but this image helps.

Is there anything a good shoe fetish can't do? 

Comfort needed ASAP

It's been an awful five days in Victoria.  The direct effects of the worst natural disaster in Australian history are mostly unfathomable for this urbanite sitting comfortably in Melbourne, but the proximity of death and destruction has made for many tears, much hand-wringing and a sombre mood.  

I am always struck by how action - having something TO DO - is what one craves in a crisis and, unable to do anything of any actual benefit to the victims last Sunday as the shocking news broke, I did something weirdly comforting albeit ridiculously trite.  I made pancakes for my mother and me.  I flipped and we ate, I flipped again and we ate more and we watched one horror story after another.  The death toll rose and the fires still burned.  Doughy, buttery, warming and covered in sugary maple syrup it seemed both crass and obvious.  We cried and ate and wondered what else to do. 

Comfort food is important.  I heard on the radio that cake was going down a treat at the hastily convened meeting places for victims, emergency aid workers and assembled media.  I want to bake madly for them all but I know at the moment I'd be more trouble than help if I turned up in a danger zone with a back seat full of sponge cake.  I think I'll do some serious cooking and foisting food on those around me over the weekend though.  I think Nigella will help.

Toast, porridge, risotto, spaghetti bolognese, apple crumble, crumpets, piklets, rice pudding, cupcakes...  what are the foods that bring you comfort?