Sometimes I see men struggling with what should be simple tasks and can’t help but think, ‘your incompetence is making the rest of us look bad’. Theo and I went to the National Theatre last week to see ‘This House’. The two women sitting in front of us had two spaces between them and as the start of the play approached they began to talk to each other anxiously. With minimal manoeuvring I was able to lean and listen in. Turns out they had given their husbands their own tickets and headed inside to find their seats. This was about 15 minutes ago. 2 minutes before the play starts both men sidle in. Their explanation? They managed to go to the wrong theatre (there are several in the National Theatre complex). A mistake yes, but just about an understandable one. The women give their husbands withering looks, and all is forgiven. Then one of the men passes his wife something. ‘Oh, here. I did manage to buy you a programme.’ This time a pitying look from his wife. ‘This is a programme for a different play, dear’. However, when it came to last week’s afternoon of bread roll making, I will concede that it was I who was letting the team down. Although I enjoy bread making, I’ve never really bothered with the whole shaping it into pretty things, and so my knowledge of Staffordshires as opposed to Rosettes is limited. (According to Wikipedia, the Staffordshire knot is actually incorrect terminology, and the knot is in fact the Stafford knot.)
Now, the plait I have an excuse for. The teacher warned us that in her experience, women tended to be better at plaiting, and this did seem to be true. However, my other shaping wasn’t really any better. The shaping of the rolls involved first rolling the dough into long thin sausages and then knotting and twisting and so on. Unfortunately, all my dough ‘sausages’ were different thicknesses, which meant that once the rolls had proved they resembled a thin person wearing a belt who has then got very fat without letting out the belt. The rolls were not a success.
I would like to take this opportunity however to point out that equilibrium between the sexes returned to normal on the weekend when Perry announced that she had been forced to buy a new campus card because she had hole-punched hers. I assumed this was an accident, but no, it was an intentional ‘punching’, that went unintentionally through the scanning strip.
Another of the week’s failures came about in our lesson on how to turn very big pieces of food into very small pieces of food. Also known as turning potatoes (or any vegetable for that matter). This basically consists of using a turning knife, oddly enough, to shape the potatoes into small barrel shapes . We were advised to go home, buy a bag of potatoes each and spend our weekend practising . Luckily someone has suggested a ‘potato turning party’, which I eagerly await.
Besides that, most of the week’s cooking was pretty successful. I was particularly pleased with my lemon meringue pies, but we also made crème renversee au caramel (I’m not going to fight with Word to put accents in the right place, you’ll have to use your imaginations), compote of pears in red wine and almond pasted our fruit cakes. My attempt at surreptitiously drinking the poaching liquid of the pears (red wine, sugar and cinnamon reduced down) was foiled by the fact that I spilled said liquid all down my front in the process.
Although my favourite dish of the week had to be poireaux au gratin, which is just leeks in a cheese sauce. It wasn’t that it tasted particularly good, I was just pleased to find out that poireaux can also mean ‘warts’ (although I have misplaced my French dictionary so am happy to be corrected).