Once again cooking the Christmas cake led to family rows and it was all my fault. For some reason I expect my family to all gather round as we chop the peel and tell jokes, Bing Crosby hands out the sherry and Clare College, Cambridge join in on the songs. Snow gently falls against the window panes and we warm our hands by the fire. I know I’m raising my expectations too high and I have no issue with high standards, it’s just that when they unsurprisingly fail to deliver I’m disappointed. I may be able, somehow, to get one of the most beautiful choirs in Britain to squeeze into my kitchen, I may even be able to raise crooners from the grave but snow? In November? In Cornwall? Some miracles even I can’t perform. The other miracle I can’t perform is to get my boys to stay in the same room for longer than 30 minutes without fighting, then I get crabby and then they get crabbier and Bing Crosby is grabbing his coat and high tailing it out into the rain.
Anyway, by the time the cake was ready to bake I had left it too late, of course that didn’t stop me and in the oven it went. A potentially huge mistake as 2 hours later I really needed to go to sleep and the cake still had a good hour to go. In desperation, I turned the oven down to .5 and went to sleep wondering what I would come down to in the morning. Sometimes though life is on your side, we all woke up to a house smelling of brandy and cloves, fruits and nuts and just the very essence of Christmas.
The reason I’m waffling on about the cake is how important cooking is in a family. My youngest son’s school had a baking day last week. Virtually the whole day was set aside to make bread. In the morning they looked at grains and considered the role of grain within an economy and looked at the historical development of different grains around the world. Then they set to grinding some and then they started baking. Baking was treated as a science lesson, they experimented with chemical reactions and learnt about live cultures and how they work, they also experimented with the physical properties of an oven and temperature and they looked at the biological impact of bread as a food source upon the body. All day long the top three year groups worked together, mixing, kneeding and baking and every child brought home their own loaf of bread. It was so delicious that it barely lasted till tea time. This was in a primary school where they have greater flexibility with how they run their school day or their curriculum.
Contrast it with my older son in secondary school. In the first year his cookery lessons seemed to be all about assemblage. Create a salad, create a fruit salad, design a sandwich. It was not edifying. This year he has been allowed to approach the ovens but not for long. Every offering that the poor boy has brought home has been undercooked. You can see his frustration as he comes in and tells us not to bother eating it as he had to take it out before it was ready. It’s maddening but the way I look at it is that at least he knows it’s undercooked. I’m not impressed with the current education system and the fact that my sons are currently having to go through it makes me even more unimpressed which is why I try to get them involved in as much cookery as possible at home. The problem is I may end up killing them first.