Actually neither Mrs Beeton nor Hannah Glasse (whoever she was?) said this about jugging hares, at least according to t’Internet. Mrs B does have a special place in my heart because of old Mrs Wilson, my Mancunian neighbour when I was little. She was a wonderful cook, and when I was about 12 she gave me her copy of Mrs B’s Household Management, 1920-something, complete with instructions for engaging servants, and some amazing adverts for curry powder and kitchen ranges This was cookery on a grand scale where a couple of dozen eggs could disappear into a soufflé, no problem. A few recipes do actually work, with vastly reduced quantities of course, seeing as how I’ve never had to cook for a family of thirteen, even at Xmas.
Him Outdoors has always been interested in cooking, but mainly on the eating side of the process. To be fair he worked longer hours so it made sense for me to do the evening meal so at least he could help put the kids to bed. Later things definitely opened out on the domestic front. He took on Saturday night’s meal, and then a full roast on Sunday. The Christmas meal was a natural extension, where he was (and is) joined by male offspring fighting to show off culinary skills, not unlike a barbecue party? At first we endured overdone steak, lumpy mash, and soggy Yorkshire puds, but gradually HO got the hang of it. Now he takes the lion’s share of cooking, and we eat all the better for it.
Somehow though the washing up has hugely increased. Yes, we have a dishwasher but there’s a limit to what it will take. The sink is perpetually full of colanders, knives, basins, and every imaginable utensil, plus some you won’t be able to imagine. We have now amassed a collection of kitchen equipment that would flummox Jamie Oliver. A spoon to strain quails’ eggs? – there’ll be one in the drawer somewhere. Our collection of sharp-edged implements would make a knife-thrower drool.
HO is a scientific cook: he finds a recipe and follows it to the letter. Everything is weighed, chopped, grated, ground, and put into separate basins before being assembled and cooked. This is how TV chefs operate of course, only they have someone to do all this prep, and the washing up afterwards.
I shouldn’t complain – my humdrum stews have been replaced with more exotic dishes, and because the bar has been raised I try harder when it’s my turn. Our tiny pantry is overflowing with unusual ingredients – star anise (thanks Nigella!) and Pinko crumbs (sorry Panko, basically Paxo breadcrumbs oriental style). The latest addition is Wasabi paste – we’re going through a Japanese phase.
I do feel a bit de-skilled though, and outclassed by someone who doesn’t just chuck whatever into the mix and hope it works. There’s no doubt that careful cooking is more likely to succeed. But of course easier said than done when nappies need changing and help is needed with homework. That’s my excuse anyway, if slightly out of date!
One thing I’ve learnt though, about living with a born-again chef, is keep out of the way when the meal’s in the oven. The sink is bound to be overflowing with washing up.