Before I begin, can I just say that my blog's change in appearance is entirely accidental. Blogger and I had a falling out and the current layout is the unhappy compromise. When I get chance and appropriate assistance, I'll readdress it. And now on to business.
My kitchen is full of cookery books. They are all beautiful in their own ways. The spine of my Delia Complete Course, a book that has been with me since I left home, has split and it always falls open on Yorkshire Pudding because, try as I might, I can never remember the proportion of water to milk. Others have pages gummed together with golden syrup and a few have handwritten notes scribbled in the margin where I have converted the quantities of ingredients to fit a particular baking tin.
My mum was a cookery teacher and whilst I have no memories of standing at her knee stirring things or family recipes being passed down verbally like some celebrity food writers claim to have, I did leave home with a basic understanding of food science which has enabled me to stray from recipes and still achieve acceptable results.
I used to pass whole evenings reading my favourite volumes. Some of them have beautiful prose styles as well as interesting recipes. I used to discuss meals with like minded friends and we would try out ideas that caught our attention and then compare notes as to the degree of success that we achieved.
Have you noticed how this whole post is written in the past tense? Somewhere in the last ten years or so cooking has gone from a favourite hobby to a chore. I used to build a Charlotte from scratch, painstakingly applying the hand baked and sliced sponge around the edge. Now, on the odd occasions that I make a proper pudding, Eton Mess is the order of the day. No care required. Just bang it all in a bowl and mix.
Every so often, usually after we have been on holiday, I take my favourite books down from the shelves and scan the pages for tasty meals that the whole family could enjoy together. I decide that I will introduce my children to the delights of moussaka, or calamari or a pasta sauce that isn't red. But it never lasts long. I can't seem to rediscover that boundless enthusiasm that I once had for the choosing and preparation of food.
It is such a reversal in behavior that I have given quite some thought as to why this might be. Firstly, I suspect that whilst spending my Saturday afternoon chopping and stirring over a cheeky glass of wine and then producing a meal that is savoured as a precursor to an early night no longer fits my life style. Producing 21 meals a week for six and various hangers on sort of takes the pleasure out of it.
Then there's the shopping. If I am to stray from the 6 or so meals that I make week in week out, I need to be organised. I have to plan ahead, choose a recipe, write down the ingredients, buy them and then cook them before they go off in my fridge. Too much like hard work in and amongst all the other stuff I'm afraid. I fly round the supermarket like a woman possessed so I can get in and out as fast as is humanly possible. I buy the same stuff and that way we always have something to eat, even if it's not always terribly inspiring.
And finally, I hate to moan but if I cook anything new no one but my husband will eat it and so I end up shouting about starving children in Africa and then throwing it away.
And so, in my own defence, it is hardly surprising that cookery no longer holds the same attractions for me. I hope against hope that one day I will again play with olives or make marinades but until that day my books stay on the shelves gathering dust and calling down to me about how inadequate a housewife I am!! It's chilli for tea tonight. Again.