I am a lifelong pessimist, unfortunate but true. I like to think of it as a protection, it means that I don’t get my hopes up and therefore, am rarely disappointed. If I think about it more carefully, I think actually a more accurate description would be ‘realist’. I like to take a realistic attitude. Because whilst I set my own sights low, I can see the good. Sometimes. For example, I always look for the good in other people, I am tolerant and even go as far as to be excusing when it seems appropriate.
I’m one of those curiously perverse people who always has to take the opposite side to any debate, if you want to argue that something is bad, if you want to believe that something is bad, then I will be taking good’s corner. It’s just the way I am. Perhaps it’s a reflection of my own strong sense of balance and justice. I hate it when people only see one side of an argument. And I hate it even more when people insist that theirs is only one side to their coin. (The downside is that making decisions is ridiculously difficult, I can see all the pros and cons, in pretty equal ratios too).
Not only that but. because of husband’s health, I find myself quite often being a one-man-band cheerleading squad (being resident in this particular country means that I know little of the sport except in a metaphorical sense), geeing him up every time that there’s a setback. There’s been a few, you know.
Then there’s that stubborn streak of mine, not only does it occasionally make me mulish (possibly my perversity in choosing a debate side is evidence of that too) but it gives me a lot of strength and determination, incorrigible comes to mind as does resilient. Resilient is probably a better fit. I bounce back. I don’t know how or why. I just seem to find the strength most of the time to get up and start fighting again. I guess that’s a good thing.
For the first time in I don’t know how many blue moons (they’re a real thing, did you know?), we baked for fun yesterday. I say ‘we’ because I do still need a galley-slave for the more strenuous processes (but saying that, I did manage to use the food chopper myself yesterday for the first time in I don’t know how long) and because husband is also starting to enjoy the preparing stages too. (Me being me though as soon as I saw how much cake we had and knowing how much cake two people should eat, I went and shared it to some friends in need).
Husband doesn’t believe in substitutions, he thinks it’s messing up the recipe and me just being a little too wildly creative and hopeful. Not being big-headed or anything but I am starting to get the science of baking just a little and understand many of the ‘rules’ and substitute not just with hope but with knowledge and appreciation of the chemistry. Things are a little tight in our stores at the moment, which is actually why we ended up baking. If there’s nothing to eat but cake ingredients, let them eat cake. We’ve run out of self-raising flour, which is indeed a significant indicator of the dire state of matters. I told him to get plain flour out and baking powder. There was a brief riot. But it worked. It worked! We ended up with a very tasty ginger and almond cake. (The result of several other substitutions). Very moreish. And crying out for pouring cream.
Even more miraculously, we successfully made fudge. For reasons that we have never yet fathomed, we cannot make fudge. We’ve tried all sorts of recipes and they’ve all failed miserably. But there was a picture in my book of some beautifully firm, glossy, yummy looking fudge and I couldn’t resist. So I turned it into a mystery bake because I knew that husband would not be overly amenable to another fudge experiment. We only added half the sugar the recipe called for because there was no physical way that we could possibly incorporate anymore. And my chocaholic husband announced that he isn’t actually that keen on chocolate fudge. As the Americans say, go figure. I toasted the almonds and warmed the raisins in a little vodka (no rum, sadly) for a little something extra. It’s good stuff. And because we ran of out of dark chocolate (I told you, this really is crisis point), we had to make the weight up in white, there are curious white streaks throughout. But it’s good stuff.
Now if you live in bagel-land you may be surprised by my burning desire to make bagels. I was spurred on by the distant memory of some fruit bagels (you know my mania for turning all foods pink and pink isn’t even my colour) that I had ate in bagel-land. If we can make bagels, we could have a cornucopia of flavours readily available and for an awful lot cheaper. Bagels are expensive here. I like bagels. I like them bagel-land-style with cream cheese. Not butter as in toasted teacakes and local mores. (Actually, worse, it’s usually margarine round here). Yesterday we took the plunge.
They didn’t exactly turn out as planned. Think cheese straw without the cheese and bagel-shaped. Now thick, bagel-shaped cheese straws without the cheese aren’t exactly appetising. We discovered, quickly. I don’t know exactly what went wrong and where. I don’t know to blame the recipe or our technique. I’ve never even made cheese straws.
But do you know what the most remarkable thing about this baking disaster is?
I can cope.
I took a risk and dared to fail.
And even when it went pear-shaped, I bounced back.
I don’t see those strange, crusty, inedible things as a failure. I’m seeing it as a step to progress. I can learn from it, I can grow from it, I can get better from it.
(Maybe I am just delusional).
I’m not even worried about the waste of precious ingredients. We tried, we gave it our best shot and it didn’t work.
There is no bitter taste of failure, no dismal doubt, no harsh self-criticism. The Voice is silent.
And there’s always ginger cake to eat.
(But I don’t recommend chocolate fruit and nut fudge for breakfast).
If anyone has any hints or a tried and tested recipe for bagels, I will gladly accept. I may have lost the battle but I am planning to win the war.
The entire lyrics may not exactly be kosher but these lines say it best:
I get knocked down but I get up again
You’re never gonna keep me down
I get knocked down but I get up again
Oh, and two spoonfuls of medicine also do wonders. I don’t even know myself.