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I’ve been nesting.

(NB If nesting includes housework, I’ve been too generously interpretive with the artistic licence again. I’ve never been a keen fan of housework – apart from a fastidious approach to my kitchen. I am known to wipe down my kitchen cupboards on a daily to hourly basis. I also practice an aggressively contemporary approach to laundry.

However, a legion of dust-bunnies would have to be annexing the west wing and most of the south and east before I’d apply a duster. One of the main reasons I married Andrew was because he hoovers VOLUNTARILY ENTIRELY OF HIS OWN VOLITION WITHOUT BEING ASKED.

I know: he is A Treasure. Although Andrew thinks it was due to other attributes/charms, I’m pretty sure the hoovering was why I had to beat other women off with a broken Tequila bottle when I first met him.

It’s probably important to reiterate here that this is the sole expression of Andrew’s feminine side. I would like to remind you he also performs extreme car maintenance and once crumpled a beer can against his forehead.

Where was I? Oh, yes: basking in my own smugness.)

When I say ‘nesting’, I mean I’ve been spending a lot of time baking. Much to my shock, Bunqueen recently gave up her powers – without my even having to threaten her with a broken Tequila bottle – when she lent me her book Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston.

The author is a historian whose hobby is cooking, and the book is a compilation of traditional recipes from community newsletters and old cookbooks. Although most of the recipes have a distinctly Kiwi flavour, many of them were staples of my own childhood (perhaps because my parents lived in Australia when they met): shortbread, pavlovas, pikelets, gingerbread biscuits, rock cakes, queen cakes, sponge sandwiches. The book also includes slaver-inducing recipes for Anzac biscuits, afghans, neemish tarts, cinnamon oysters, miracles and custard squares.

According to NZ Women’s Weekly, many people burst into tears upon opening the book. Which makes me seriously question the mental stability of many antipodean people, so let’s move on.

I embarked on a baking bonanza, making ginger crunch (Husband’s request), shortbread, almond macaroons, miracles, queen cakes and ginger kisses. In fact, I have limited interest in the end result. It’s the batter I snort by the dessert-spoonful; and I also love sitting around gazing adoringly at my ginger kisses.

While in Oamaru, I picked up a Sunbeam Snowy ice-cream machine to replace my old Krups, which was leaking freezer fluid into the bowl (lent a disturbing synthetic overtone to frozen desserts). So we’ve also been enjoying Irish coffee, almond praline, and white chocolate and toasted coconut ice-cream.

In case you think all we eat these days is biscuits and ice-cream, we do occasionally eat potatoes and – what are those things again? – oh yes, vegetables. My culinary crusade also embraces homemade pasta and breads; vegetable chili with sour cream and cheese; garlic bread; hot treacle griddle scones with butter and jam; spicy bean burgers with yoghurt and sweet chili; parsnip and potato mash with parsley sauce; spanakopita; Mediterranean rice with toasted almonds; potato bake; pancakes and/or waffles with chocolate sauce, fresh fruit and yoghurt; fettucini with pesto sauce; homemade baked beans; egg mayo sandwiches with watercress on herby Parmesan bread; and Cajun fries with sour cream.

Despite my being 17 weeks pregnant, Andrew and the dog appear to be the only members of the household putting on weight. Really, it is a mystery how I am even in the vicinity of 60kg, never mind remaining stationery.

Unfortunately, this fresh enthusiasm for all things boiled, baked, grilled, toasted, fried or waffled has suffered a couple of setbacks.

The first is that I’ve been having problems with vegetables. Gangs of turnips roaming around graffiting the garage . . . no, sorry, that’s just my imagination. Normally I’ve nothing against vegetables particularly parsnips and any pregnancy book I’ve read somberly stresses the importance of whangin into spinach. Yet there’s absolutely nothing that makes me crave a packet of salt and vinegar crisps like a broccoli floret.

I try to deflect any potential vegetable deficiencies with soups. Also, I had a carrot last week.

The second is that my brain appears to be broken. I used to be proficient at scaling up or down recipes on the fry, usually making 3/4 or 2/3 portions. These days, dividing by 3 yields at least four different answers. The problem is further exacerbated by somehow scaling all but one key ingredient, such that I end up with about four times too much salt or tabasco.

Conversely, I appear to have increased ability to multi-task – which would be useful if I were ever fully aware what I’m actually doing at any point in time. The other day, I flung two teaspoons of yeast and three tablespoons of flour into the bread machine before I realized I’d forgotten to insert the bowl.

I’ve also managed to refer to the opposite page for cooking instructions, resulting in hamburger buns which were – I’d like to go with ‘crusty’ but regrettably for the sake of accuracy it’ll have to be ‘charred to the consistency of calcified coal’.

Unfortunately I’m not an instinctive cook, investing a sort of religious faith in my cookbooks: ‘In the name of the recipe, and of the ingredients, and of the oven temperature preferably in Celsius. AMEN.’ The oven has to be belching fire and brimstone before I smell a- well, anything at all really.

We might be in danger of burning to the ground – but hey! At least we’re not about to starve.

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Comments on: "In the name of the recipe, and of the ingredients, and of the oven temperature preferably in Celsius. AMEN" (11)

  1. deadlyjelly said:

    Oh and by the way, this post of 946 words is for Forest Green, who recently lamented my not posting more frequently.

    x

  2. Ah, the well known ‘broken brain’ pregnancy symptom. Get used to it, it’s here to stay; the only difference after birth is that Hubby will catch it too. I tried to make a Bernaise sauce last night by mixing egg yolks into melted butter. I can’t begin to describe how not recommended that is.

    From now on, I suggest not making anything unless you’ve got an actual printed recipe (merely displayed on screen is not good enough), and make precisely the portions the recipe specifies. If that means cooking for twelve, invite the neighbours round.

  3. First, thank you. This reading of your post made my Sunday!

    Second, I wonder how you make your baked beans. Do you use molasses, which is the tradition in Boston? If so, I’ll share a secret I discovered recently. Substitute maple syrup for the molasses in your recipe. The results are sublime. (Remember, we make maple syrup in large quantities here in Canada.)

    Third, I would like to recommend a new cookbook titled ” I Know How To Cook” which is an updated version of the French classic, “Je sais cusiiner”. Everything you need to know to be a domestic goddess in the kitchen.

    And fouth, I’m afraid the “broken brain” pregnancy symptoms go away just about the time you become sleep-deprived, which explains why hubby will be addled brained after the baby is born. Oh, the joys of parenthood …

  4. First, thank you. This reading of your post made my Sunday!

    Second, I wonder how you make your baked beans. Do you use molasses, which is the tradition in Boston? If so, I’ll share a secret I discovered recently. Substitute maple syrup for the molasses in your recipe. The results are sublime. (Remember, we make maple syrup in large quantities here in Canada.)

    Third, I would like to recommend a new cookbook titled ” I Know How To Cook” which is an updated version of the French classic, “Je sais cuisiner”. Everything you need to know to be a domestic goddess in the kitchen.

    And fouth, I’m afraid the “broken brain” pregnancy symptoms go away just about the time you become sleep-deprived, which explains why hubby will be addled brained after the baby is born. Oh, the joys of parenthood …

  5. Oh, and broccoli florets are one of the least appetising vegetables in existence. I find myself positively craving spinach, to say nothing of carrots, parsnips, onion, cucumber, tomatoes, beans, peas, potatoes, aubergines, capsicums, courgettes, marrow, spring onions, leeks, beetroot, even sprouts… but never in my life have I paused from what I was doing to think “I could murder a broccoli floret right now”.

    (And anchovies. But that’s a side issue, which need not detain us here. Also trout, do you have trout in your rivers down there? because that could satisfy a craving I’ve had since I came to this benighted country.)

  6. deadlyjelly said:

    God, I was hoping pregnancy brain would pass. Thanks for the tip on the recipes Vet; in fact I sit down armed with pen and paper and pre-scale recipes before starting – but I still struggle. Sometimes have to ask Andrew ‘how multiplication works again’.

    It’s ridiculous, especially for someone who studied applied mathematics. It’s like my brain has gone, eh, what d’you need to be able to add for? Use a calculator. Or make the entire recipe.

    I’m surprised at your antipathy towards broccoli florets, although if you substituted ‘brussels sprouts’ I’d be completely with you. That’s about the only foodstuff Andrew and I are fully agreed is pure evil.

    OOOH Forest Green, that recipe for baked beans with molasses/maple syrup sounds INTRIGUING. Would you be able to post it under the comments, or email it to me? The recipe I use – infrequently – is vegan and basically just fried onions with some herbs, beans and canned tomato. It’s just . . . not as inspiring as it should be. Although I think Heinz ruined my taste buds.

    I’ll definitely look up that cookbook, thanks for the tip! I’ve taken to getting cookbooks from the library and reading them like I would a novel. Great way to get to sleep haha.

    x

  7. Reading recipes is cool.

    If you need help to get to sleep, try singing “99 bottles of beer”. Since having a kid, I never get past the ’80’ countdown.

    -S

  8. I got your comment about the chain email. Holy Knob. Thank you for introducing me to that term….

    I completely understand your freak-ed-out-i-ness.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy and good luck throughout. It is a magical, if not bloat-y, time. 🙂 France

  9. I firstly apologize for the lack of swiftness in my response. It is high summer here and so we have been spending our time like this:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150279341592856.358236.790942855&l=17d40178ca&type=1

    The classic New England method of preparing beans is a standard by which other beans are judged. Here is the recipe for Boston Baked Beans:

    2 cups (1/2 L) dried navy beans, small white beans, or Great Northern beans. (We also use pinto, soldier and Jacob’s Cattle beans.)
    about a teaspoon of salt
    1/4 pound (115 g) salt pork (I usually omit this.)
    2 teaspoons dry mustard
    5 tablespoons dark-brown sugar (could be more)
    4 tablespoons molasses (I use about 3/4 of a cup)

    Wash the beans. Soak overnight. Add salt, stir and drain, reserving the liquid Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Cut off a third of the salt pork and place the piece on the bottom of the bean pot. Add the beans to the pot. Blend the mustard, brown sugar, and molasses with the reserved bean liquid and pour over the beans. (It helps if the reserve liquid is hot.) Cut several gashes in the remaining piece of salt pork and place on top of the beans. Cover and bake for about 6 hours, adding water as needed. Uncover for the final hour of coking so the pork will become brown and crisp. (The pork never becomes brown and crisp.) Taste and correct seasoning.

    This is the standard recipe from the classic Fanny Farmer’s Cookbook.

    Recently, I have discovered that if you replace the molasses with maple syrup, you enter an entirely different region of baked bean heaven. To. Die. For.

  10. *sigh* that was supposed to be cooking, not “coking” …

  11. deadlyjelly said:

    FG – Ok, first of all, I FULLY understand why you’ve been distracted recently. Your summer looks amazing and I am totally jealous. Looks like happy times – enjoy!

    Secondly, thanks a million for the baked beans recipe! It’s an awful thing to admit but after so many years believing beans came out of a Heinz can, it’s hard to imagine them in any other flavour/format. I can’t wait to try these though – although will probably hold the salt pork too 😀 Will let you know how I get on.

    x

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