It’s been a long time since my last chaotic cocoa bean and culinary catastrophe and although I have enjoyed some chocolaty tryptophan highs, I have to confess to a selection box of fudging gastronomic lows where I’ve managed to make a complete sticky chocolate pudding of myself and not told a soul – until now.
”Hey, I’m here, can you bring the food outside?”
Nearly twenty years ago I went to my friend's home for a visit. As he opened the front door, I
was met with a wonderful aroma that wafted up to my nose “What’s that smell?” I enquired.
“Are you cooking or is it the Misses?”. “Oh it’s me” my friend Eddie answered. “Really, what are
you cooking, it smells great?” “It’s my Creole Chicken, come on through and I’ll show you how
it’s done". So I followed him into his kitchen and sat myself down on top of a tall white stool.
“Right Albert, get comfy, I’m going to show you exactly how to cook ‘Creole Chicken’ using my
grandma’s secret recipe”. “I’m comfy, but you’ll write down the ingredients for me when you’ve
done, if that’s okay, not sure I'll remember” “Well, we’ll see because I don’t tell anyone, not the wife, the kids, family
or friends; nobody knows what seasoning goes in; I’ll have to kill you if you find out, I’m only
joking. “Oh, I’m glad to hear that! I could sit in the lounge with the kids until you’ve done” I
suggested. “No, no it’ll be okay. Albert, you will be the first person on planet earth that I’ve told,
let alone shown how to cook it. I don’t know why but I feel led to share it with you, but you have
not to tell anyone, not even your misses”. “Okay, I won’t” I answered.
I grew up in a large single-parent family. My mother cooked a lot of mackerels but never salmon because mackerels were cheaper and could be stretched further in a stew to feed ten children. Therefore, I never had salmon cakes when I was growing up. After the children grew up and left that southern country town, my siblings learned to make salmon cakes, but I never gave it a thought until recently. I heard them talking about how good salmon cakes are.
The past week has been one of the most heart heavy, stressful weeks in my 23 years of living. As a black woman, today's news stories have continued to affect me mentally in negative ways as more and more information is brought to light on the current police state we seem to be living in.
Back in November 2019, when the coming COVID crisis was in its infancy and hadn't yet impacted the entire world, I manned a booth at a community festival. Across the makeshift aisle from me, a local artist named Jeremy Smith was carving a turkey as onlookers watched in wonder. They weren't hungry, and the turkey wouldn't have provided much sustenance if they were. That's because it was crafted from a pumpkin.
Quarantine has taught me a lot of things and cooking appears to be one of them.
As the UK enters lockdown for the eighth week, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on our everyday lives, therefore, it is important we maintain high spirits and support each other and our local communities as much as possible. As non-essential stores remain closed until further notice, there is little we can do to help with this reality. However, for those small local shops and convenience stores that continue to provide us with our essential items and necessities, there are steps put in place to help support their success during this tough time.
My grandmother was a wise woman. She had many sayings, among them “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” and this one:
I think the story is more about life than bread but baking sourdough saved my life.
As a child I would often visit my "vecchio uomo". I was not related to him, but he was mine and I was his, from about 3pm to 5pm on weekdays while my parents worked. I loved the smell of his house and the way the aromas from his garden mixed so well with his very very cheap cologne. We had fun together we really did. He taught me the basics about cooking. I should have been doing math homework which is what my parents payed him to help me with, but together through the power of food we were able to get something done with that math.
I don't know a lot about baking and I've never made donuts myself, but I'd say I'm a pretty good judge of a good donut. Let's be honest, it's not that hard to be. What is hard is to score higher on my personal donut meter than a Marvel's Market donut.