My eldest son kindly offered to help me cook for a charity dinner party recently. I informed him that I’d be chef and he could be sous chef as my greater culinary experience gave me top dog position. He pointed out that he was six foot and I’m five foot seven in heels. Totally irrelevant, I told him.
My role of sous chef consisted of weighing things, finding bowls, chopping and sweeping up after comments like, ‘Look, there’s a hole in this bag of sugar.’ I was working my socks off (becoming five foot six) knowing that Alex would get all the glory for the creations; no-one said ‘Fantastic! There’s no sugar at all on this floor.’
We found one of the most useless cooking instructions ever: ‘do not overcook’ pertaining to a hot compote of raspberries and strawberries. We had to aim for the mid-point of slightly warm but not done yet and frankly a mulch. Tricky, but luckily required a lot of sampling.
Facing an ambiguous instruction on how cream should be whipped, I followed my gut feeling (which was full, following the compote tasting). Unlucky decision. On meeting the chocolate gunge, the cream formed itself into little balls, so my confection looked like yummy mud with small Ping-Pong balls in it. like. There followed an intense squashing so that the younger kids wouldn’t discover, by the presence of fluffy white balls, that their favourite chocolate torte is made with cream (which they actively dislike) (maybe that’s too strong; only passively dislike). I was trying to avoid a recurrence of the unfortunate gastronomic unveiling experience when my youngest son discovered that ingredient X in Spaghetti Carbonara is a raw egg. He was almost put off eating it, but his stomach overcame disgust, so it’s still a favourite (carbonara, not his stomach). The kids still don’t know what’s in haggis, but doubtless one day will discover the offal truth.
I’d intended to make a modified Baked Alaska, using a pineapple as the base instead of sponge. As I had no recipe for it, I ended up flying by the seat of my pants. The last major example of pant-flight was when I decided to use up everything in the freezer before buying anything more. The curried peas weren’t too bad but the spinach ice cream was interesting in the extreme.
The good thing about having a dinner party is being able to make, thus eat, what you like. Left to my own devices, this would be only puddings plus maybe a cup of really decent coffee. This would avoid the vegetable-generated paediatric kitchen exodus.
We rapidly discovered quite how far icing sugar can spread. We and the kitchen looked as if we’d been covered in a light sprinkling of snow. Clearing it up rapidly, but badly, I ended up with counters that were sticky, but tasted delicious. In the past I’ve been spattered with zabaglione, batter, chocolate cake mix, raw egg: not in a food fight, just cooking with my best friend from university who came along, but luckily didn’t teach such skills to my new chef. Once I’ve wrestled him back into sous chef position I’ll care less. Probably.
Cooking is a great switch off from Medicine, however the day job does have its moments. Patients often tell me how they examine various bits of themselves for early signs of cancer. One gentleman was so keen on this concept that he took to examining his own prostate. An interesting gut feeling.