toast and marmalade, please

do excuse the crumbs. and the sticky fingers. it’s breakfast time here and time for a long foregone ritual of toast and marmalade.

I am an intermittent marmalade maker. a few years back in a fit of enthusiasm I made several batches which since I am the only person in the family who ate it on a regular basis would be enough to last me for some time. the dusty lidded jar I have just opened is labelled ‘Batch No 3, 2010’. I am now casting my mind back to when I made it. I don’t think I was at full tilt boozing at that point. in many ways that was quite a happy time of my life when I was still making time to do things I enjoyed, like making marmalade, and going to the Pilates class as mentioned in my last post.

(excuse me. second slice I think. back in a mo.)

ok, where was I?

oh yes, on doing things I enjoy. another of which is reading. I had pretty much stopped eating hot buttered toast with marmalade because it was ‘too fattening’ (but I could sink 750 – 1000 calories of wine every night?) my book buying habit had fallen by the wayside too because it was ‘too expensive’ (but I was spending how much a week on wine? shudder).

Very much like an over-controlling boyfriend, Wolfie had shouldered every last little alternative pleasure out of my life. in those checklists of ‘are you an alcoholic?’ after ‘are you hiding wine bottles?’ and ‘are you concealing your consumption from your nearest and dearest?’ perhaps they should add ‘have you given up everything else that gives you any enjoyment whatsoever?’

right, book review time. with some of the vast clinking bags of cash I have stacked up in every corner now I’ve stopped drinking (ha fucking ha, I wish) I have been doing a leetle book buying recently, including a magical book by Emma Bridgewater, ‘Toast and Marmalade and Other Stories.’

If you don’t know of Emma Bridgewater, she runs a highly successful British pottery business making chunky earthenware china with jolly colourful designs. The book is a collection of biographical essays which skip about through her life, referring to her early influences, and discussing details of setting up and running the business.

I have a few bits and bobs of her pottery but am by no means a collector or a ‘fan’. however I cannot praise this book highly enough for the evocative prose, beautiful photographs, and the fascinating details about the business balanced with the importance of family life shining through very clearly. For example in one chapter on how to balance work and family she gives some great insights, such as ‘buy more sofas because what you really need is somewhere to sit down, for heaven’s sake’ and ‘get an alibi – invent a hobby if you don’t already have one, as a cover story for sloping off and pleasing yourself for a while.’ although my favourite is definitely ‘drop your domestic standards’. way ahead of you on that one, Emma!

Here’s an extract of her describing the visit of a family friend, Ken, to Emma’s childhood home.

‘As I write this, in a cafe in Norfolk 35 years on, I can vividly picture a typical Sunday morning scene in the Oxford kitchen: my brother Tom is eating a small mixing bowl of Shreddies with brown sugar and milk, in the crumby spot where my little sisters, Nell and Clover, had toast fingers and boiled eggs earlier. My stepfather, Rick, is wheedling me –

‘Oh, go on Em, make me some more fried eggs, and a bit of toast, and ketchup, yum.’

Mum is drinking milky coffee and yawning rather a lot. Drawn by the smell of Rick’s huge fry-up, Ken comes in, leaving his current glamorous girlfriend upstairs, having promised to bring her tea. He is making a beeline for the bread, which has just come out of the the oven, cuts some rather fragile slices and ferries them to the grill.

‘Char,’ (it sounds Shar) ‘your bread is amazing, but toasted, it is even better,’ he sighs.

I offer to watch it for him, so he carefully chooses a plate from the pile on the dresser and a knife from the drawer underneath, and fussocks about looking for marmalade. It is in a huge brown stoneware pot, so he doesn’t immediately spot it. Mum has just been making large quantities of deep, dark gold marmalade, as she does every February, using as little sugar as possible plus a few spoonfuls of black treacle, and between us we eat so much in a year that she doesn’t usually have enough jam jars, so she also fills other more eccentric containers, such as this.

When the toast is ready, Ken butters it lavishly and spoons on as much marmalade as he can fit onto each mouthful. It’s impossible not to want the same, so I make more toast, and more again. The combination of new brown bread, toasted, still warm, with the melted butter mixing into the golden-brown syrupy marmalade with its big, rough chunks of orange peel, is unbeatably delicious.’

Which is why I am having toast and marmalade for breakfast this morning πŸ™‚

Another thing I used to do in the marmalade making, Pilates going days was to make my own bread on a regular basis. In a breadmaker, I hasten to add, not in any earth goddessy uber demanding way. with a breadmaker the most hassly thing is not losing the little paddle thingummy whilst washing up. the breadmaker has been sitting forlornly in a cupboard for several years, waiting like Sleeping Beauty for me to fight through the hedges of thorns and brambles of my own self-neglect. so tonight I will haul it out, set it up (must buy yeast today) and when I come down tomorrow morning the house will be full of the smell of new made bread. mmmm. shall I save you a slice?

because sometimes ‘being true to myself’ means being more patient with my kids – but it also sometimes means making homemade bread and marmalade.

In other news, a little blog celebration is in order. I am five months sober today πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚
and I know here is the only place where I will get a parade. which is fine. no, really, I mean it. it is fine, and not “FINE!” *stomping off in huff emoticon*

no-one else gets it like you guys because you are there/have been there yourselves. couldn’t do this without you, lovelies. thanks. so here’s my parade (with apologies to Lucy for the musical content!)

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