If there is one thing that I cannot abide. If only there was but one thing, rather than the extensive and ever growing catalogue of things that I cannot abide: but that is not the case. The furnace of my intolerance was stoked and inflamed, yesterday, by being “helped” in the kitchen by an incompetent. Such a person acting as your right hand, in an environment of fire and knives, makes the dreadful behaviour of chefs towards their underlings seem totally reasonable. Focus and concentration are primary requisites, if there is to be any hope of success, when one undertakes the creation of several recipes simultaneously.
If those ingredients are missing or worse still, present in a lesser quantity than is required, then there is little chance of success. Much as I cajoled, encouraged and chivvied my “helper” it seemed apparent, from an early stage, that he was an admirer of the King Alfred school of cookery in which dreaming transcends creaming. I’m not sure how acute were Alfred’s kingly attributes, but history would have us believe that his baking ability was more incendiary that intoxicating. He believed in brulée and I found myself entering into his world early on in the day. Sliced apples, sugar and a tablespoon of water cantered past the sweet purée stage, accelerated away from the chance of being accepted as a caramelised apple confection and rushed headlong into a blackened, carbonised crust that threatened the very future of the saucepan. My Alfredian assistant assiduously applied himself to the refurbishment of the encrusted pan whilst the water rapidly evaporated in another pan that sat on the blazing hob, containing some finely sliced carrots, butter, sugar and less and less water per nanosecond. He was unwittingly creating a continuum in which as one pan was rigorously renovated another was, simultaneously, being reduced to a smouldering ruin.
The screaming, smoke, fire and heat was now reminiscent of a normal day in a mediaeval torture chamber. As the world around us burned and steamed, busy hands were creating more mayhem. Blades whirred in the food processor combining sugar, egg, butter and flour in a proportion that normally creates the basis for a thin, sweet and crisp pastry case. But yesterday’s alchemy produced a thick, sweet, sticky blanket that would have been useful for mending a leaking roof but less attractive in its intended use as the base of a tarte au citron. The ever helpful assistant, having whisked together the lemony tart filling, then put the disaster in the oven. It was around that moment that I pointed out to him the pot of cream, that was so essential to the lemony filling, that remained unopened on the work top. We have established that Tolerance is not my middle name. If my name was so long that it would need a line stretching from here to eternity on which to write it, the word Tolerance would not be in the middle, at the beginning nor at the end. It would be absent. I had had enough and I left the kitchen in that loftiest of vehicles, high dudgeon. That act left the kitchen empty.