That mice should ever have been laying plans is surprising, but less surprising to hear that those plans often went awry. No place for smugness here: do we humans need reminding of our own best laid plans? So, in the search for well laid plans, we need to look outside the realm of mice and men, and that goes for well made pastry and tarte tatin. In the aftermath of my latest, perfectly laid, cookery plans, I cannot decide whether I am a man or a mouse, but that narrow option is the breadth of my possible choices, because there is no question that those best laid plans had gang hopelessly agley.
It had all begun so well. Sunlight, music and sparkling wit filled the kitchen, thanks to the services of the Almighty and Radio 4. Cosseted in this harmonious atmosphere, I processed through the steps of a clever and well researched recipe, attentive to each command, filled with the confidence of one who knows that right is on his side. Reminiscent of a keen eyed kamikaze pilot, my eyes skimmed across the page, reading and absorbing the words of experience that flowed from the pen of Patricia Wells. ” If you are like me ” she wrote “the urge will be to stop the cooking a bit soon, so it doesn’t burn”. As if to prove how unlike her I was, I quelled the urge to stop the cooking which duly took me past the “deep, golden brown” stage and proceeded directly to the “Oh, fuck, I’ve burnt the pears” stage. The white headband around my forehead, the samurai sword on my lap and the glass of sake at my lips faded and were instantly replaced by blue sticking plaster, a broken tipped Sabatier and a glass of Côte de Rhône as I stared hopelessly at that which had gone so awry. I blame the cooker, the butter, the pan ….I blame the fucking mice. Was Burns not a poet but a pissed off patissier…. did he acquire his name, in a moment of raging irony, from the chef at mediaeval Gleneagles and how did he know John Steinbeck in the first place…..no surprise that he wrote about Grapes of Wrath. If he cooked like me he’d be necking them on a regular basis.