She believed that all their problems began when Brexit was announced. Well at least that was the story she was telling herself. However, the problems were there way before 17 million people decided to vote them out of the European Union. She remembered feeling physically sick when she looked at her phone on the ‘morning after’.
She woke her husband, breaking the rule, that he should not be woken at all costs before the time he had chosen to arise. “Look,” she whispered. “We’re out!”. He was less than impressed, but mainly because she had woken him up an hour earlier than needed. As sense of unease followed her all day as she was subjected to images of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson opening and shutting their mouths all day. Everybody was shocked. Then followed days and weeks of political fallout. A demand, a petition for a second referendum. The Labour Party tore itself into shreds, many of the shadow cabinet resigning and starting a leadership contest. David Cameron, having lead us down this murky path, duly bowed out and left the dirty work for somebody else. Michael Gove stabbed his fellow Brexiter, Boris Johnson, in the back. And Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage tipped his hat, waved goodbye and sailed off into the sunset.
In the meantime her own little shock to the system was on its way. They literally crashed into what turned out to be the beginning of the end.
The language of blame entered into the dialogue.
She was brushing her teeth and he was asking, no telling her that he was not sure, if it was her fault that he was waking up at 6am every morning. She was not sure either, she did wake up at 6am but she tried to be as quiet as a mouse. Over the years, she tried to slip seamlessly from dragging herself out of bed and leaving the house, without a trace of her existence. She had long stopped giving him a goodbye kiss in the morning because he said he wanted to sleep. She stopped using her perfume and deodarant in the room in the morning, it all seemed reasonable and considerate. She would select her clothes the night before and lay them out on the sofa, ready for the morning and iron and change into her work clothes in the living room. She never really knew what she looked like because the full length mirror was in the bedroom. It all seemed pretty reasonable, if he wakes he cannot get back to sleep and there can be at times, two hours difference in their waking times. She was a considerate wife.
One day she ‘found’ herself eating a cheeseburger in the carpark. It has been a long day at work and she has a few errands to run before she gets home. Eating in her car felt like a forbidden and elict activity, it was bad but it tasted so good. When she finally got home, tired and fed up, she put on the new duvet covers that had arrived in the post. Not the softest material in the world, maybe it would improve after a few washes. However the bright colours – give the room a warm and inviting look and lifted her mood a little, just a little.
Her husband returned home just as she was taking some of the old duvet and pillow covers out to the garden shed, the storage place for things that will eventually leave the family home. He was looking tired. When she returned to the house – they lie on the bed and half snooze and talk. He tells her he is tired and he cannot bear the thought of standing up in the kitchen to make dinner. So she gets up and makes him a chicken and tomato sandwich. The smell of the warm bread as it comes out of the oven, makes her dizzy with delight. As she puts his sandwich together, her mouth waters and her stomach growls, she briefly reflects on the fact that he gets this homemade wonder and she got a burger in the car park.
She needs to treat herself better. She needs to make better choices.
It feels like her heart has been torn into two.
It feels like something very terrible has happened to he. She is in shock and she spends her days stumbling around in a pretence of living.
And the there are moments of delicious intimacy
Before she made the sandwich for her husband, they lie on the bed, with the new bright duvet and pillows covers and melt. A quiet dance of hand holding, sweet kisses and caresses . She lies under his chin and rub her cheek across his beard. He lifts her shirt and runs his hand slowly up and down her back. She smile, he smiles. She chuckles, he chuckles.
And so she made a detour because she was just too sad to write. Seeing the words dance across the page displayed her despair in curved and right angled black and white glory. No, she decided, this is not the way it plays out, this is not how the ship goes down, there will no white flag.
Instead there will be a rebellion. A stand against the status quo.
On the weekend that Fidel Castro left this planet – I ran 7K with my running group and baked another Spanish dessert. This Sunday I opted for Tarte de Santiago. A traditional almond cake from Galicia in Northern Spain. Its name meaning literally St. James’ cake (who is the Patron saint of Galicia) it is claimed to be of Medieval origin though it is first mentioned in the year 1577. There is also a theory that the tarta de Santiago was originally a Jewish passover cake whose recipe lived on thanks to the conversos (Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity). These cakes are not dissimilar to the Sephardic cakes of almond and orange. The cake is also named after the beautiful town of Santiago de Compostela. The top of the cake is usually decorated with the Saint James cross and is thought to be a modern addition, apparently initiated in Casa Mora, a traditional pastry shop in Santiago de Compostela which started selling cakes with this pattern on top in 1924.
* 4 eggs
* 240g sugar
* 240g ground almonds
* Zest of 1 lemon (optional)
* ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
* Icing sugar for topping
* Butter and flour for the tin
1. First, preheat the oven to 160ºC (fan) / 180ºC (no fan).
2. If you want to follow the traditional recipe you only have to mix all the ingredients well, previously beating the eggs a little. If you want to make a somewhat lighter cake , separate the egg whites and beat them till stiff.
3. In a large bowl mix sugar, almond meal and the spices, if using any. Set aside.
4. Then add the lightly beaten egg yolks to the egg whites, and fold gently. This is important: the yolks have to be mixed with the egg whites. Do not ever add the yolks to the mixture of almonds and sugar before adding the whipped egg whites or you’ll end up with a thick paste almost impossible to mix with the whites.
5. Add the egg mixture to the almond-sugar mixture, folding again very smoothly, until it is fairly uniform.
6. Butter and flour a 22-24cm cake tin. Pour the mixture carefully and smooth the surface with a spatula.
7. Put the cake in the oven and bake about 30 minutes, depending on oven. Test the center with a stick to check for ‘doneness’ when 25 minutes or so have elapsed.
I managed to trace and cut out a copy of the St James cross and thus began my first attempt at icing stencilling.
Moist and sweet with a outer crunchiness, it went down well with a cup of green tea.
Sunday evening, afresh triumph of running 7K with my running group, I decided that a shepherd's pie was in order to combat the cold. There is no special recipe that I follow, I throw in whatever I can find and takes my fancy in the kitchen. Mushrooms and carrots were in order this time, with nutmeg, cumin and a bayleaf thrown in for good measure. The mash potato topping – more nutmeg, butter and milk and a pinch of salt. It may not sound exciting but it was very tasty in a warm and comforting kind of way.
Sunday evening is my time for making mobile desserts for the week. I had a bowl full of lemons that required consumption and a need to cook something new. Therefore magdelenas seem to be the perfect solution. There are Spanish treat, usually eaten at breakfast but also for the merienda.
They came out a little smaller than expected because I did not add enough of the mixture to the cupcake containers! However they tasted delicious and I demolished quite a few.
Makes approx. 12 magdalenas
150g self-raising flour
Zest of 1 lemon
Some extra sugar
Preheat the oven at 180C
1. In a bowl whisk the eggs together with the sugar until the mixture starts looking a bit spongy or fluffy then add the soft butter or margarine and keep stirring slowly until the mixture has a creamy consistency.
2.Add the lemon zest to the mixture and stir enough just to mix it all well. Sift the flour and add this to the mixture a bit at a time and keep on mixing.
3. Fill the paper cases , sprinkle some sugar on the top and add a couple of drops of water so the sugar will create a type of crust.
4. Place in a baking tray and put in the oven for 20-30 minutes approximately until they have a lovely golden colour.