bakingMy retirement record vis a vis cooking is poor. Since I retired I have managed to cook the princely total of one Chinese meal and that wasn’t entirely straightforward. Yep, that’s it. It’s yet another one of those activities that I predicted a great future for when I retired along with golf, travel, consultancy work, joining a boy band, that have not happened. I’m not quite sure why this should be although a number of possible explanations spring to mind, from the legitimate (spending two hours each day walking the pups) to the outright pathetic (I’m an idle git).

The cooking failure came back to me with a nasty jolt when I read an article in one of the weekends papers, in fact it may have been a couple of weekends ago, I’m too lazy even to seize the immediacy of the moment. The article at the start of this blog is the one in question. You can see why it caught my attention. I couldn’t say I haven’t discovered the kitchen, it’s hard to avoid, in our house you have to pass through it on the way to all sorts of rooms – bathroom, study, upstairs etc. so I know it’s there but to me it remains just that, a place to pass through unless of course I’m doing the washing up – I do quite a fair amount of that. Only fair I reckon. But stopping long enough to actually cook anything other than perhaps the odd slice of toast, nah. I put it down to the fact that Mrs Summerhouse is a very good cook and I feel emasculated. Do you buy that? I Didn’t think so.

As you can see, if you read the headline carefully, part of the article is about baking relating to the TV programme, The Great British Bake-Off. We do not watch this programme for reasons that we don’t watch anything that is popular with the rest of the country. Idle and a snob. Not looking too good so far for me. All I can say is that this programme remains for me an untapped motivator for the activity of baking. Yet, not all is lost. Several years ago in a first flush of enthusiasm for a new toy I bought a bread-maker. I like new toys, I prefer DIY tools that I purchase but never use, often from the middle aisle in Aldi – strimmer, sander, electric screwdriver, all useless but so cheap, how’s a person supposed to walk on by at these prices?

One such purchase a few years ago, pre Aldi’s existence in fact, was the above bread maker, a notorious’ buy it and never use it’, piece of kitchen equipment. This was a rare purchase for me in that I bought it for me to use as opposed to the many, many kitchen gadgets I have bought for Mrs SH (which she never uses). I may not cook but I am more than happy to buy for my dearly beloved every possible cooking aid – slow cooker, toasted sandwich maker, hamburger grill, juicer – ever invented, you get the idea.

I blame Mrs SH in that she is extremely difficult to buy Christmas and birthday presents for (they’re just over a week apart), This time of year is a nightmare for me. She never has any idea what she wants and will even say things like, just get me a card (I have been known to forget the card, yes, I know I’m a pleasure to live with) I don’t need anything else. How helpful is that? I can’t tell you here what she is getting this Christmas as it would obviously spoil the surprise and boy will it be a surprise and serve her right too for not giving me the kind of explicit list I give her. I’m a joy to buy for, a list of books that I will even order myself on-line if Waterstone’s fails, as they often do, unfortunately. Her birthday was yesterday and our daughter took us all to see Simply Red as her present. I tried to give my ticket away (I’m not a fan*) but my daughter said that would be selfish as Mrs SH wanted us all to go, except my, even more selfish, son whose still in hiding out in Australia. The only good thing was, because I had walked out early and was hanging around outside waiting for the bloody encores to finish, I swore I would never go back to the Leeds Arena after the Eagles concert, but there I was emotionally blackmailed into going, sorry, as I was saying, the only good thing was I bought her a Simply Red mug. It will be a pain to look at but at least it doesn’t sing, although Mrs SH does when she uses it. I’ll hide it when she’s had it a while, she’ll never notice.

Anyway back to the bread- maker. I did have a flourish when I first got it. We kept it at our cottage in Pateley Bridge (there’s no photo of it here because I forgot to bring it home, to Leeds that is). It seemed like the perfect home for it, country cottage and the smell of baking bread in the morning. Just like something out of Home and Garden. Well, so it seemed but then, after maybe a couple of months, my enthusiasm dwindled, they make perfectly good bread at the little bakery down the street, so what’s the point. I know you’ll say, the joy of hand-crafting your own loaf or some such bollocks, the sense of achievement as you sink your teeth into its surprisingly solid mass, that sort of thing, but no, I’ll just pop out and buy a loaf, that’ll be nice. But then reading this particular article, the one above – a 10 to 20% increase in bread-making courses being bought for retired men, for example. Key words here ‘bought for’, get the old buggers out of the house never mind whether they actually make anything edible. And, even more tosh, apparently we say things like, ‘they remember their mother baking bread at home’. Not my mother, she could barely fry an egg (my grandma did all the cooking but she didn’t, as far as I can recall, bake bread). Or, ‘it can be a way of connecting with their childhood memories.’ Gawd help us. Not for me thanks very much.

However the article must have struck some kind of chord, albeit a dissonant one, because we dug the bread maker out from under the pile of other utensils and plan to bring it back to Leeds. So who knows, the next blog you read here might just be about my efforts at baking my own bread. It could turn out to be that missing link in my retirement life. But I bloody doubt it.

* Apart from Holding Back the Years, one of the all time great records.

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