Sunday, 22 July 2007

The cooking fear

I made another batch of jam last week, and experienced the usual moment of terror when the sugar reached boiling point and suddenly bubbled up perilously near the top of the pan.

I don't mind admitting that boiling sugar scares me witless. I've made quite a bit of jam and chutney this summer, and I still feel my pulse race when the temperature rises along with the level in the pan. I bark instructions to the children to "Get out of the kitchen NOW! There is boiling sugar in this pan!" - thereby ensuring that my boiling sugar fear will continue into the next generation.

My only other cooking fear that is stronger than boiling sugar, is deep frying. My cooking fear there is so fierce that I have never yet deep fried anything. I don't think that is a great loss to my lifestyle; if I want deep fried dim sum or bahjees I will go out for dinner, and the rest of the time my waistline will thank me for avoiding the deep fryer.

But there are also some cooking fears that I am proud to say that I have completely conquered. My biggest triumph is learning how to make pastry and love it. Pastry making is quite a common cooking fear I think. Nigella Lawson says this about pastry making in How To Eat:

"On the subject of pastry I am positively evangelical. Until recently I practised heavy avoidance techniques, hastily, anxiously turning away form any recipe which included pastry, as if the cookbook's pages themselves were burning: I was hot with fear; could feel the flush rise in my panicky cheeks. I take strength from that, and so should you. Because if I can do the culinary equivalent, for me, of Learning to Love the Bomb, so can you."

In my case, acquiring several cookbooks about pies is what drove me to conquer my pastry fear.

You could say that my desire for a homemade pie was greater than my pastry fear. It is true that once you have made pastry a couple of times it ceases to have any mysticism, and becomes something you can do without even getting the recipe books out.

The fear of making a custard which curdles, a white sauce that is lumpy or feeding guests shellfish that is past its best, were all conquered some time ago and are almost forgotten now as I take more and more of my cooking skills for granted. By the end of this summer, my alarm at the sight of a boiling jam pan may lessen as well.

1 comment:

  1. I fear frying, deep frying. I hate deep fat fryers, although they have improved over the years and you don't end up with a pot of manky oil sitting on your worktop for weeks... I will never ever ever have a chip pan...not on a gas hob !

    Besides chinese food never quite works when made at home


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