Monthly Archives: March 2013

Baking that money just can’t buy

I make cakes.  Bloody good cakes, I’ve been told.

Cardamom cake for Midsummer

Bloody Good Cake

In fact, people pay money for my cakes, and have told me on several occasions that I should start a proper business, because lots of other people would pay money for them too.  I have been quite resistant to this idea, because cooking is something I do for love, and I felt distinctly uncomfortable about monetising my hospitality.  OK, I’m happy to accept payment for outside/on site catering, but when friends want to pay me for baking them something, it always feels a bit wrong. But I did it, because it seemed to be what people wanted.  And I asked around, and as people generally agreed that me starting a cake business was a Good Idea, I thought I would. But I’ve been thinking about this (always dangerous), and here’s the thing: being the fickle cow that I am, I’m not going to.

To me food is something prepared with love, shared with people – friends, strangers – for love.  It is a gift.  And it’s going to stay that way.

If you want to buy a cake from a cake shop, you go in, you choose your cake, you pay your money, you have your cake. And eat it, too, I assume.  You don’t need to ask the baker’s name, you don’t need to chat to them to prove you’re a nice person not a child-snatcher, you don’t need to ask ‘Have you got time to make my cake?’, “Could I have this cake but shaped like a tiger?”, “Can I have ten cakes every week for a year?”, in fact, you don’t even have to say anything at all. If you’ve got the money, you buy the cake. If you haven’t, you don’t.  Shops are so easy. And I am not a shop.

If I was a shop, I'd be this one. Mmmm

If I was a shop though, I’d be this one. Mmmm

So here’s the deal: if you want a cake from me – for a birthday, a special friend, just because you like cake – you ask me. If I can, if I have time, I will make your cake (or brownies, or flapjacks, or whatever).  You can pay me for the ingredients, so I’m not out of pocket, but I will not accept any money for my cooking. It’s a gift.

And that’s hard, isn’t it?  That’s negotiating all the messy, human interaction that goes with receiving a gift; and not just receiving, but asking to receive.  What if I say no? What if I’m too busy? What if I don’t like you? Just teasing, I like most people, but yes, I have bills to pay like everyone else, so if I have too much other stuff to do, I may say no.  But is that so scary? You will have to decide if you’re taking the piss or not (ten cakes every week for a year is taking the piss, by the way; I’ll give you that tip for starters).

Orange and pecan - Happy Birthday to me!

Orange and pecan – Happy Birthday to me!

Please, owe me by all means. Make me something, give me some babysitting, do something for me, or for someone else – it’s up to you. Yes you. *You* will set the price, even if that price is nothing at all.

I cook because I love cooking, and I share it because I love people. My food is, always, a gift. It is a gift that heals, and welcomes, and I will not cheapen it by charging money for it.



[This post has been inspired by Mark Boyle, the ‘Moneyless Man’; and Kirsty Bromley, admirer and sharer of my cakes]

Man crisps? Woman up already

[disclaimer in advance: I respect men, I really do. Some of my best friends are men]

As a self-confessed salted-food addict – oh yeah, and as a woman – this pathetic excuse for a marketing campaign has been rubbing me the wrong way for a while now.  So I wrote a letter to McCoys crisps to let them know, because I am a kind and helpful citizen that way. I had to edit it a fair bit to fit it into their rubbishy contact-form, but here it is in the original, unedited format.  I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

A bit like "Man Flu"

A bit like “Man Flu”

Dear McCoys,

Your crisp packets ask if I’m “man enough” to eat them. Am I man enough? Really?

Let’s take a look. What do men do? They grow facial hair, start wars, lift heavy stuff and fix motorbikes. What do women do? They make our food, they make our clothes, they wash our clothes, they FIND our clothes. They form and feed and grow entire human beings within their own bodies, and then give birth to them.  They ensure the survival, nurture and non-nakedness of the human race. They suffer internal bleeding every month and DON’T DIE. They endure abuse and humiliation and ridicule just for being women. When women succeed, it is despite the odds, not because of them.

Your crisps should be asking, are you woman enough?

But anyway, judging someone’s toughness by their ability to eat a packet of ridged potato crisps? Who the hell thought that one up? And let’s not even start on the “We’re only going to market to half the population, which happens to be the half *less* likely to buy multipacks in supermarkets”. I suggest you need a new marketing team, because your current one is outmoded and lame. Are they men? Did you hire them because they eat crisps?

Guess what – I’m a woman, I have grown and raised two children, and I can eat more crisps than you, without bursting into unmanly tears, or getting fat. So stick that in your pint of mild.

Yours faithfully.

Stories build, and stories trample down.

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

[Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy]

Growing up and growing old. Or neither.

Hey, I found my first grey hairs!  I looked in the mirror recently, and there they were, just a couple; tiny slivers of silver amongst the dull brown. [Aside: I say dull, because I’ve been dyeing my hair henna-red for a few years now. I hadn’t done so for a while, and so I was back to “dull” brown. I make no value judgement on brown hair generally. Just sayin’.]

And you know what my first thought was? OK, my second thought, after a brief pause to blame them on Christmas. My second thought was “I didn’t think I was old enough to get grey hairs?”.  But I don’t feel sad about it, quite the opposite, I feel awesome! It’s like when you hit 18 and you realise you’re old enough to get into pubs using *real* ID, not fake ID (not that anyone fakes ID, of course, certainly not). I look around at women I know who have grey hairs, and they’re all, like, grown-ups. With, like, proper jobs, and real lives, and stuff.  Am I Continue reading