Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Does Size Matter?

It's a Rayburn, but I'm not fussy.
Yes, contrary to what people may tell you, size does matter, at least where kitchens are concerned. I have spent my entire life in tiny kitchens (unless you count the Home Ec. room, but there you were pretty much always jostling for space) and yet I dream of something...well, bigger. I have lived in nine different places, all with small, mainly galley-style kitchens. I think a little kitchen-envy is to be excused. One of the ways in which I like to while away the odd spare moment is by imagining my ideal kitchen. The first thing you need to know about my imaginary kitchen is that it is big. In fact, it is the largest room in my otherwise modest imaginary house. Take that on board and you are welcome to come in and warm yourself by my imaginary Aga (or Rayburn or Esse - I'm not fussy!), sit at my imaginary kitchen table and sip a cup of tea, or even relax in the imaginary easy chair. Bring your slippers though, because my imaginary flagstone floor is quite cold. Still, on warmer days we can throw open the top half of the imaginary stable door and let in the sunshine!

Draw up a chair... but what's that bin doing in my fantasy?!

Back in the real world, I've been baking up a storm lately. This is due, in part, to having more time in the holidays and thus more energy. It is also due to my apparently unshakeable belief in the relationship between food and festivals. Honestly, can you name any major festival which doesn't have a food connection? Even those that feature fasting, rather than feasting, have at their core both a memory of and an expectation of food: Lent ends in the chocolate-fest of Easter, Ramadan ends in Eid. The other reason for my baking obsession is that neither I nor the small Rubies can eat dairy products or soya-based foods. At the same time, we've no intention of going without. Thus I have developed a detemination to perfect 'free-from' versions of the foods we love but can't eat. I reckon I can now produce cakes that are free from nuts, wheat, gluten, dairy, soya and, at a push, eggs and sugar. I can produce hollow eggs and cream eggs that don't contain any dairy. I can make hot cross buns without the 'all butter' tag. I can't make croissant dough, though I have tried. Luckily I can buy it in cans, although not so that my gluten-free mum can eat it too. No, free-from croissant dough is my Waterloo!

Not a gluten-free croissant beween them.

Kitchenaid, objet d'art
So what does that have to do with my lusting after a bigger kitchen? Well, not a lot really, since you evidently can achieve all that in a smaller space. However, when you are spending quite a lot of time there, you do become a bit frustrated by the lack of space to put anything down. Moving the recipe book so I can put down the pastry board is a proper faff, I can tell you. Lack of space also means lack of room for all my imaginary gadgets. I'd love one of those thoroughly sexy and iconic Kitchenaids, but the breadmaker is occupying the space that might otherwise be assigned to a food processor, and you can't easily buy bread that is free from soya - and anyway, Mr Ruby's home-baked bread tastes much, much nicer. Of course, what you do with a smaller kitchen is you scale everything back. No room for a food processor? Buy a hand-held blender/whisk/chopper! I am very find of my handheld b/w/c although it does loose a little of its appeal when I have to make breadcrumbs in batches because the the chopper attachment can only cope with a slice at a time or when, as this evening, I decide to whip up dairy-free mango, banana, raspberry and oat milk shakes. It wasn't that the thing lacked the capacity, so much as that it lacked a lid. All was going well until I added the frozen raspberries and then, much to the amusement of the rest of the family, I invented the world's first and only raspberry gun. Bits of frozen raspberry shot out all over the place! I'm telling you, it was carnage! I reckon I'll be finding splatters and globules of red for days to come.

Prototype for the raspberry gun.
Still, it can't be right to link all this talk of religious festivals with my covetous attitude to kitchens, can it? It's not just the baking I take seriously, it's that the food we share reminds us in some way (however tenuously, when it comes to chocolate Easter eggs) of the festival we are celebrating. This was brought home to me when the Mouse was much smaller. When she was three years old I gave her hot cross bun and she remarked, 'Look - God must love me very much - he's put a big kiss on my bun!'

So, back to my covetous attitude: I was thinking about this and decided that it is OK, as the ten commandments mention not coveting my neighbour's wife or his ass. Nope, not guilty there. Then I looked them up*. Here's the list of what I'm not supposed to be coveting:

You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour's.
Bother! If I start referring to it as an apiraton, will that be OK, do you think?

* The ten commandments, not my neighbour's anything.


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