Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Diary of a putative Domestic Goddess.

Since cancelling the cleaners many months ago,  I have had to spend far more time doing housework, which is one of the less enthralling aspects of life. So much dust gets in, there are floors to be washed, and so on and so forth. How many hours, and what percentage of our time is spent in such pursuits? Perhaps half my waking hours are spent in domestic tasks, and yet there is only one of me, and I am not a particularly messy grub.

Today I washed lots of glasses, and then cleaned out all the kitchen drawers. It took hours. Some of the contents have been discarded, and will go off to Vinnies. The remaining items are sorted and rearranged to some extent.

Having a well equipped kitchen has always been important to me, although perhaps I have gone to extremes. There are many knives, both large and small. Good sharp knives are a necessity,  and I have given them as presents to family members who somehow or other have coped with some very blunt and ineffective ones. Microplaner graters are essential.  I have a little gadget, beloved by the grandchildren, which produces curling carrot shreds, and finely sliced cucumber ribbons. There is my cleaver, an essential when it comes to the smashing and chopping of garlic and ginger.

My mezzaluna is one of my favourites. It makes the chopping of herbs an absolute breeze, and I cannot see how any self-respecting cook could manage without one. (Once upon a time I was a self-respecting cook.) Then there are the peeling devices, the lemon rind grater, the tongs, the non-stick sheet on which to roll pastry, and there is another metal piece which you place on top of the hotplates, with points up or down depending on the type of heat source, which enables finer control of simmering. There are funnels, to help with the ladling of hot jam or marmalade,  the meat bashing implement, chopsticks, can-openers, the potato masher. An adequate number of chopping boards is essential. But I keep one of therm absolutely garlic-free.

After a year of managing without a properly functioning oven, I am about to get a new one. Since Dr P's death, the oven has been very wonky, and it takes over 45 minutes to reheat a small spinach quiche. It has been very tedious. Roast dinners have been impossible, and the grandchildren and I have not been able to indulge in the making and baking of Anzac biscuits or the Buttermilk Spice Cake. (See recipe below)

The almost totally defunct oven consists of a microwave on top and then an oven with an internal griller. Grillers inside ovens are a very bad idea, and I bet a non-cooking man thought that one up. They make the oven dirty, create smoke, alarms go off and chaos abounds. There is probably no person alive who cheerfully or readily contemplates cleaning an oven. Ergo I am getting an oven with a separate griller.

The microwave part can go, as this household used to be blessed with three microwaves, that in the oven, my old one and Dr P's. Three is two more than necessary. We managed to dispose of one. The problem with getting a new oven is that the existing one takes up more space than the new one will, and thus I need a carpenter to make and install a frame, and alas, some space will inevitably be wasted. However, this can be borne, and the prospect of actually being able (and perhaps willing) to cook is almost enticing.

My lovely physiotherapist Barbara, who recommended her brother, Bruce the handyman, who came the other day to fix swollen doors, doorbells, smoke alarms and garage lights, also gave me the name of her carpenter. He came today and had a squizz, and, what's more, his brother is an electrician, so perhaps all systems may be on Go. After spending heaps of money feeding lawyers, it will be good to spend on something which will assist in feeding me.

Last week I bought some fresh ravioli, and as a result, cooked some bolognese sauce. And I ate it and it was good. Thus encouraged, yesterday I made quince jelly. I had only four quinces, which yielded four small jars. It tastes delicious, and the sight of the clear and deep ruby red/pink jelly brings cheer to the soul. Perhaps I will make some more.

And I defrosted the freezer. (Free advice: Always buy a frost-free machine.)

It sounds a bit pathetic to catalogue such mundane domestic tasks. Thus my days are spent. It is how I am wresting control of my life.

Work apace, apace, apace, apace
Honest labour bears a lovely face.

Then hey nonny, nonny, hey nonny, nonny

(Thomas Dekker)


2¼ cups of plain flour
1 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt ( reduce this drastically, who needs this much salt!)
¾ teaspoon each of carb soda, ground cloves, and ground cinnamon

Sift together in bowl

then add

½ cup soft shortening (margarine or butter)
¾ cup soft brown sugar (packed down)
1 cup of buttermilk

beat together for 2 minutes
3 eggs
Beat 2 more minutes

Pour into greased and floured cake tins, either 2 9 inch layer pans or 1 oblong pan 13x9inches, (or whatever suits quantity)

Bake at 350 degrees, for 35-40 minutes for layers, or 45-50 for oblong pan.

Remove from pan. Cool.

Frost with EASY PENUCHE ICING, as follows:

Melt in saucepan ½ cup of butter.  Stir in 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
Boil and stir over low heat for 2 minutes
Stir in ¼ cup milk.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Cool to lukewarm.  Gradually stir in
1 ¾ to 2 cups of sifted pure icing sugar

Place pan in iced water and stir icing until thick enough to spread. Then go for it, and enjoy the scrape. Let the kids have some of it too.

NOTE: Frances says half the recipe plus a little more than half the milk is enough.


molly said...

Such mundane tasks are soothing to the soul. It must feel like heaven to lose yourself in such activities, especially after your year of jousting with lawyers! AND you get an organized kitchen from your labors!

I may have to try that recipe---it sounds delicious!

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you for the recipe. I adore the colour of quince jelly. Order fron chaos is always good too. And what kitchen doesn't have too many gadgets. Mine certainly does.
Good luck with your new oven.

Jan said...

Am contemplating a change in my kitchen after being here just a year. I think I'll start small and perhaps change cupboard doors. The place is tiny and leaves little room for change from current layout. The people here before me cooked little but curry and the stove top is stained beyond real cleaning. It has even defeated one of my DiLs in particular. Whole stove does not work really well and apart from curry stains, two of the burners have caked on, burnt in grease, also impossible to get rid of, even with a screw driver.

Am planning on quince jelly , perhaps tomorrow. Such a wonderful perfume! Today's task is lemon butter. I eat almost no sweet stuff like jam, but the lemons are new season and look inviting in my fruit bowl. Quince jelly is delightful and so are plain stewed quinces for my muesli.

Pam said...

Yes, I too am discouraged at how long it takes just to keep the house tidy and reasonably clean. When I was out at work all day, at least it didn't get any worse in our absence... Now we seem to create mess just by pootling about.