Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Too marvellous for curds

Ma Pants has reached that time of life when she doesn’t mind being referred to as ‘marvellous’. Recent observations have led me to believe that there is a hierarchy of ‘marvellousness’, seemingly calculated by multiplying one’s age by one’s ability to tango until dawn. Ma P has a close friend, Ms E, who is eighty-six and still playing club tennis. Ms E has no doubt attained the dizzy heights of ‘bloody marvellous’, so elevated is she on the marvellousness scale. When they’re not training for the marvellous Olympics, Ma P and Ms E like nothing better than to adorn themselves with suitable finery and take themselves off to the theatre. In this venture they are almost always accompanied by Mr R and Mr N, sprightly septuagenarian intimates of Dorothy.

At present Ma P is preparing to host an extended family lunch this coming Good Friday which has triggered a week of provision purchasing, budget Easter egg hunting and fresh fish reconnaissance missions. Inevitably this involves the running into of many marvellous souls with similar planned outcomes and rather lengthy discussions about the relative values of chocolate confections. I do not easily slot into this kind of scenario, preferring to spend these lost moments hovering above myself and wondering what it would be like to be in a coma for six months.

In addition to stocking the house with enough fancy goods to trigger spiralling inflation, Ma P also insists on a top to bottom house clean. To this end she deploys such strategies as leaving the Hoover in the hallway in the hope that I might make the connection between it and my side of the house. I expect the penny will drop some time on Thursday afternoon when I will also have conjured enough community spirit to Ajax the bathroom. Hot cross buns have been frozen in anticipation and salad responsibilities delegated. The ornamental pond has been cleared of algae and the lawn mown by the redoubtable Gunther, known around these parts as Gunther Grass for painfully obvious reasons.

The culinary conundrum at House of Pants Snr when a family occasion looms is invariably what to serve for dessert. This year Ma P has opted for a simnel cake, apparently a traditional Easter offering. I had never heard of it so I think it’s fair to assume it’s rather dormant as traditions go. Ma P set about scouring her recipe books for appropriate instructions. She was certain she would find it in the W.M.U. Cookery Book, the 1949 edition of which she was gifted by her own mother. When we found neither a recipe nor a translation for the acronym W.M.U, I was left to speculate hollowly that it represented the revolutionary wing of the Country Women’s Association since it contains recipes for both chocolate bullets and sherbet bombs.

Ma P had to phone Mr R and Mr N to arrange tickets for Gigi (seriously), and Mr R had a recipe for simnel cake, which I am assured he retrieved from a cookery book and did not pull off the internet. It turns out that it is basically just Christmas cake with miniature chocolate eggs instead of holly pressed into the marzipan. Our most recent edition of the OED doesn’t refer to it but I did find it in our 1964 version. That entry merely offers a speculative derivation. The word simnel applies only to the cake which bears its name and is thought to have originated from the word simila meaning finest flour. I do believe Ma P will be using supermarket brand self-raising but I’m sure both that it will taste delicious and that no one will have any room for it after the hot cross buns, fish, salads in the double figures and Easter eggs.

The HOP Snr refrigerator is roughly the size of Wisconsin. Were it full to bursting with sauvignon blanc, I would find little fault with this. However, it is stuffed to the gills with half full jars of olives from biblical times and penicillin cultures in various stages of development. Ma P says that because I always have a go at her for buying too much it means she has to go to the shops more often. Somehow it was always going to be my fault that the fridge contains enough of a surplus to influence GDP.

I blame the following on a genetic dysfunction that I obviously can’t do anything about. Yesterday I joined two friends on a trip to the historic town of Kenilworth. Like most historic towns it contains little else but art galleries and cafes. It is, however, home to a very wonderful cheese factory. After gorging on twenty different varieties of the local malling, I felt kind of obliged to buy something and came out with three blocks of cheese and a kilo of mango and macadamia nut yoghurt for which I spent the rest of the afternoon searching for space in the fridge. You could say curds got in the whey of common sense in this instance. Marvellous…


JahTeh said...

I have my mother's 'Good Housekeeping' and it includes the recipe for Simnel Cake. It's essential to have Marzipan as the topping.

Political Umpire said...

As long as 'maarrvellous' is pronounced a la Richie Benaud, or Billy Birmingham as Richie Benaud at least.

Bwca said...

the simnel cake tradition is alive and well in my family, sorry to bring the bad news.

overflowing refrigerators is also common round these parts - they are the generation which remembers The Great Depression ( no not the Howard Government, the earlier Great Depression) and they fear running out of food.
may your easter be peaceful and resurrecting.

phil said...

Ah yes, nice finish. You are obviously a devotee of Frank Muir and Dennis Norden, My Word.

Reading the Signs said...

Everyone in my village (apart from me) seems to be into Simnel cake - and making their own. It's a Waldorf School parent thing, along with hand-knitted boot gnomes and gingerbread stars at Christmas. But actually I never saw any in Hackney, certainly never in Percy Ingles.

Your Ma's fridge sounds like the one from the Young Ones, I like it.

Andrew said...

"basically just Christmas cake". So next year I will make an extra christmas cake and keep it for easter. Lot of brandy should keep it going.

Wisewebwoman said...

The Rising of the House of Pants (Sr.)
How does it feel to be a daughter once again?
Mixed emotions, I would bet.
Have a good holiday, Pants, great to read your superb writing once again.

Ms Baroque said...

Dear Ms P, I feel as if I've just watched a particularly satisfying sitcom!

So glad it's all going so swimmingly. No comas just yet, please. And Gunther Grass - you couldn't make that up! Marvellous.

That's So Pants said...

Hi everyone

In a rush as usual - great to hear from you all.