At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

And how I became the Ganache-Elf.

Yes, because after all, I haven’t always been a baker, a ganache-maker, or a girl who is just a bit crazy for both cooking and baking and chocolate in general. Well I think I have always been a chocaholic, that’s true, but there was a time when Ganache-Elf was completely ignorant of what ganache is…or indeed, pretty much of the entire baking and cooking world itself. For that world, I’ve discovered ever since I started baking, is one of excitement and creativity and diversity…a truly amazing one which I, once I discovered how passionate I was for it, was eager to completely and utterly immerse myself in…
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when my interest was first and fundamentally kindled…one thing I DO know for sure was that I have always had a sweet tooth, and so when my Mam ever did decide to whip up a batch of cookies, say, or a simple lemon sponge, you could guarantee I would be peering around the kitchen door with wide eyes, hoping against hope that I would be lucky enough to be offered the first - and biggest - slice. And then of course, once I was old enough, I timidly asked my mam if I could help her in her culinary endeavours. My Mam had smiled and stroked my hair fondly, and had assured me that I certainly could, and we would resume to bake up “something nice” that very day. 
My Mam says she doesn’t remember, but I am positive that the first thing we ever made together were biscuits - but by no means just ordinary ones. Well, in a way I suppose they were what some people would classify as ordinary…they weren’t in any fancy shapes or had any expensive or unusual ingredients in them. But they were just so, so good. I’m afraid I can’t tell you exactly what was in them and the way we made them, because my mam maintains she doesn’t remember making them at all; and I have come to the conclusion that it was perhaps an old family recipe which now has been unfortunately lost. :( But anyway, I think I could possibly hazard a guess at what was in them. I remember them being golden; gorgeously golden, and crunchy and deliciously sweet. They were quite butter, too - I think, if we were to try and compare them to any of the well-known varieties of biscuit, we would be somewhere halfway in between a hobnob and a shortbread. They did probably have oats in them, and lots of demerara sugar. But what I do know with certainty is that were absolutely divine. My mam had to discreetly place the wire rack upon which the golden delights were stacked out of my sight when she thought I wasn’t looking; for, having already lost about four of her produce to her little helper, she did intend on saving some for the biscuit tin for the other members of the family to savour at their leisure. 
I adored helping my Mam when she baked. My Mam was never an avid baker exactly - she claims she only really did it on special occasions or when the mood took her; but that didn’t mean that her baking was nothing special…oh no. Everything I remember having of Mam’s baking was so, so delicious…she may not have baked alot, so to speak, but the few things she did do she did so, so well. I would always beg her, in my cutest little girl voice, to bake more often than we did - firstly, because I adored eating the home-baked creations; and secondly, I just found the whole actual task of baking something enthralling, intriguing, fascinating. And so Mam would give me the little and uncompleted jobs like stirring the mixture or greasing tins; and I would be rewarded for my “efforts” by being presented with the whisks or the bowl once the cake or whatever was safely baking away in the oven; and being teasingly asked by my mother whether I would like to save her the job of cleaning these utensils? The answer, of course, would be a hastily uttered “yes please mammy”; and, while my Mam preoccupied herself tidying away the bags of flour and sugar and taking out her wire racks to rest the baked item on once it was cooked, I would plop myself down upon the kitchen floor in front of the oven, whisks or spoons at hand, and would stare, with fascinated delight, through the glass door as I licked the cake batter from my utensils; watching as the magic that is homebaking took place before my very eyes.
But as for when I actually started baking solo…again, hard to say exactly when. I think the first thing I ever baked alone, without my Mam’s supervision, was blackberry and apple crumble…this was one of the things Mam did occasionally rustle up when the baking mood took her; and I had watched her make them numerous times. I would literally jump for joy when my mam permitted me to rub the fat into the flour: this was definitely one of my favourite little “errands”. I just loved the feel of the soft, crumbly mixture between my fingertips; and the way the cubes of butter or margarine would gradually disperse themselves amongst the whiteness of the flour under my gentle touch. And then the time came when Mam was having some friends around for dinner and she wanted something scrumptious but simple to serve up for dessert. As she washed the cooking apples and the blackberries for the filling, and started clattering around in the kitchen cupboard where the mixing bowls for baking were all stored, she saw me peeping hopefully around the kitchen door, hoping against hope that I would be summoned to assist her in such an important culinary task. What I didn’t expect, though, was what she then asked me: placing the bowl for the crumble mixture on the worktop, she removed her signature Yorkshire Tea Apron and put it over my head, instead, bending to fasten the strings at the back. “Do you want to make the crumble, Emily?” she said. “By yourself?”
Breathless with excited surprise I eagerly assured her that I would. I was so, so slow and careful, it probably would have been ten times quicker had Mam done it herself, but she didn’t mind. She busied herself away with preparing the main course while I chopped, mixed, weighed out, rubbed in, and so forth. And finally, my proud squeak of “I’m done, Mammy!” rang through the kitchen. Mam fussed over me and told me that I was a little chef in the making, and then entrusted me with yet another very important task: she told me that I could be in charge of actually “baking” the crumble later on when our guests arrived. So I suppose that was the first time Ganache-Elf baked by herself, sort of. From that point onwards, I became the “crumbler” of the house - if Mam ever wanted a crumble doing, she knew very well who would be willing to save her the job of doing it herself. Years passed and, many a crumble later, I was in my third year of secondary school and about to sit my Junoir Cert exams. 
The Christmas prior to that stands out as a special memory for me, especially in regard to the development of my love of baking. You see that particular year Mam, my sis and I had been more industrious on the home-baking front then we had ever been in previous years. Mam always made trifle - it was my Dad’s favourite and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without it for him - but homemade Christmas biscuits, brownies, and sausage rolls all materialised themselves in gorgeous smelling batches, too. The more I baked, the more I discovered that I loved it. There was just something so, so special in the very act of weighing out ingredients, mixing them together, and then placing a tin or a tray into the oven; to inhale deeply and to take in, surely, one of the most lovely aromas you could ever smell - the smells of your very own masterpiece baking away in the oven - and then, when the cooking time was up, to open the oven door and take out your homemade creation…and to know that it was made by you, not a stranger or an inanimate machine - you and no one else, with love and care and attentiveness, and to know that whoever you are baking for will appreciate and enjoy every bite.
And so Christmas came and went, but my fascination with all things related to baking remained stronger than ever. every time I went shopping with Mam and I saw her picking up packets of cakes or biscuits and plopping them in the trolley without a thought…a little pang went through me. Why can’t I make things like that? I thought. I had a sudden vision of me whipping tray upon tray of fresh cookies out the oven; of cutting up a fragrant, warm baguette and serving it, still piping hot, alongside a traditional lasagne; of putting my homemade buns in the guy’s lunchboxes and never having to pick up a box of Tesco Value fairy cakes ever again…and the more I thought about it, the more I was determined to make this little image of mine a reality…
And so one evening I nervously took out my Mam’s ancient, relic-like, but pretty legendary all the same, Kenwood mixer. I put on my own little apron that my granny had brought me back from the Canary Islands last summer. And that is how my baking adventure began, really. And I can safely say without any doubt that it is a journey that I have enjoyed every single moment of. I know that I’m no chef and that my baking isn’t anything out of this world. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever felt exactly good at anything, and there’s been many a time when I’ve taken something out of the oven and thought, oh crap, this is shit. But I know that I am a baker and that I love baking, and that it gives me so, so much joy and happiness. And I firmly believe that my love of baking is most definitely one of the key contributors to my recovery from my eating disorder.

No comments:

Post a Comment