I can’t eat this, I can’t eat that.

 

Quote: “Honestly, I don’t really like that buttercream icing, it’s too sweet and sickly.”

These days with allergies, intolerances and health reasons cooking for others is a brain boggling minefield.  I have to include myself.  I like a skinny cappuccino, with a sweetener.  I can hear the health nuts shouting ‘a sweetener, an artificial sweetener’; and potentially, ‘dairy, really?’  And definitely, ‘Skinny? Why skinny when you eat cake?’ As a person with a love of food I need to cut the calorie intake where I can.  I also fall into another category, one which people hate.  I don’t eat red meat (which includes pork, before you ask).  My reason: I don’t really like it; I don’t feel I need it and I DON’T WANT TO EAT IT.  So anyone cooking for me, sorry, I feel your annoyance, but I can guarantee that you will be a pain to cook for too.

I had family over, so I needed to accommodate my lactose intolerant sister in-law, my veg and fruit avoidant brother, my two year old niece and me.  I had no time for a coffee before they arrived so with a Quottage pie (Quorn) in the oven (cooked by the Partner) and cakes baked, I waited for both their arrival and the arrival of the caffeine addict’s headache.

Rewind to the day before.  I missed a call from Partner, he was asking what to do about the mash potato and how to mash it without any milk or butter.  Good question.  He decided to attack it as it was and placed it on top.  He already had a list from me of dos and don’ts: don’t add salt and pepper, do cut up all veg small and remember to strain the gravy (all for my lovely, gorgeous niece).  Completed, it was ready to re-heat the following day.

“Under seasoned” Partner grumbles.

“It will be fine, they always eat with a small child so they must be used to under-seasoned food.”

An under seasoned main course was one thing, but I wanted to make cupcakes.  How, without butter or milk?  I bake a lot so knew it must be possible.  Also, I had to abandon the delish buttercream and use only icing sugar.  I hate compromise!  Now with a challenge to make great cakes without cake mix in my head I trawled the net.  A dairy free orange cake sprung up.  Half way through I got the fear.  What if she hates orange?   I hoped they would be polite enough to say they’re lovely, but this is family coming up so that’s never going to happen.  I had a brief moment of genius:  make the icing with freshly squeezed orange juice for an extra zesty taste and make some mini ones too, then my niece can have some without the massive sugar high.  Keep the parents happy whilst keeping the child happy too.  Go me!

I filled the cases carefully.  I wanted them to be the same height: just below the top of the case so the icing could be put on top.  No such luck.  They started expanding and expanding.  It looked like something from a hideously bad horror film I saw years ago called The Stuff.  Cooked and spongy looking it’s time for the taste test.  The outer crust was just that: crustier and the inside was light and airy.  It’s a slightly chewy version of a cupcake sponge.  Partner liked them.  Phew!  I iced the top with gooey orange icing and waited for them to set before the final taste.

“These are good.”

“Really?”

“Yes, they’re not too sweet”

“I want them to look nice.”

“They do.”

“No, I want them to look like proper cupcakes with lovely swirly buttercream icing on top.”

“Honestly, I don’t really like that buttercream icing, it’s too sweet and sickly.”

“What?”

Pleased and befuddled with that confession I try to analyse the lactose free cakes.  I like them, not love, just like.  They may be a different texture and have different icing but different is sometimes good, right?

Family arrive, questions are raised by the avid meat eaters about the meat free pie, but it is eaten by all and enjoyed by all.  My sister in-law actually said, ‘I never knew vegetarian food could taste so good.’  And my niece, who, when out, doesn’t eat that well, munched her way through it mumbling ‘mmmm’ and ‘nice’.  Ha!  I don’t know why people think vegetarian food is so bland.  I am a real foodie so why would I eat bland food?

I get to use my cake stand again, yeah!  Loaded with orange cakes I explain that they are essentially cake free.  My niece doesn’t care she has the look I get on my face when I see cake.  She stuffs it in and gobbles it up with more ‘mmmms’ and another ‘nice’.   Everyone seems to like them.  How do I know?  Because people go back for more, including me, and without butter you can eat guilt free (almost).orange lactose free (4)

“Let’s go for a walk,” I suggested.

Everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

“Why don’t we get a coffee first?”  I said casually.

“Ahhh” my brother said.  “Is that the reason you dragged us out?”

Well, surely I deserved it?

A Short Hit

Quote: ‘ Ohh, there’s a blog post, I think’

I like writing short stories, I can’t say I’m any good, but I still like them.  I’ve loved reading them ever since I read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman over ten years ago.  Check it out.  I think it is the tighter structure and more of the implied within the story rather than a completely wrapped up, descriptive and fully explained tale.  I like to be made to think and a lot of short stories do that.  It is a different genre, a honed skill not a quick way of knocking out an idea rather than hitting the keys day and night slaving over a novel.  Also, publishers aren’t fans, or so they say.  Apparently, it’s harder to sell a short story because people want value for money. 

Even so, I have seen a rise in interest in shorts recently.   I think if there was ever a time to write them it is now;  People have less and less time on their hands, shorts are a perfect length for tube and train journeys and the younger generations live in an instant fix society.  The rise of the internet, kindle and other such gadgets offer the opportunity for all ‘writers’ (yes, the inverted commas are there on purpose) to self-publish.

The quick fix is one I’m familiar with.  It comes in liquid form: coffee.  My daily skinny cappuccino punctuates my tea fuelled day bringing an instant hit.   A writer friend of mine had just found her love of short stories and it has roused my interest in them again.  I have gone even shorter by writing flash fiction.  Tighter and even more restricted, every word really counts.  No room for waffle, as I am so prone to.  Nette and I have been emailing our shorts back and forth offering critique.  It also seems that we are providing each other with a little excited motivation. 

We are relishing these short stories and entering competitions seems like a good idea too.  In one of our email chats we comment on our new ventures and how excited we feel; I state that I think it is because of the adrenaline rush: an instant hit.  Ohh, there’s a blog post, I think.  Working on something different and creating something in a short space of time is similar to the instant hit of caffeine in my skinny cappuccino.  Like caffeine, short stories can offer a spark and assist in keeping you interested and to spur you on in your other writing projects too. 

I recommend giving it a go.  Read and write shorts, it might spur you on if you are having a bit of the old writers’ block or feel that you are stuck in a clichéd rut.    

If you would like to read Nette’s blog go to: http://www.nettehargreaves.com