Under the guidance of my six year old son, I have been on a television diet of Donald Duck recently (see previous posts The kids have bad Taste and Eleven not 7). The episodes I like best are the ones where Donald Duck stars on his own. There is no one else to get him into trouble but himself as he careers into spectacular horrendous failure.
In “Chef Donald”, my favourite Donald Duck cartoon from 1941, he tries diligently to follow a cookery programme on the radio on how to make waffles. The only thing is that he uses rubber cement instead of baking powder by mistake and the mixture becomes an stretchy mass that he can’t get off the spoon, let alone put in the waffle maker. His stubbornness and insistence that things should go to plan, despite the unfolding reality, are his undoing. The only thing that ends up crispy and brown is his own duck-tail.
When I bake myself I leave nothing to chance and, like Donald, follow the instructions slavishly, even in the face of impeding failure. This led to the absurd situation the other day when I was making a tray-baked cake where the recipe said 50 minutes cooking time, but my friend and my husband could see quite clearly that it was already done after 15 minutes just by looking at the browned cake in the oven. It took quite a bit of overcoming my stubbornness, Donald Duck style, before I allowed them to test the cake with a toothpick, which came out clear and proved them right. I could have ended up with a “correctly” cooked cake that was black and inedible before I had seen the light.
Tempers can heat up in our kitchen. My husband is the opposite of me when it comes to cooking. He casually scans the first line of a recipe and then throws it to the wind. This drives me mad, and I desperately try to trawl back what remains of the original recipe, as if Fantastic Fish pie by Jamie Oliver wasn’t just a recipe but some sacrosanct text and transgression of it was akin to blasphemy.
“But you put in the cream before the carrots not the other way round!” I say, waving the tome “The return of the naked chef” in front of his face defiantly.
In the end though, I have to admit his version tastes pretty damn good.
The trouble is, following recipes to the letter doesn’t stop you from making mistakes or spectacular slapstick flops, especially if you are accident-prone like me. Last year, Eric’s birthday cake fell out of my kitchen window whilst cooling in its tin. After a thorough search of the garden bushes, I deduced it must have landed on a flat roof just outside my neighbour’s window below my flat. Needless to say, she was rather surprised when I knocked on her door to ask for my cake back. I was even more surprised to find out that it was still intact and had landed the right way up, and at some point it became known as “the lucky cake”. Everyone wanted a piece of it, which I think was more to do with the fact it has survived against the odds, than the taste of it.
For a while though, it was a Donald Duck moment.
And just a reminder of the brilliant Donald Duck theme tune (1947-1953) written by Oliver Wallace: (Actually it kind of reminds me of someone else, can’t think who, though. Hm!)
Who’s got the sweetest disposition?
One guess, guess who?
Who’d never, ever start an argument?
Who never shows a bit of temperament?
Who’s never wrong, but always right?
Who’d never dream of starting a fight?
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck?
No one – but Donald Duck