I realise that as I age I’m finally mastering the ability to ‘make things’ as my paternal grandmother did. Whilst I’m never going win any awards for my sewing skills, I can (and do) make things and they look alright.
My cooking skills are likewise as good; when my husband and I first started living together I could, quite literally, burn water. Now I can even make jam. Alright, usually my first attempts are a little.....unusual; in that nothing ever goes according to plan.
Take my first attempt at jam making. We have a damson tree in the garden and I thought I’d make jam. I’d seen my Irish grandmother do it, I’d seen my mum do it – they made it look so easy and, I thought, even as accident prone as I am how hard could it be?
Very hard, as it turned out; according to the recipe you slit the damsons and when they’re boiling the pips are supposed to float to the top and you skim them off. Only the pips had obviously not read the recipe and so refused to co-operate. Cue me fishing them out in batches and picking the pips out of the middle myself; I had very burnt fingers by the end – they were honestly numb and you should’ve seen the blisters. But I was a desperate woman.
Likewise the skins should’ve been easy to remove once the fruit was cooked; they weren’t. By this time I was resigned to nothing going as it should and so settled down to do the best I could by hand; in the end I gave up and I used my hand blender to sort of liquidise them in the hope it would chop the skins up to the point it no longer mattered. Of course, because of my fishing them in and out of the water, etc and the fact that damsons turn bright red when cooked, my kitchen was, by then, resembling an abattoir.
Seriously, if the police had called by on a neighbourhood watch recruitment drive, they’ve would’ve been straight out the back digging up my patio looking for the bits of the body. Of course what didn’t help was the juice stained my skin and had somehow worked its way up to my wrists, got all over the worktop (the chopping board had disappeared in a wave of blood red juice) and even up my white cupboard doors.
Still, I persevered; even though I didn’t have an official ‘jam pan’. But I used saucepans; I figured jam pans didn’t really matter.......apparently they did – a lot. So of course the pans boiled over and the jam welded the pans to the hob (it’s electric) and caught fire. Yes, you did read that right, it caught fire. So I started running the cold tap to try and put it out in the saucepans at least (being electrocuted was the least of my worries at this point).
Of course I was completely unaware that there was a problem with the drain on our old dishwasher. Apparently the valve to stop the waste water from the sink back filling it was broken, so the water in the sink, instead of just running down the drain and away, was instead running down the drain and into the dishwasher. I only became aware that the dishwasher was overflowing when I slipped in the water and land flat on my back. The laughter that ensued was purely down to the rarity of my situation and not hysteria I’m sure.
I also take some pride in being the only person I know that can both set fire to, and flood, their kitchen at the same time. It’s no mean feat let me tell you, it’s take a special kind of idiot to be that accident prone; and, apparently, I am that idiot.
Still, having come this far I decided to press on – the fire was now out and I figured that having freed my destroyed saucepans from the carbonised jam on the hob I could carry on, just not boil it. So an hour and a half later, I had some very nice damson jam. There wasn’t much smoke damage and it only took me four and half hours to finally clean up the mess I’d made. Though, six years on, it’s only recently that the last of the pink staining has faded completely from the worktop. Of course we needed new saucepans and, to be honest, the hob has never really recovered, but the jam was made.
I bet you’re thinking I never tried it again? But you’re wrong, the very next year I did – but this time I cut the pips out and skinned them before cooking them and my father in law, by then retired from marmalade making, gave me his bona fide ‘jam pan’. So suitably armed and tooled up I set about the task again......and it worked without a hitch.
The same happened with my sewing. Of course I stitched through my fingers a few times, but thankfully there was no lasting damage was done to my digits; though, admittedly, I do tend to hand stitch things now as it gives me better control, though it is slower. But I do use the embroidery thing on my sewing machine and I’ve, so far, been quite successful....touch wood.
So perhaps that’s the secret of my (sort of) success; blind, dogged perseverance in the face of utter defeat. I can’t really say I snatch victory from it, but I certainly send defeat home mildly disappointed.
I can cook, sew, and mend purely because I don’t mind the A&E visits, I don’t mind the burns, cuts and blisters – because, deep down, I want to be able to say “I made that” without my in-laws and my father looking at it with barely concealed mirth. Okay it’s taken me until I’m forty-six, and I’m not quite all the way there yet (you really don’t want to know about my attempt at knitting.....); but I figure, if I can just live until I’m a hundred then I should be able to get most stuff under my belt.......
This is Simi, thanks for reading.......