SallyP

Retroladytyping …

Alchemy

“Alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination … with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir.”

alchemy

To me, baking  is alchemy, not in the sense of transforming base metals into gold, unless I have been misreading the recipe,  but in the sense of taking individual chemicals, combining them and adding  heat   so transforming them into something  unique and desirable.

*****

My mother had magical powers.

She  knew when I had had a bad day at school: had fallen out with my best friend, been told off by my favourite teacher, or been caught in the rain on the way home and just needed something to make me feel the world wasn’t totally against me.  While I trudged home, I just wanted to feel comforted, loved and warm inside and out.

As I opened the back door, I would  be greeted by a wave of  sweet spiced, vanilla warmth; the kettle would be on, my favourite willow patterned plate would be on the table, almost covered in a crispy edged (I still like it like that) slice of dried fruit speckled, sugar topped cake. On a particularly bad day, she would have left a few spoonsful of uncooked mixture which just had to be removed from the bowl before it was washed.   I can see, smell and almost taste it as I write.  The fire would be lit; drier clothes would be airing.  There was no need to talk or even think about my day.  How did Mum know what I needed before the days of mobile phones?  Magic.

Today, while The Husband was carrying out his festive hunter-gathering mission, I was at a loose end and feeling just a little lonely.   I wondered, did I have the makings of a cake in the cupboard?  Yes.  Apron on, baking tins lined, food mixer rescued from the dusty depths of the cupboard behind the back door.  Now to recreate that magic.

I did it all just as Mum did:  chose my elements, mixed, stirred, beat, whisked, spread, applied heat and waited, while the chemical transformation took place.   The smell was the same, the result appeared to be  the same, but it wasn’t  the same.  I’d even sprinkled edible golden glitter on the top  (Well, it’s nearly Christmas); it was crispy at the edges;  I’d  ‘accidentally’ left a spoonful of mix in the bowl to taste, but something was different. There was a missing element.  I can’t find it in any recipe book or periodic table.

My mother would have had that missing element.  I don’t.  I do, however, have that willow patterned plate.

willow_plate

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