I like desserts as much as the next man (unless that man is Fatty Arbuckle’s older brother, Clarence), but the things is: I don’t make them very often.
This fact was brought home to me during a wedding earlier this year (or was it last year?) when I started chatting to a couple also in attendance. We were waiting at the bar and after brief introductions, it turns out, they were both readers of this quality column you are currently perusing. Well, one of them was, anyway.
The male half of the relationship kept smirking at me, as though he was dyen to say something. He was one of those people who seemed to perpetually rest his tongue at the front of his mouth, like it was too big for his gob or it needed air. I believe the vernacular in Tyrone is ‘gam’.
“What are you cooking this week, ye big feckin’ woman ye?” he asked me, unable to bear his silence any more. “All I can cook is sammiches.”
I tried to laugh amiably. “Nothing wrong with sandwiches,” I managed.
However the man’s wife (or partner – I didn’t insist on seeing ID) was a little more delicate with her small-talk. “Why is it you never make desserts?” she asked me, arching a single hair-perfect eyebrow for emphasis.
Immediately, I made to defend myself only to realise, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d included a dessert on this page. All I could say in response was, “I… I…” I knew there and then I had made a mistake.
Gam wasted no time in chipping in again, “What are you? In the navy or something?”
I had not intended on dignifying that quip with a response, other than that popular two-word phrase which comes in handy from time to time when faced with life’s bin-lids – you’ll know the one. Although, somehow, I refrained.
Then he goes, “Sure you can cook none anyway – hic! I ‘member a recipe you done wan time for beef stew. She made it after that,” he indicated his wife (or partner) with a nod of his head, “and it was minging. I give mine to the dog but even he wouldn’t eat it.”
At that point, I immediately went into Special Forces Attack Mode and adopted a fighting stance. I wouldn’t hear another word against my recipes. Then I remembered the only black belt in my wardrobe is the one I use for holding up my suit trousers (which I was wearing).
I thus abstained from performing the Crane Kick (Ralph Macchio, Karate Kid, 1984) to this clown’s solar plexus. Also, admittedly, I didn’t adopt the fighting stance.
Instead, I smiled at Gam’s wife and offered my own suggestion, “You’re obviously with this man for his sparkling sense of humour.”
“You’re right there,” the woman laughed before elbowing her husband (or partner) in the ribs. “Stop being mean!” she told him. “You’re drunk already.”
This berating had the desired effect and Gam turned on his heel and sloped off without another word.
“I eat desserts but you’re right,” I said, trying to turn conversation back to something less confrontational. “I rarely make them, except on special occasions.”
The woman smiled. “You should do more of them,” she said. “And just so you know, I loved the beef stew. Ignore him, he was only trying to wind you up.”
At that point, the beverages arrived and the woman said goodbye.
“Keep reading!” I told her. And she said she would.
This dessert conversation stayed with me in the coming weeks and apart from Googling ‘Crane Kick’ for old times sake, I resolved to do a dessert on this page in the near future (which is now). But… I wanted something that both partners might be able to make.
Gam and your – literally – better half (or partner), this one is for yous.
Strawberry sandwiches (yes, they’re a thing) are a great addition to one’s lifestyle choices. Easy to make and very satisfying, they would work well as a fancy augmentation to an afternoon tea. But they also work as a fantastic after-dinner dessert. Good for elevenses too.
INGREDIENTS (makes one sandwich)
• two slices of white bread, ideally thick sliced and very fresh
• handful of ripe strawberries, washed and hulled and sliced
• caster sugar or golden syrup
• clotted cream
It’s so simple, even Gam could do it.
Thickly slice the ‘berries and lay these on one slice of bread, overlapping or in two layers, whatever you like. Sprinkle over a little caster sugar.
Spread the clotted cream on the second slice and layer it reverentially onto the strawberry slice.
At that point, I immediately went into Special Forces Attack Mode and adopted a fighting stance. I wouldn’t hear another word against my recipes.
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