1st December 2016
I am snaking through the home ware department of John Lewis. In my head the shoppers are the red and blue traps of a slalom slope and I am some superb alpine skier, each one I weave round adding to the perfect time and a podium finish.
Girls in immaculate white paramilitary like beautician jackets fire throat-choking sprays into my face. Nothing can stop this march though. Not the loping shoppers, not the military jackets, and certainly not the perfumed chemical warfare of a Tom Ford bottle.
It’s my monthly “pluck up the courage and buy a kitchen aide for God’s sake” trip. I would love to know how many people engage in what is, for me at least, at least a tri-annual fools errand.
The problem is, I just can’t do it. When I reach the display counters my heart stops. It’s as if I am 16 and sneaking into an adult book store, or trying to buy a pack of cigarettes, “something for the weekend sir?” – kind of thing.
I could have just won the euro millions, discovered Nazi gold in Lake Geneva or created a drug which wipes out the common cold, thus becoming the wealthiest man on the planet. Yet I am still sure I couldn’t part with my cash and take the plunge into food mixer paradise.
It will have been a simple process to get to the awkward moment of pacing up and down the lines of factory finished steel food bruisers. Without doubt I will have promised big to a client on a bread order, 30 foccacia by Thursday out my tiny flat and domestic oven, forget about it! It’s all yours. What’s that? Apple strudel for the nation of Austria by the weekend? I will buy a couple more baking trays.
When the alarm goes at 03:00am and I merrily skip out of bed, the scale of the task in hand will smash into me like a cruiser weights lead lined boxing glove. Sweats will start, plans hastily made, futile baking timetables worked around 20 minute hand kneading schedules and a daunting prospect of finishing the next day with no guarantee of any dough actually working. It is in that moment I will swear a blood oath to the spirits of Artusi, Apicus and Floyd to never let this happen again and buy an 8-litre kitchen aide, just as soon as this job is done.
I never do though.
Divinity is not on my side either. On one of these pointless expeditions I employed a new time delaying tactic of studying every single inch of these battle hardened kitchen juggernauts. The nuts, the bolts, the mechanism. I flicked the switch incessantly; nice action.
My eyes chewed at every visible reason, potential flaw, and imperfection as to form a case not to buy it. They stopped stone cold, dead, scanned the engraving. Made in St.Joseph, Michigan. 20 years of catholic schooling, of “Saints days”, of crumpled pictures of Jesus’s earthly father pushed into my wallet alongside membership cards to casinos and one off nightclubs. St Joseph, the patron saint of workers.
Workers, use machinery to carry out their jobs. Workers use their hands though right? You can make bread and pasta with your mits, you do it all the time? And it doesn’t cost £400+ for the privilege.
It’s a sign. It’s a pointless sign. Buy it. How can I justify it? Grandma never made bread, pastry or pasta in a mixer. Shifty look around, the shop assistant is closing in with an irritating “are you alright there” oh his lips. No, I am clearly very distressed. Bail
Repeat 3-4 painful, pointless times year.
The fact I always come back to is this, It’s just not necessary. None of it is. None of the kitchen tat you fill your homes with is actually that necessary as long as you have working mandibles, eyes and at least half of a functioning brain.
It’s easy to chart celebrity chefs rise to fame based on the kitchen shit they start to employ. When they begin they are like a newborn puppy, excitable, energetic, relatively innocent and eager to please.
This is amplified by phrases such “Oooooh yeah get your hands stuck in” and “Ooooooof now for the messy part” etc. etc. Cliché. Cliché. As time goes on multinational companies approach them to become cheap global hucksters leaving pastries and dough’s to get popped into soul-less chrome finished food tombs. You are more likely to see Oasis reform, than any form of dough or pastry clogged into the delicate mechanisms of their flotilla of luxury Rolex’s, winding up their tanned forearms. For shame.
I appreciate I may be doing myself out of potentially lucrative kitchen gadget sponsorship deals here, while also making an enemy out of a good percentile of my “Hard working colleagues”, I just don’t think in the home you need half of what you end up with, and they don’t need no more gold plated Swiss time pieces.
Lets take the Hurd hovel for example. When I started on this career path I had nothing in terms of cash (I’ve still got pretty much all of it left) so I bought one pan, one chopping board, one excellent knife, a rolling pin and two Pyrex bowls.
This kit was meant to last a few months just until I could sort out a better rig. Fast forward three years and I still use all of it. Every dish I make/write up and develop goes through this rinky dink selection of bought, scavenged, gifted and stolen junk. It’s got to the stage where my solitary pans handle has fallen off, but by my reckoning it still does its job i.e. a medium to cook stuff. Why would I replace it, why would I get anything else? My grandparent’s wouldn’t have bothered and what makes me different from them good folk.
You might at this point play your ace, for Joe Hurd is a Yorkshire man, a race known for thrift. WRONG. That’s the Last of The Summer Wine/Emmerdale neck of the woods. A different whippet rearing species all together.
In Hull working class men are traditionally known as “three day millionaires” i.e. We get paid, go buck daft, buy a new suit, take our lass out for a slap up meal at Nandos (exciting new Portuguese concept), few pints, fight, darts, cinema, taxi home.
Done, just like the greasy lucre that entered our callused palms on a Friday afternoon.
If I have a coin, I feel compelled to spend it, on anything, just not kitchenware, well not this month anyway.
In the kitchen there is nothing beyond the abilities of hand and mind. Yes, its time saving to flick that switch, and yes it almost guarantees a flawless finish, but I have never seen the fun, excitement and creativity in comfort and safety.
Maybe it’s because a Man City fan or maybe being the son of a hell for leather sailor taught me the joys of the unknown. The simple pleasure you can gain from risk, jeopardy, disappointment and mistakes? Imperfection in the kitchen is fun. Sometimes, like a bum blues note in a soaring guitar solo, it can yield incredible and unprecedented results. Sometimes…
Seriously though, if you ever see me browsing the Kitchen aide aisle in a department store, remind me of the last few paragraphs. Get past the glazed look, the zombie like countenance and talk me off the edge of that boring precipice known as convenience.
Pull my hands to my face and tell me, these are your tools.