The Ads v Bethan Christmas Bake Off

So after being a massive show off about how I have stretched so many personal comfort zones, it has suddenly occurred to me that there is one major area where I have no confidence at all. It is an area that isn’t exactly life threatening, but it IS limiting.

That area of life is … my ability to cook.

I can cook cereal. That’s about it.

My cooking issues aren’t helped by having an Ads who can sort of cook … quite well. I suppose. And as he is the superior chef, I generally let him get on with what he is good at whilst I get on with what I’m good at. This way nothing has to change and all comfort zones are left beautifully in tact and undisturbed. This “normality” is made easier by the fact that all of my girlfriends have men who cook as well, so it all seems quite acceptable and comforting. But then recently, one certain girlfriend rattled my status quo by becoming all assertive in the kitchen.

Last week I found Naughty N hovering about her kitchen, with a Rick Stein cookery book open on a particular page.

“What are you doing?” I asked suspiciously, shuffling onto a very tall breakfast bar stool.

“I am baking,” whispered Naughty N, in a wide-eyed, nail-chewing confessional sort of way. She then hissed, “I don’t know WHAT is happening to me. I think I have sympathy-pregnancy-nesting symptoms. I feel all … homely. It’s your fault.” She then added that this wasn’t the first baking she’d been doing. Apparently last week she’d made a shepherds pie … and it tasted OKAY!

 This was very, VERY unusual  for Naughty N (being homely). I know a while ago she had that weird Cleaning Phase, but it wore off fairly quickly and then she was back to her normal self. What’s more bizarre is that we are now in the festive season. This time last year NN was glitzing around in cocktail dresses, swishing off in limousines to cocktail parties with her richer, more “mature” friends and tottering like an actress from one of the Xmas M&S adverts. Yet now, here she was, one year later, indulging in home baking without even a sprinkling of Nigella’s naughtiness.

Immediately I experienced a fluttering sense of panic.

It is easy to feel accepting of your comfort zones when the people you know and love are also comfortable within them. But Naughty N’s unexpected expansion of this zone now called for me to take a long hard look at my own inadequacies.

“So what are you making?” I asked.

“Christmas cake. Except I’m going to do a Dundee Cake because they are nicer.”

Well. I didn’t know how to even respond to that one. There was a pause – more pregnant than my belly – during which some imaginary tumble-weed blew coldly through the room.

Naughty N cleared her throat. “Well, anyway. Would you like tea?”

“Yes, that would be lovely.”

She proceeded to rummage in the cupboard and it quickly became clear that her new homely instincts had not picked up on a severe shortage of tea bags. Phew. So instead she rummaged in the cupboard and found a pack of fresh coffee. She washed the dusty cafeteria in a homely way, then offered me biscuits but there weren’t any, so instead I was offered chocolate drops from the baking cupboard.

I thought initially that THAT was that, but clearly a massive inferiority complex had been triggered in my subconscious mind. Last night I found myself saying provocatively to Ads, “I bet I could cook better than you.”

“I’m sure you could, babe,” he said with the patronising ease of a man who has spent the last ten years cooking and getting awards for cooking and getting paid good money for cooking and all that annoying stuff.

“I think we should have a bake off,” I heard myself saying.

What was I saying? WHAT WAS I SAYING?

“Cool. What shall we bake?”

I shrugged nonchalantly. “Dunno – mince pies?”

“When shall we do it?”

“This week some time? Sunday?”

The 15th December was agreed.

There was a thoughtful pause. Eventually Ads asked lightly, “Are you going to make your own mincemeat?”

“Course,” I replied.

I happen to know where a women’s institute goddess of chutneys and mincemeat sells jars of the stuff on the main road from Whitwell to Newport. I believe there would be a magical quality to Women’s Institute Mincemeat … Like it has been made by a fairy godmother or Father Christmas’ wife.

I sat there supremely unruffled by the idea of  a bake off.

That’s when I became acutely aware that underneath my comfort zone of Not Cooking there has lives an even BIGGER one called Not Losing. This is going to be an interesting experiment.

The House Of Bethan


4 thoughts on “The Ads v Bethan Christmas Bake Off

  1. Uh uh. Morrison’s basic (i.e. cheapo) mincemeat is much more comfort-zone and will win the little peoples’ vote. And all-butter shortcrust pastry in a pack ‘fresh’ from a Supermarket. If you put the cheap mincemeat in a posh kilner jar ….. the heart doesn’t grieve over what the eye doesn’t see 🙂 Putting a bought-in product in a jar is legally accepted as ‘made by’ these days, anyway.

    • Hello P.T.S.B. Alice, thanks for your good advise however in this Bake Off I am going to have to aim a lot higher than Morrisons mincemeat and a pack of Just Roll Pastry. Ads’ is not a normal chef and he will be looking at some tantalising combination of quince and Sharon zest mince pie with a brandy butter centre and frangipane topping. I have my work cut out for me and hence need to aim for the brilliant. As I have ziltch skill in the cooking department I am having to utilise a slightly more Bethan-ish approach that involves invention, creativity, lateral thinking and a good handful of luck. I will keep you informed xx

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