One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is time, or more specifically pace of life. British life seems to be so pressured and hectic, and I find it really easy to be drawn in to charging from activity to activity. So when the train is 10 minutes late to see those 10 minutes as “wasted” somehow.
The most notable exception to this in my life is Christmas Cake. For the last six years I have made a Christmas cake, and this year is no exception. It’s a very slow process. Everything about it is slow. You have to start the recipe the day before the main cooking, as the dried fruit has to soak overnight. The cake goes in the oven for at least four hours. Nothing else I’ve ever cooked (except perhaps a large Turkey) has come close to needing four hours in an oven. I suppose you sometimes leave meringue in the oven overnight, but that’s more drying than cooking.
But the best bit is that you cook the thing eight weeks before you eat it! So I made this year’s last weekend. You get it down every few days to feed it, but it basically just sits there doing its stuff for 8 weeks.
Even that’s not the end of the story! If you’re using marzipan, that has to go one a week before you ice it (so that the almond oil evaporates, and doesn’t leech through the icing.)
And of course the icing itself needs several hours – probably ideally a day or two – to dry out and set before you eat it!
Obviously there are shortcuts – you could make it, marzipan, and ice it in a weekend. But I don’t think it would taste half a nice, and for me that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun or enjoyable as slowly bringing it together over the winter months. It would be a yet another chore, rather than a delight.
Watching ‘ol Heston on the telly last week marinating his chicken for 36 hours doesn’t even come close. EIGHT WEEKS!!
I can honestly say that making the Christmas Cake is one of the highlights of the year for me, and I start looking forward to it in August or September.