Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Lemon Drizzle Cake - a letter to Felicity Cloake

Dear Felicity,

There you are again, popping up in my Google search - not quite at the top of the list but satisfyingly close. On the front page. No image. But I know who it is, simply by the precursor to my search term that appears in the result that stares at me. And once I again I regret the lack of imagination that set me on a path from my UCCA form (as it was) that took me most definitely out of the kitchen, only to return some years later. 

You see, Felicity, I'm really sorry but you have my job. It's mine, although I only know it now that it's too late, and you already have it. 

No, no don't worry - I'm not some psycho who's about to launch some hate campaign. I'm not actually what you would call 'jealous' in the proper sense of the word. A quick pause to ponder, but no, definitely not jealous as such, just a little wistful. My food writing career such as it was, summed up in an essay my 13yr old self wrote, calling on the world (or at least my English class) to witness the injustice inflicted on me by my mother in the form of wholemeal pasta. Perhaps I simply didn't recognise my calling in life, but in truth, I simply had no idea that writing about food was something one could do for a living. I don't know how I imagined Delia, Jane, Elizabeth, Madhur and the rest, who lined our family kitchen shelves, funded their lives - whether it crossed my mind that they GOT PAID for what they did. "Be a teacher" exhorted my teacher mother "So handy for the holidays". "Don't be a lawyer!" counselled my lawyer father. So off I trotted to law school, via a politics and French degree which gave me little more than an ability to consume large quantities of tequila and dance on tables (the two are related), skills that I now find I have little need for. 

Never underestimate the value of a degree, I tell you.

And when did I realise that the job I never knew was mine had gone? Well, when it was too late, but of course. And again, I don't say this with rancour. Just as I have viewed many a jobs page in the last few years, come across people with far more exciting job titles than 'employment lawyer', and thought "I never knew I could do that - you means someone is paid to do that", it's with a kind of dazed amazement. Life has been good to me, and I am happy where I am now - but, you know, a column in a respected national newspaper wouldn't go amiss...

May be you think I have your job, my 'portfolio' of freelance writing, and social media shenanigans carved out since domestic reasons long since meant that lawyering was no longer a practical option, in which case didn't life play a hilarious joke on us - but somehow, I doubt it. But I sense that if you had my life, you'd be doing what I do in the kitchen - creating the perfect sausage casserole out of some flabby carrots and a red pepper that's seen better days. Tweak with the addition of smoked paprika and voila. You'd disagree, too, with Nigel that the perfect addition to such a creation when feeding small children is fennel seed, weigh up the pros and cons of chopped v plum tomatoes, and whether to serve with pasta or couscous.

I don't crave the headline, the top billing, but an opportunity to spend the whole time tinkering in the kitchen, reading recipes, creating delights, tweaking - some more ground almonds there, a little more lemon zest there - and to write about it - it must be heaven. And with a brief to work out  how to cook the perfect lemon drizzle cake - who would refuse. May be you sensed that there was someone else out there for the job, but that doesn't mean you aren't superb. No. Every one of the 'perfect' recipes I've tried - me, the queen of the tinker - I can't better them. And your lemon drizzle - the perfect one? Well, it's just that.

So, Felicity, there you have it. I'm glad you're doing my job so well - I can't think of a better person. And you know, if you ever get bored, I've got a perfect 'leftover chicken and gravy pasta' just waiting to go - so do call. And as for the lemon drizzle cake? Yes. Perfect.


  1. I've got to admit that it does sound like a very, very fine lemon drizzle and that's just perfect for me. I do think that 'perfect' does often depend a bit on where you are, how you're feeling and who you're with, though. Maybe that's the perfect job - a lemon drizzle life coach. I regret that I never learnt to dance on tables or even dance on solid ground in a convincing manner.

    1. Ah, wise words indeed Phil! I do agree - like I say, there's no rancour or real jealousy there - I am fine as I am, but perhaps I was having an 'if only' moment. It is a delightful lemon drizzle cake. Using demerara in the topping is genius - I've used granulated or icing before and it's never been quite so satisfyingly crunchy

  2. The cake looks superb RJ, demerara is a top tip. You never know FC might be looking for a change of direction? You can but ask :)

    1. :-) sadly, if she is, she hasn't been in touch...

  3. Oh yum.... And yes, I think you should ask too! :D


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