A love of food rituals and creating a new one
There are many reasons I love cooking.
I love eating, first and foremost. I’d rather invest time in cooking something tasty than eat something indifferent. I also get a huge amount out of the process of cooking itself: a sense of detachment. My mind can wander as I just focus on the process - it’s meditative almost (that sounds wanky written down). But it’s also, massively, about the rituals food creates. The moments and memories that food can conjure. Eating and laughing together is one of the most joyful of family activities. And if you cook and eat similar things at similar events, those times, for me, seem to become even more precious. To separate the food from the occasion becomes impossible.
And although the nights are drawing in and there’s a ridiculous chill in the air (wearing socks to bed is a particularly sexy look), I love this time of year because food rituals are so abundant. Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas. I’m tempted to take up Thanksgiving just as an excuse to have another ritual in my life.
Autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness this year have also meant something else: my youngest has started school. There is now no one at home but me. Combined with the closing of my business 6 months ago, this means I now really need to work out what I’m doing with my life.
So in amongst the going-to-the-gym and playwriting and completing the internet, I decided to create a new food ritual for us.
Hurray it’s Thursday Cake.
Strictly term-time, the plan is to make a different cake each week, decorate it if there’s time, and I can’t repeat myself - even if it’s the best cake ever. (I can repeat it on another occasion though - such as Whoop it’s Wednesday…)
We’re now on week three and although it’s highly likely that I’m enjoying this ritual (and the cake) more than the children are, it’s here to stay.
Come round to ours on a Thursday people - there’s cake! Although there's none left by Friday.
The first three weeks
Week one: Chocolate Chip Cake
Recipe from the Milk Bar cookbook by Christina Tosi. This is an amazing baking book - in part because it’s not that well known over here. The Milk Bar bakeries are known for Cereal Milk, birthday cake truffles and Crack Pie (which I’ve made - it completely lives up to the hype. The recipe makes enough for two which means you can put one in the freezer and have access to genius pie in a couple of defrosting hours). Anyway, I digress. This chocolate chip cake is incredibly light, flavourful and looks fabulous. It looked a lot prettier before I iced it, but hell, it was week one. The colour palate I call “What we had in” - which I’m sure will be Farrow & Ball’s next colour launch.
Week two: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
In ‘researching’ cakes, I’ve discovered a few new blogs, one of which is Molly Yeh, whose blog Mynameisyeh combines baking and stories of life on a ranch by someone who didn’t expect to end up on one. If this first cake is anything to go by, I’ll be making more of her recipes in the future. Dark chocolate and peanut butter combine to make something moist and not too sweet, and also enormous. This is a cake you can see from space.
Week three: Dorset Apple Cake
We have a few apple trees in the garden, which means at this time of year, we can feel self-satisfied about not having to buy apples, and pretend that we had something to do with the growing of them (we didn’t). There’s nothing like a home-grown ingredient to add that certain pinch of smug to a recipe.
This recipe, by Felicity Cloake, makes a delicious autumnal cake - I substituted mixed spice for cinnamon as that’s what I had in, and to be honest it was so tasty I’m not sure I’d try it the other way. But then, I’m a creature of habit.
I’ll be writing about more food rituals in our house over the coming months. If there are some in your house we’d love to hear about them in the comments or on our myriad of social media accounts!