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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

02 March 2023

Posted by Susmita Bhattacharya

Food Writing

Photo by bales on Unsplash

This month we focused on themes around food. And there were so many - good and bad experiences, memories that made us pause and think about the person or people we shared these food memories with. We read Hema Nataraju's creative nonfiction piece, Tempering, and discussed how she managed to make that connection of feeling safe by cooking something familiar, how these familiar tastes and the act of following a recipe to create a well-loved dish can make an alien place feel like home. We then went into the world of our imagination to recreate our dream pantry, taking inspiration from Ella Risbridge's memoir, Midnight Chicken (and Other Recipes Worth Living for). Here's one very moving piece written by Stacie Bates.

Recipe N°12: Victoria Sponge

By Stacie Bates

I say, ‘Why don’t we bake?’ My daughter looks at me only half-willing. We are past the

beloved days of sticker books, Sylvanians and crafting villages of houses from toilet rolls. I

miss this time desperately and reason that baking may in some way capture that same

feeling of togetherness. She turns the oven to 180°C but checks, the reassurance of being

right. I pull out the oversized Mason Cash bowl we bought at a car boot years before, its

clotted cream, woven like veneer waits ready and accepting. I tell her, ‘What I love about

this recipe is that the measurements are all the same.’ She takes the electronic scales and

watchfully weighs 200 grams of caster sugar, 200 grams of butter, and 200 grams of self-

raising flour. A self-imposed strictness for the level teaspoon of baking powder plopped in.

She enjoys breaking the four eggs, ‘They look like suns.’

I tell her, probably for the millionth time, ‘My grandad was a baker,’ less she forgets this

part of her history. She tells me, ‘Nana says you get your baking from him.’ I smile, satisfied,

that this at least has come to me to pass on. He died when I was five. I have a few good solid

memories where I can see the real shape of him but perhaps not define the edges. Be under

no allusion, this recipe was not passed down but my parents often mention, my mum at

least, that something remains in the skill, the way I shape the bread or bend the mixture to

my will and this pleases me. My Dad nods silent but his agreement absolute.

We take turns stirring. When she was little we used to count the stirs. We divide it equally

between the tins. She takes control as she has for the most part, waiting to find precision,

an exactness as the creamy mixture drip, drip, drops from the weathered wooden spoon.

We turn to place it in the oven, we open the door and are blasted by a fiery furnace without

the flames. We wait, we chat, she draws, she reads, while it cooks then cools. We sandwich

it together with the moreish yet sickly sweet buttercream. A snowy dusting of icing sugar,

she delights in its flurry, its patina, descending downwards from the white plastic sieve. And

there it sits, pride of place on the counter like a present.


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