I hate the way that death drops into your life. I imagine it’s rather like a HALO jump. It silently speeds towards you from a great height, bearing down on you as you go about your business. It gathers pace, harder and faster, then with great force opens its chute of doom over your life. Whilst you stare in disbelief at your life now in tatters, death gently drops to the ground, gathers up its chute and heads off for its next victim.
What I dislike is how unprepared we are. Unaware that the very next phone call may bring some horrible news. You are busy with life, bustling around, and then it happens. You walk briskly to the phone, and within minutes of picking up the receiver you see it. The brutal, jagged chasm that is snaking between your feet and widening with every word you hear. There isn’t a way to announce death, no words are appropriate, no emotion is seemly. Death is death, it casts a shadow and leaves a mess.
Now, given how awful death is, I bet you’re glad I’m going to say no more about it aren’t you? You can relax, I’m going to talk about the flip side of the coin; life. Now we’re a bit more prepared for life, but in many ways the news arrives in the same unexpected way. You wake in the morning, start your routine, and soon the egg timer in your head is warning you that it is no longer possible to leave the house, on time, with all PE bags, school bags, hats, swimming stuff, sun cream and water bottles in the correct place. You sigh, reach for the coffee and holler that it’s breakfast time.
And then it happens. ‘bip bip!‘ You walk briskly to pick up your mobile - wondering if it’s really necessary to comb everyone’s hair - and within minutes you see it; the text that announces that your best friend is in labour!
Suddenly the day is charged with possibilities. Before the hospital mobile phone police tracked her down, I managed to speak to her about the important stuff;
‘It’s the 14th today, is that an auspicious date for it to be born?’She pondered,
‘Well I’d rather it were the 15th, that’s a better date isn’t it?’It was 8am on the 14th.
‘Hon, think about what you’re wishing for, the next 16 hours could be very long’
The day ground on. For me: buying a birthday present, a class coffee, lunch, washing, phone calls. For her, what? I glared at my phone, ring, damn you.
She called me when I was embroiled in the hot afternoon school run. Things were not progressing, she was despondent and wanted to talk. I don’t think I was much use to her. All I could say was,
‘Get away from the road! Pick your bag up NOW! Oh hon, what have they said? Keep up! Ok, well you’re in the best place, try to stay calm. STOP hitting your sister! I’m going to have to call you later’.
By 9pm things were moving along and we had a brief and gleeful conversation, rudely interrupted by a contraction. I spent a sleepless night. I shall be useless when my girls are in labour; one of those drama queens à la Eastenders,
‘Tell me the worst Doc, is she going to pull through?’
I half hoped that the supportive text I sent at 3am might be answered, but nothing. Silence. My 9am phone call was met with voicemail. Do you think they were screening my calls?
By now - remember the sleepless night - I was getting a little irrational. Having had my share of birthing horrors, I had created multiple scenarios, none of them good. I started to feel that the phone might not bring the good news for which I was hoping. Large forceps loomed before my eyes, emergency dashes through forbidding hospital corridors, swallowed meconium, dropping heartbeats, emergency caesareans.
At the peak of bedtime horror, my mobile called me, and a tired but happy voice told me that a healthy baby boy had arrived! A date was fixed for my visit and when the day came I hopped on the Métro carrying the key essentials for visiting a newborn; savoy cabbage, a tripod, plastic cups, champagne, camera, biscuits, tiny pyjamas, homemade food and - durrr - chocolate.
I am happy to report that he is perfect. He does perfect screaming, perfect juddering sighs, perfect facial contortions and a very perfect moro reflex. I happily cuddled him whilst my dear friend ate huge amounts of food, ‘I’m so hungry’ she explained between fistfuls of bread, numerous biscuits, a cooked meal and a Pig in the Kitchen creation. She’d just done 36 hours of hard labour she certainly deserved the calories.
After lunch I insisted on setting up my tripod and was most happy to bag a lovely shot of Daddy and baby. My friend looked on approvingly, mouth still full, body exhausted, exuding pride and contentment.
This Pig in the Kitchen edible gift is for you Dorry, congratulations! And - er - good luck with the sleepless nights to come.
Newborn Cranberry Rock Cakes (makes about 22)
(I haven't done the measurements in cups...does anyone mind?)
Right until the time of going to press these were called cookies. My husband however, is adamant;
'There's a minumum ratio between thickness and radius which is not respected by those so-called cookies. The ratio clearly falls into the rock cake category. And even though we have our ups and downs I still love you'.
Hmm, his last sentence just about cancelled out the affront I felt at being called on the naming of my culinary creations. Call them what you will, they're very wholesome.
*To make these with wheat flour, replace the gluten free flours with 125g wheat flour
125g dairy free spread
1 tsp Orgran 'no egg' egg replacer
a tiny pinch of xanthan gum
2 tbsps rice milk
125g ground sunflower seeds (put them in your blender and grind them to a rough powder)
75g ground linseeds (put them in your blender and grind them)
50g chick pea flour
75g brown rice flour
150g dried cranberries (you can use raisins if you wish. Or chopped apricot)
1½ tsp gluten free baking powder
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
40-60ml rice milk
Approx 50g dairy free, gluten free chocolate
- Put the 'no egg' and small pinch of xanthan gum into a small bowl. Add the 2 tbsps of rice milk. Set aside
- Pre-heat the oven to 170° celsius, and line a baking tray with baking parchment
- Put the dairy free spread and sugar into a large mixing bowl, beat with a wooden spoon until creamed together
- Add the 'no egg' mixture and beat again
- Seive in the flours (GF or wheat flour), baking powder and cinnamon, and about 20ml of the rice milk
- Mix together. It will be quite stiff - try not to worry - but go ahead and add the sunflower seeds and linseeds
- Add another 20ml of rice milk and mix
- Add the cranberries and mix
- Now add enough rice milk to get a loose mixture, but one that you can still dollop onto a baking tray into rock cake shaped shapes (I still think they're cookies). Fret ye not if you think you've added too much rice milk, all that will happen will be that your 'rock cakes' will spread and then they really WILL be cookies
- Carefully measure out small spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray, leaving room for them to spread a little
- Bake in the centre of the oven for between 10 and 15 minutes until they are risen and golden
- If you are using the dark choc option (it's always my option), remove the baking tray from the oven and vigorously grate the chocolate finely over the cakes. Grate with gay abandon, be lavish and marvellous
- When the cakes have cooled slightly, place them onto a cooling tray. You may now lick the baking parchment to clean up all that messy chocolate. Please ensure that you don't burn your tongue or lips; scabby lips are a very bad look
- These are perfect for welcoming newborns into the world, they also go down a treat at the school gate. Perfect your humble - 'oh these? Yes I rustled them up earlier, it really was no trouble' - demeanour to enrage the yummy Mums at the gate
© Pig in the Kitchen