Monday, December 15, 2008

Minced Pie

The other day I left a comment on Mr BC's blog to the effect that I could have been a captain of industry if I'd wanted, I just didn't want to.

What a lot of old rot that was. I could never have been a captain of industry, even if I had wanted to. For a start I'm pathetically shy, and practically incapable of looking an interlocutor in the eye, let alone walking the walk, talking the talk, pressing the flesh, running things up the flagpole and all the other things that captains of industry do in order to reach their elevated rank.

For a second thing, I shun human company whenever possible, so as to spare my fellow human beings the discomfort of being in my introverted, socially-awkward presence. There was a time, when I was in a more fragile mental state than I am now (I'm not in a fragile mental state now), when I didn't even like going outside in case the mere sight of me spoiled other people's day. I'm fairly sure this is not the kind of attitude that got Richard Branson where he is today.

For another thing, I have no confidence in my own abilities, nor in fact any sense that I have any abilities to have confidence in. If I were asked to list my abilities, the list might go as follows:

1. Speaking French (not very well).

2. Arranging words in a passable sort of order.

3. Making pastry.

When my confidence is at its lowest ebb, it's this last one that I cling to, desperately, in a bid to persuade myself that I'm not the most useless, pointless individual that ever lived.

So it was the other day, as I was wandering around the kitchen berating myself for never having become a captain of industry, or a brilliant mathematician, or a columnist for the Economist.

'Still,' I thought to myself. 'I do make good pastry.'

A bout of cathartic pastry-making duly ensued, the methodical rubbing of butter into flour and icing sugar and lemon zest soothing my troubled thoughts, the spooning out of the mincemeat bringing back fond memories of cooking with my mum (I'm not sure why, as cooking with my mum usually involved her shouting at me for ruining whatever it was she was attempting to make, but still), the warmth of the oven momentarily raising the temperature of the kitchen above zero degrees Kelvin, and the aroma of baking suffusing the house with a sense of homeliness and contentment.

'I make great mince pies,' I tell myself, proudly.

As I take the mince pies out of the oven, the tray slips from my oven-gloved hand and falls upside-down on the slate floor, crushing the pies into a sticky morass fretted with a few disenfranchised pastry stars.

'Oh,' I thought.


Anonymous said...

oh bum! but at least they were nice before they plunged floorwards. i can't make pastry. AT. ALL. In fact, there's a bit in one of the novels where the main character hurls pastry across the room in a fury of frustration - oh yead - totally based on real life!
word ver: sneozes (a sneeze during a snooze?)

Anonymous said...

If you'd been a captain of industry you could have been on Dragon's Den by now.

A lucky escape.

Vicus Scurra said...

I'd rather read your blog than eat the mince pies anyway.

Marsha Klein said...

Theo Paphitis is a captain of industry.

That is all.

Sylvia said...

It's a sign that you should concentrate on all the other stuff that you do so well and leave the mince pies for a while.

vf = squel. a posh squeal?

Tim Footman said...

That sort of accident is how great culinary creations occur. Warm, slightly dusty mincemeat with shards of damaged pastry, known as Blue Kitten Mess.

Smat said...

Was that your own pastry? Made by you? With a small baby? Jealous jealous jealous! I used to be fantastic at making pastry (when I was three ;)) but nowadays I resort to Mr Jusrol in the freezer section.
vw: diterman (diterman hoerst du mich night?)

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a sad post. You are very much not the most useless, pointless individual that ever lived, as I'm sure you secretly know and of course the mere sight of you has never spoiled other people's days. But glad that you're not in that fragile mental state now.

Did you still eat the pies? I would have. Scrunched up under some cream, no-one would have noticed. (Unless your floor was very, very dirty.)

FirstNations said...

and you know what? they were still edible, weren't they.

*hopping up and down and waving*

Charles Frith said...

Is the Cockney expression "you should have kept your pie hole shut"? appropriate?

Tim Footman said...

Smat, the better cooks no longer make pastry with a small baby. A rolling pin, available from all good kitchenware stores, is generally more effective.

Incidentally, Patroclus, the phrase "a few disenfranchised pastry stars" proves that your word-ordering skills are considerably better than passable. It sounds like a Felt album from about 1983.

Dave said...

As I read this passage, I felt it could apply to me.

Until, that is, I reached your list of abilities.

I wish I had three things about which I could boast.

Incidentally, my father, who lectured on thermodynamics (whatever that is) taught me that temperatures measured in Kelvins do not come in degrees. 'Zero Kelvin' would be the correct term.

Oh. Pedantry is the one gift I appear to have.

GreatSheElephant said...

I can't even make pastry.

I had a similar experience the other day. For once, rather than getting a takeaway or eating cheese I decided to grill some lamb chops. First off, I'm scared of my new grill so I ended up frying them. Then when getting them out of the pan I dropped them on the floor. But I still ate them.

clodhopper said...

Unaccountably, I find singing the theme tune to Postman Pat helps enormously: specially the bit 'Pat thinks he's a really happy man.'

Srsly, I think it is Captain Industries secret secret.

Simes said...

This is the saddest tale I've heard in ages.

Also, the phrase "fretted with a few disenfranchised pastry stars" is the best I've heard in ages.

I am jealous of your pastry-making abilities, but don't like mince pies. I am rent with emotional turmoil.

Betty said...

Yeah, but you have a huge and ever pulsating brain, and know everything about Alan Turing. Imagine being socially awkward but being completely stupid too - like me :(

Mince pies are the only thing I like about Christmas. I'm toying with the idea of baking some myself for the first time in twenty years, but it's probably best *for all concerned* that I don't,

Boz said...

I believe there have been some notable examples in the press recently where captains of industry have, so to speak, 'dropped the tray of mince pies'.

Also you've just listed three utterly applause-worthy qualities that are far more likely to help move mankind forward.

I can't speak French. I let the funky music do the talking.

And my pastry is always too flakey...

WV: nonom - which is I suspect the fate of the mice pies that were dropped.

spence said...

you made a beautiful baby,
more scrummy than mince pies. :-)

patroclus said...

Crumbs (quite literally), what a lot of comments, thank you all. Sadly the kitchen floor is caked in god knows what all filth, some of it probably dating from the 18th century. I've tried mopping it, but it doesn't seem to do any good. So the mince pies had to go in the bin. Bah.

Marsha Klein said...

Could I have your pastry recipe please? Ingredients and proportions will be fine.

I haven't made mince pies for years but am having some people round on Sunday and I'm thinking homemade mince pies would play very well.

Also, I wouldn't be blogging if it wasn't for you. (That isn't meant to sound quite so like an accusation.)

patroclus said...

Marsha, with pleasure. I got this one from the Guardian a few months back, and most excellent it has proved to be. The quantities are a bit mad because I had to cut it down by a third because the original recipe made too much. This one should make 24 tinky-tiny mince pies (like I make), or 12 big ones:

230g plain white flour
115g unsalted butter (cold from the fridge)
53g icing sugar
Zest of one lemon
One large egg

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl, grate the lemon zest on top, dice the butter and bung it into the bowl, rub the butter into the other ingredients with fingertips until resembling sand, beat the egg, add the egg to the dry ingredients, mash it about with a fork for a bit, then work it into a pastry with your hands. Wrap in clingfilm, bung it in the fridge for 30 mins or so to chill, et voila!

Sometimes if I don't have a lemon I put in a bit of cinnamon instead of the lemon zest.

Jessica said...

When I was three, I witnessed the Great Dropping of the Scone Tray. My mum, the victim (or culprit?) vowed never to bake scones again. And kept her word. For context, I am now 20 and not one single scone has she made.

Don't follow the same path: keep baking! Especially yummy mince pies - there is nothing quite so Christmassy as a good mince pie.

Jayne said...

Sadly the kitchen floor is caked in god knows what all filth

My kind of woman. Once I was stupid enough to mention that I only wash the kitchen floor if my feet start sticking to it. Luckily my mother thought I was joking otherwise she'd be round here with a mop and bucket once a week. Even though she lives 150 miles away.

Anonymous said...

"Once I was stupid enough to mention that I only wash the kitchen floor if my feet start sticking to it."

I only wash the floor when the floor goes crunchy.

One Fine Weasel said...

floor or no floor, i still would've eaten SOME. (drunk one night, and ravenous, i queued for twenty minutes at a roadside stall outside a busy pub for a jumbo spring roll. as soon as i got it, i dropped it. delicious.)

fragile mental state: once, i was too frightened to order a pizza 'in case they hated me'.

ah, it's a good thing we can laugh about it now... ha ha, ha. ha?

a hug cures moods like this.


patroclus said...

Jessica: That's a terrible shame, because there are few things nicer than scones and clotted cream and jam. I hope you haven't been put off making scones yourself.

Jayne: This is a very sensible approach - we need a bit of dirt, otherwise we'd all have terrible allergies. That's my excuse anyway.

Billy: Is it crunchy with the residue of ice-cream-topped garlic bread?

OFW: Oh, I can empathise with the pizza scenario. I still don't like going into the same shop more than once in case they remember me from last time and look at me funny.

Boz said...

An old drunk flatmate once ate the remains of a saucepan of rice that had been left out, entirely without noticing that it had been filled with water and fairy liquid.

Sylvia said...

I will try your mince pie recipe!

re kitchen floors, I actually hoovered mine before I went to bed last night as it was rather crunchy. I am definitely going mad.

I am sad to see that I am not alone in my what will people think musings. Why do we waste so much energy on this stuff? Let's just live our lives and leave room in our heads for pleasant thoughts!

Anonymous said...

Julia Child, the godmother of TV chefdom, once spent a half-hour show lovingly preparing a whole poached salmon, only to then trip slightly and throw it on the floor. Happily they couldn't afford edits back then, so it was broadcast.

I would therefore contend that the mere act of throwing carefully prepared food on the floor elevates one to the level of a cheffing legend.

There you go. Another one for your list. "I am a cheffing legend, I am."

Valerie said...

I will cast my fate with those who would have eaten the pies. I am a firm adherent to the 15-second rule.

Unfortunately, I generally only clean the kitchen floor when overnight guests are coming. Which means it's sticky AND crunchy. Fortunately we have scads of house guests (I think we'll have had 8 sets in 2008) so it happens about once a month. But, still. Ugh.

Marsha Klein said...

Thanks, P.

Mr K. and I paid a flying visit to London yesterday and, having pressed our grubby, provincial noses up against Fortnum and Mason's windows 'ooh-ing' and 'aah-ing' at the displays , I think there would definitely be a market for a range of bijou pastry-ettes (marketed under the 'Chaton Bleu' name perhaps?) should you ever decide to give up copywriting!