Monday, 28 February 2011

Introducing Maida

Here is what has lately been occupying much of my rare spare time, stolen time from other duties, and hours normally allocated to sleeping. 

I first met Ms Heatter a couple of months ago when I came across a reference to her Weinerstübe cookies on some blog or other. My sparrow-like interest was piqued by her use of black pepper, and thanks to and the strong Australian dollar, one thing led to another, and another, and, yes, duplicates. 

And have not yet delivered her Great Book of American Desserts or Brand-New Book of Great Cookies, so God knows where I’m supposed to fit all these.

There are no glossy photos in these books from the nineteen-seventies and eighties, only the occasional line-drawing. Nor are there allusions to sexy luscious quivering or lugs of olive oil, not that there’s anything wrong with Nigella or Jamie. Maida’s tone is more in the style of Dorie Greenspan’s: helpful and solicitous, and often likened by her devotees to that of a kindly great-aunt. Exactly the sort of company to keep in the wee small hours.

As a recurring insomniac, sometimes the only thing for it is to haul one’s weary bones and heat-oppress’d brain out of bed and bake something, then go back to bed and try again. Call me crazy, but it usually works. Some people swear by glasses of warm milk (bleurgh), others by resetting their circadian rhythms by exposing their wan faces to the first light of day. My way is baking, and who’s to say it’s any less scientific than the rest? It seems science doesn’t have a clue about sleep. Also, when I stagger into work on the late side due to sleeping through the alarm, I like to think that leaving a peace-offering in the kitchen goes some way towards forgiveness. At any rate, my colleagues put in the hard yards polishing off the efforts by mid-afternoon, for which I thank them.

Anyway, so I’m rapt to have discovered Maida. I would like to work systematically through one of her books as this dedicated and inspiring Monday blogger has done, but insomnia and my life generally is a bit all-over-the-place for such regularity. I’ve been taking a scattergun approach to her recipes and found them consistently reliable – any stuff-ups can be readily attributed to me and my oven.

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