I don't know where I was when the practical gene was handed out. Maybe I was hiding under the bed covers reading a book with a torch – I did a lot of that kind of thing in my youth – because it completely passed me by.
It’s all the more puzzling because each one of my six brothers and sisters was born with practicality oozing from their fingertips. From a young age they could garden, cook, sew and paint pictures. They could turn their hands to building work and decorating. They could ice a cake and plaster a wall or knit a jumper and paint a skirting with an innate sense of the right thing to do. My two sisters are both brilliant artists.
I can’t turn my hand to anything without extensive research via the internet, reading books on the subject and asking tradesmen for advice. I can buy all the right equipment to go with my new-found knowledge - and it'll still turn out like a project undertaken by a moderately competent six-year-old.
My heart starts to thud in memory of my dire days in Domestic Science at school trying to do battle with flour and butter in a vain bid to produce the perfect shortcrust pastry or Victoria sponge.
I spent hours creaming together butter and sugar until my wrists screamed out for mercy. I rubbed fat into flour using the tips of my fingers trying to make it resemble “fine breadcrumbs” but mine still turned out like builder’s mortar. On reflection, builder’s mortar probably tasted better than any pastry I produced.
The gardening gene is also in hiding, skulking under a patch of goosegrass and nettles. While brothers and sisters boast of their hoard of perfect beetroot and potatoes, I’m outside with scissors snipping the tops off weedy looking lettuces to put into a salad.
But siblings kindly keep me supplied with lots of veg - probably worried that the better half is in danger of developing scurvy. They tend to look at him pityingly as they carry in the carrots.
They also bring round pots of chutneys and pickles. I tried making chutney once. It resembled vegetable soup rather than chutney and tasted of onion and vinegar and not much else.
At least when it comes to cooking I have perfected one meal. I am, even if I do say so myself, a dab hand at roasts. Sunday is the day of the week when lots of family members come round for a traditional dinner. After years of practice, my roast potatoes are crisp on the outside and floury in the middle and I can cook the meat and veg perfectly. I must admit I have to rely on Aunt Bessie for the Yorkshires.
My sister always brings along pudding. I haven’t yet read enough cookery books or visited enough Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay websites to dare to tackle anything as complicated as a blackberry and apple pie. In any case, who wants pastry that tastes like mortar?
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