I have great pleasure in cooking. One could call it an inherited passion as my Mamma is a superb cook. She is entirely self-taught as in her childhood home, the 'Missy Sahibs' were not permitted to enter the kitchen. Rather like the Misses Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, the young ladies 'had nothing to do in the kitchen'. On the other side, Papa's family - most notably in the persons of my dearest cousin and my aunt, Miss and Mrs F - are also well versed in all the culinary arts. Indeed Papa himself, while not terribly at home amidst the onions and garlic, excels in his appreciation of Mamma's many works of art and may be considered a devoted worshipper at the shrine of which Mamma is the high priestess. In my own abode, I gladly share mastery of the kitchen with Mr B, himself no mean exponent of the hospitable art of cooking. Anyone who has eaten his cakes or his roast dinners will, I am sure, agree with me.
Mr B and I are both keen eaters as well as cooks (hence my earlier wails about my embonpoint) and enjoy experimenting with new recipes. Our greatest challenge in this wise is finding sufficient time. As a general rule, we eschew excessively faddy 'gadgets' about the kitchen and embrace only those which will stand a severely utilitarian test of appreciably saving us time or labour. Thus the Magimix is a beloved replacement for a kitchenmaid, the dishwasher for the scullerymaid and thanks to the refrigerator, it is no longer necessary for the butcher to call daily at the area steps with the day's meat order. However, my electrical sauce maker, the juicer and the bread maker see the light of day no more.
The purchase of any new piece of culinary equipment is thus rather an enjoyable and absorbing pastime in our household and when the fiat goes forth in favour of buying something, there is usually a great deal of pleasant discussion and light-hearted debate. This was exactly the case with the slow cooker. One of Mr B's cousins, dear Miss I, was visiting and was eloquent in her praise of this particular piece of equipment. In view of the extreme utility of being able to prepare a meal first thing in the morning which will be ready to eat at the end of the day without further supervision, we agreed up on the purchase.
The device soon arrived by the medium of the post and eager was the desire of myself, Mr B and the Infant Phenomenon to sample the delights of this method of cooking. My first attempt I would call a qualified success. Using the receipt which came with book of instruction, I made what they called Hungarian Goulash. It was tasty and both the Infant Phenomenon and the Inexhaustible Baby ate to repletion, as did their parents. My only qualms were that my Hungarian sister-in-law Miss K might not recognise the dish as anything remotely resembling Hungarian Goulash. Nonetheless, leaving aside all such fussing over authenticity, it could be called a success.
My next attempt involved using a receipt from a new publication, especially written and bought for this device, by Mr Worrall Thompson. The book had been well- although not numerously reviewed and at first glance appeared to be the very thing I needed. Figure to yourself my distress and disappointment then, when I found that the end result of this receipt was foul-smelling and completely inedible. Mr B and I both had the fortitude to taste a sip of the sauce, but to no avail. Nothing would have induced us to sit down and actually eat the dish. Fortunately for myself, I had not used any ludicrously expensive ingredients, but the best part of a bottle of wine was wasted. It ended up as a very costly meal indeed, as we were obliged to send out for our dinner to the Indian eating house at the end of the road, which is pleasant but hardly economical.
I attempted to overcome this reversal by making another recipe from the book of instruction. This turned out tolerably well, but I am now plagued with the following question: Do I give Mr Worrall Thompson a second chance or should I simply forget all about him?