When we were kids, our mum used to make Yorkshire puddings in bread tins, served as a starter before a main course of beef.
We had one each, a great boat of a pudding to fill the plate. We’d pour gravy into it, my sister holding the onions back with a fork because she hated them.
Mum’s Yorkshire puddings were incredible – big, bold, crisp, and light – and I’ve never really come close to replicating them. I tell myself that it’s because my modern electric oven doesn’t have the sheer ferocity of mum’s ancient gas one, or that I can’t match the precise proportions of egg, milk and flour, but the real reason is that those Yorkshire puddings exist in the legend and lore of our family, and they’re incomparable because of that. They’re part of our childhood, and they’re untouchable.
My mum and dad are both gone, and I’ve tried many, many times to come close to those idealistic Yorkshire puddings, but I’ve never done it. My Yorkshire puddings are flat and depressed, as well as depressing. Every time I’ve served up a frankly pathetic Yorkshire pudding, I’ve thought about my mum serving hers, dashing from kitchen to table as quickly as possible to present her triumphs in the best condition possible.
The other day, I cooked twice.
The first was a batch of falafel with far too much salt. I knew I was doing it as I shoved the spoon into the salt cellar, knew it was a bad idea, told myself not to, but I still added an extra spoonful, because that’s the kind of stupid thing I habitually do.
Those falafel were pretty much inedible, and despite trying to convince myself they were good, they weren’t, and I had to fall back on the stash of emergency samosas hidden in the freezer.
When I cook, I can feel when it’s happening, and I can tell when it isn’t, but I’d do well to start to listen to myself a little more.
The second meal was much more successful. Lara dropped a succession of hints, that developed into an outright demand for toad-in-the-hole, so that’s what I did, with proper butcher’s sausages, big sausages full of good cuts of pork.
I was nervous about this.
Yorkshire puddings and me don’t have an easy relationship, and after the complete fuck-up that was lunch, I felt uneasy about trying to deliver something I’ve spent a lifetime trying to perfect, never coming close. I sometimes have to work hard to get over kitchen setbacks and try again. The temptation to go back to that freezer and fish out a pack of chilli or something like that was immense.
But this time, it worked. More…