|Denis Marshall Pickles
Monday, July 15, 2019 12:45
Hitler became Fuehrer of Germany in 1934. A long time ago! I tell you this so that you have some idea of the period about which I am speaking. It was in the days before supermarkets which had their own ‘in house bakeries’: when small bakeries run by a husband and wife were to be found down most streets and most certainly the time when most housewives did their own baking. There may be a few who still make a token dozen iced cup cakes sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and perhaps a few who make their own bread. But those that do, will not be using the methods seen in the traditional kitchen of my childhood as my mother once did! I suspect that most home bread makers will make their loaves in an electric bread making machine and not in a side oven in a coal fuelled fire-range. But ‘by gum!’ My mother could bake! Bread, tea cakes, rock cakes, ginger loaves, shortbread, scones, sponge cakes, apple pies and parkin! My mother’s parkin was first class!
One evening, not all that long ago, I was sitting in my armchair dreaming, as one tends to do when there’s nothing on television that takes your fancy. The subject of my dreams was mouth-watering recollections of my mother’s cooking - parkin in particular. I really fancied some parkin. “Well,” I thought. “I still have my mother’s recipe books in the kitchen drawer.” “I should be able to manage a simple task like baking myself a couple of slabs of parkin”. I hunted down the recipe book full of all the delights she used to make - all recipes hand written in her beautiful copper plate script and all quantities given in pounds and ounces and many in handfuls or cupfuls. “Yes, I can manage that”, I thought. But what temperature do I use and for how long do I bake the mixture? Nothing in the recipe book told me that! Can’t ask her. Sadly she’s been dead many a year. The best I can do is ask someone of her era and the only one who sprang to mind was Mary, an old aunt of my dad’s, still living in her nineties and on the phone. I gave her a ring, we chatted and then I asked her how to bake parkin. What temperature do I set the oven and for how long? Immediately came the reply, “bake itin a moderate oven until firm to the touch”. I was still no wiser but not to be thwarted in my task, I made a mixture, spread it on an oven shelf and baked it at what I considered to be a ‘moderate’ temperature. It was certainly firm to the touch when it came out of the oven! The bread knife buckled when I tried to cut it! A failure!
There is a saying : if at first you don’t succeed, try again! I’m afraid that I gave up baking after that experience. But I still have cravings for proper parkin.