We’re celebrating Claire Ptak from Violet Bakery over here at The Food Podcast HQ.
Claire (the star of episode 24) has been chosen by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to make their wedding cake. The couple have requested a lemon and elderflower cake, to reflect the flavours of spring. It’s such a perfect match – an American turned English pastry chef who adores florals and subtle seasonal flavours. Her bakery is in east London – trendy but not posh. Her ingredients are gorgeous, but accessible. Claire is a ‘girl next door who’s friends with Jamie Oliver’. She’s just right for the job.
But as my eight year old son Rex said, Wow. I bet she’s making practise cakes right now. She must be really nervous!
In honour of this big news, I’m baking from Claire’s book The Violet Bakery Cookbook. Again, you say? I know. It’s been constant. But it’s a big moment for Violet. We need to send best of luck vibes her way, laced in cinnamon, cardamom and brown sugar.
But there’s another side to this obsessive baking. Lately I’ve been trying my best to minimize my bookshelf, to buy less and to use what I already have. It’s been a refreshing challenge; I have many cookbooks that I’ve just made one or two recipes from, then abandoned the book to grow dusty on the shelf. Now my few in rotation are dog-eared and stained with batter splats. They’re loved.
Using what you have is just another form of editing, which is something I’ve been working on for a long time. Editing my work, my photography, my shopping and even my words ( Is it kind? Is it helpful? Is it funny? If not, don’t say it Lindsay ).
It’s hard at times. Especially this past week, as I wrote the script for my next podcast episode. I had a story that I thought fit perfectly in my opening essay, the one that kicks off the podcast, the one that ties into the theme of the show in a round about way. When I have an inkling that I’m stretching things (which is often) I have one of my faithful editors (mother, father, husband, sister) read what I’ve written. My latest response from husband was – cut that bit about the sex talk from grandpa from the essay. It doesn’t fit.
Dammit. I loved that part.
How could a talk on birth control from an 80 year old man not have something to do with an essay on tea and ritual? I thought it worked.
He was right. I cut it out. But guess what? I’m going to share it here. For two reasons.
1. Because this is a creative space where anything goes 🙂
2. So much of editing down your life is about understanding who you are. Once you figure that out, life can be straightforward.
There was no one more straightforward that James’ Grandfather Charles. He knew what he liked, who he was and what his values were. His extremely straightforward life wasn’t always popular, but he was fine with that. Don’t like fish roe on toast for lunch on Tuesday? He didn’t notice, and served it happily anyway. But for the most part, this straightforwardness was a breath of fresh air.
This story is about being straightforward. I think when it’s wrapped in kindness, it’s the answer to life.
James and I first visited his Grandparents in England when we were newly dating in our early 20’s. During that visit James slept on the Charles’ camp cot in the sitting room. This camp cot dates back to Charles’ WWII days, the kind with poles along the side that came apart like a tent with a musty piece of canvas that stretched between the poles.
James slept there because just minutes after we arrived at their house for the first time, Charles quietly escorted me into the guest room, furnished with two skinny twin beds, a sink and soft pink textured wallpaper. He moved in close – we were nose to nose – and said – Lindsay, are you on some sort of birth control? If not, I would hate to be responsible for an impregnation. Would you be more comfortable if James slept in the sitting room, on the camp cot?
Needless to say James slept on the camp cot and I slept on the skinny twin. Every morning I’d hear the clock strike 6, Charles pad down the carpeted hallway to turn the kettle on, and James roll off the camp cot and on to the floor.
It was a pregnation-free zone.