In my last blog, I talked about cooking breakfasts and the complications that can occur. I was referring to the first few breakfasts we served at Blenheim Lodge in 2002.
To give you a bit of background, I grew up with servants and although I took cookery classes in school as we all did in the ’70s, I never became proficient, unlike most of my classmates. The problem was that I had no interest in cooking – only in eating. And as I had no need to learn how to cook, nor did I enjoy the process, I did not take my cookery lessons seriously.
In fact, I was so bad that I failed my final cookery exam. We had been given the task of baking pineapple tarts, and I had not left enough time for the baking process. I really did pity the cookery teacher who had to try my half-baked tarts. Thinking back now, I am just so thankful that she did not come down with stomach cramps from tasting them!
In 1979, I left for Canada on my lonesome to go to high school in Toronto. (Well, I was essentially on ‘my lonesome’ as I was going away without my family.) I had to fend for myself even though I was travelling over with two classmates from school. One of the other girls was an able cook, and helped me to become more familiar with working in the kitchen. As a result, I learnt how to boil water out of necessity, and was soon able to cook an egg and noodles. Then, in the years following, I moved to Edmonton where I studied for my postgraduate M.A. My then boyfriend was a good cook and taught me how to cook, going even so far as to buy me a cookbook, which I still have to this day.
As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, my husband and I had never run a B&B before, much less experienced the pressure of cooking for a roomful of people we did not know. It was our first day in the kitchen. The night before, we had moved into Blenheim Lodge and our own furniture was to follow later. Our two boys were staying with family and were to arrive at the weekend. All we had with us was a blow-up bed, two sleeping bags, ourselves and Monty, our Pyrenean Mountain Dog. And Monty’s food, of course. Eight people had been booked into the rooms by the previous proprietors, and now we were going to be the people who would look after them.
The next morning, Hubby had an appointment at the Sheriff’s Court to sign in for the privilege of holding a residence licence so that we could serve drinks to our guests. He had to be in court at 9 am, and the court was about 15-20 minutes’ drive from Blenheim Lodge. Breakfast was to start at 8:30 am, which would not give us much time to cook and serve breakfast together before he was to disappear.
The night before, we had agreed that Hubby was to do the cooking and I was to do the serving. Unfortunately, this did not quite work out. By 8:40 am, we had only served one couple, and Hubby had to rush off so that he would not be late for court. So, here I was: three tables still to cook for and serve on my own. And I had never fried eggs before as I don’t eat fried eggs! Thankfully, although I don’t eat bacon, I had cooked them in the past, so I had no trouble grilling the bacon. And I love sausages.
So what could one do in such a situation? I had no choice but to go out and play the sympathy card. I explained to guests that we were new, and my husband had to go to court for the alcohol licence, and that they would have to bear with me while I cooked and served them. Would they mind? Everyone was so sweet. No one objected, which gave me a little space to breath.
Half an hour later and a lot of flapping around, and everyone was served. To my delight, everyone said how much they enjoyed their breakfasts. I could not stop grinning from ear to ear and to this day, I think back fondly to our first day in full service at Blenheim Lodge with great good humour.
This blog puts me in mind of the current Masterchef 2012 series (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006t1k5), which I have been watching assiduously over the past few weeks, having only missed one episode because I had forgotten that it was on. I marvel at how so many of the contestants are able to cook so well when under so much pressure, and can quite sympathise with them whenever something goes awry.
The final three contestants are now fighting for the title of Masterchef, and I have to admit that I am full of admiration for amateurs who are able to think up such fantastic recipes and use such complex techniques when cooking their food. After all, only a little while back, they would probably have been cooking mainly in their own kitchens. I quite envy – but in a nice way – their imagination and creativity in the kitchen.
So which picture shall I upload tonight as a fitting tribute to all good cooks? Here is one for you to see with tongue well in cheek: a well-cleaned plate by a replete guest. If you come to visit with us, I hope that you too will as thoroughly enjoy our food, and leave our breakfast room with satisfied tummies well able to see you through a great day of activities, fun and laughter.
‘Blenheim Lodge . . . panoramic Lake views, peace and tranquillity, nestled against acres of beautiful fields and woodlands, in the heart of the English Lake District National Park.’
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