No, Famale does not do Disney. But she does now work in Edinburgh. That’s right, I am waving bye bye to my beloved west coast for the capital. A very long interview held in the Balmoral Hotel secured a brand new job, even though I took some delicious shortbread for the road in full view of my interviewers. Luckily they love cakes too, so it’s a match made in high-fat heaven. It’s been celebration time, and also time to flat-hunt. The Famale family do low-key celebrations, with a rendition of ‘Congratulations’ by Cliff Richard from Papa Famale, and a late-night dash to the supermarket with Lindy to buy some amaretto, our Arran-inspired drink of choice. I’m sure being asked for ID at age 28, by the same person who served me prosecco four hours earlier was all part of my parents’ elaborate plan to keep me grounded in my Ayrshire roots. And then a trip to the seaside – well, Troon – to eat what is quite possibly the last meal my parents will have to buy me. I decided to use my first non-stress day after hearing the happy news by baking myself a chocolate cake. But in a dozy, relaxed haze I forgot the cocoa and so it was a plain sponge. I made lots of chocolate buttercream and put the sponge in a small loaf tin. For what reason I have no idea. The sponge was slightly raw in the middle so I tore it apart and ate some of the cooked bits hot with the icing. And so began the need for transformation. Much like swapping soul-destroying job hunting for a new job in a new city, my sad broken sponge had to be turned into something fresh and exciting. Or maybe not. Sometimes a chocolateless chocolate cake becomes a trifle. And that’s just how Famale rolls.
Famale has that Friday feeling, even more than usual. A fellow blogger and incredible young woman, Holly Webber, died yesterday after an extraordinarily documented battle with cancer. She was only 26 but even in her last months packed in so much life. So I thought I’d dedicate Friday to her, to pay tribute to someone I did not know but know more about than many people in my real life, such is the power of the written word. My breakfast was a small celebration of life; a fresh egg in my childhood egg cup and toast made from my very own bread. Let’s forget about late-running transport, unemployment, falling house prices and lazy work colleagues. Today is the start of the weekend, and who knows what it will bring? I am being treated to a weekend away in a lovely cottage on Arran, the most beautiful place in Scotland, courtesy of my best friend Lindy. Friends like her are to be treasured, so she’ll get an extra warm hello when she picks me up tomorrow. Treasure your family and friends and neighbours and favourite bloggers, after all – we’re only passing clouds.
Being an obsessive baker has its drawbacks. Namely: 1. Everyone expects a super-duper birthday cake on their birthday; 2. No-one makes you a birthday cake; 3. You get easily bored of baking the same things even though everyone likes them; 4. You need new baking challenges on a monthly basis.
I’ve conquered cakes, mastered meringues and smashed scones. So, what else is left? Bread and macaroons. I attempted macaroons three times this year, all during the end of a relationship played out in the ‘shire where a teeny tiny Mary Queen of Scots was crowned. As I always say, my baking seems to be more spiritual than most, so my shoddy emotional state was not conducive to successful macaroon-making. But bread? Bread I could tackle with no lingering thoughts of chopping off a certain head. Jamie Oliver goes ‘mad’ for it. It’s trendy and no longer just gut-rotting white. So I tried, and I failed. Then in true Famale style, I tried, and I triumphed. It’s rustic, and good with soup. The very fact that I don’t like bread has nothing to do with it – I’m all about the days of glory.
What do you do on a rainy day back in Scotland? You spend six hours making sugar-craft animals of course. Katie is turning three, and this is the first time I’ve been at home for her birthday. So I thought I should make a proper effort, and step up the sponge. Baking is a great get-out-of-guilt-free card, and even better at distracting a restless mind.
Famale needs a climate change. So my bags are packed and I’m ready to go. The dolce vita and all its eating opportunities is well and truly calling…
A belated happy father’s day to all the Famale fathers across the world.
I took Papa Famale for a much-deserved delicious long lunch at The Sisters restaurant in Kelvingrove. And then to see his name engraved on the walls of Kelvingrove Museum. And then for a whisky pick ‘n’ mix at the Ben Nevis bar. I used to live around here, and it’s full of old ghosts. And also new life which has breathed into the area. We had a fantastic day – here’s to many, many more.
…”it’s simply because I’m the laziest gal in town.”
Nina had it right. I just can’t be bothered cooking. I’m enjoying being out on the town and more importantly, the company that goes with it. I’ve had perfect pizza with Don at Pizza Express on Queen Street, sumptuous green Thai curry and the most amazing prawn crackers with Steph at Bar Soba on Mitchell Lane and three delectable courses with Mamma Famale at Berits and Brown on Wilson Street. I’m not a fancy diner – tablecloths and silver service make me nervous. But I love a good deal and Glasgow is all about wheeling and dealing. If you know where to go you can dine like a queen on a pauper’s budget. Fur coat and no knickers? I prefer classy but canny.
The happier a writer is, the less she writes. This is my theory, or at least an excuse. I did have a coconut craving this week though, the way normal people crave crisps or coffee. So I made coconut balls and they beat the Mars machine hands down. Especially good in the small, now very very hot office, straight from the fridge, sliced in half with the communal knife at one’s desk. But I’m still tinkering so the recipe can wait. Famale has said her piece. The rest is up to the gods.
Famale went to London. She ate and ate, and has now digested. I have visited London as an adult every year for a decade, and first explored the big city when I was 13. For those who do not know London, it is everything and nothing you have read about. When I was 13, and 14 and 15 I went on school trips to see the musicals. We shopped on Oxford Street, bought flowers in Covent Garden and ate in chain restaurants. At 17 I found myself in Ron Arad’s design studio on Chalk Farm Road where I was taught how to make a cafetiere of coffee and was taken on long lunches in Camden and Primrose Hill where I tried mussels for the first time. I stayed in a very nice youth hostel in Golders Green and made friends with two Australians, one of whom I explored the tourist city with and paid £5 to see Shakespeare at The Globe Theatre. At 18 I was far too cool to do the tourist thing on my design school trip. Instead we toured the studios and many many bars. And then with each visit to stay with friends I became more adventurous and learned how to avoid the tube to find some of the more hidden corners of the city. This time I went down to visit Antonella, Ani and to catch up with my old flatmate and great amica Lou, and our sidekick Katie, a born-and-bred Londoner. It was a fabulous four days and we even had sunshine! My solo highlight was eating fresh strawberries bought from a market on Church Street by the fountain in Regent’s Park, the most beautiful green space I have ever seen. If you’re prepared to walk and ignore the guidebook, you will have the time of your life without spending a small fortune. We had restaurant food, market food, home-cooked food, cafe food and everything in-between. Here’s what I ate (and drank)…
ps. Thanks to the lovely Imogen who let me stay and take over her kitchen for four days!
Mamma Famale and I almost came to baking blows last night over the taking of the cakes out of their little rectangular tins. She said I should have used greaseproof paper, I said she should have bought some. I had a large knife in my hand therefore I won. The cake is delicious but a little dense. I poured extra lemon juice on top of the cakes just before they went into the oven, which I won’t do next time. So, like everything in my life just now, I’ll keep tinkering with the recipe to get it just right. In the meantime I’m happily full of cake with Bonne Maman apricot jam and a lot of tea. I’m off to pack…