There’s a festive atmosphere in the kitchen. Micky’s been to the bakers on Notting Hill Gate and brought back bagels and doughnuts.
‘What kind of doughnut, Micky? Is it custard?’ I ask hopefully.
‘No. Jam,’ he replies, perhaps a little guiltily. ‘They didn’t have any custard.’
Hmm. Disappointing. But a doughnut nevertheless. I peer in to the brown paper bag – a sugary globe beckons.
Oh what a dilemma – midday and I haven’t had my walk yet. If I have my doughnut now it’ll spoil my lunch yet if I go on my walk without eating anything, I’ll soon be too hungry to continue.
‘What shall I do, Micky?’
He looks up from his newspaper.
‘Have a doughnut, then go for a short walk?’ Wrong answer, I’m afraid.
‘Have your lunch, then go for your walk?’ Correct.
The seedy bagel with smoked salmon is quite nice especially with the addition of four tiny, salty cornichons. But after I’ve eaten all those carbs, I don’t fancy the doughnut. Besides what I really want is a custard one.
Thus around forty five minutes later I’m at Cafe Porto, a delightful little Portuguese cafe in the Golborne Road. More disappointment – they’ve run out of doughnuts so I have to settle for a custard tart – actually two – but they’re equally delicious.
Or are they? Do they have the exact combination of dry, soft, dough and unctuous, sticky custard that could properly qualify them to be this week’s Simple Pleasure?
You see, I’ve always had such a complex relationship with food. Loving it yet at the same time, wanting the exact right combination for me to experience the exact, right quintessential pleasure that I’m searching for.
There was always plenty of food at home. Our lives revolved around a never ending cycle of main meals and all the other little meals inbetween; morning coffee and strudel biscuits, tea and cake, after supper fruit and choccie eaten in front of the tele, perhaps a further foray to the fridge before bedtime for a root around the laden and smelly cheese box (although to be fair, that only came later in the teenage years after dreadful evenings out).
Plenty of home-cooked food that my mother cooked herself from scratch unless she bought something at Wylies, the bakers – I loved their Belgian buns; glistening, whirley, yeasty orbs studded with raisins. To this day, a pain au raisin, the modern equivalent, can stop me in my tracks and have me staring with ardent desire through a shop window.
SO many home cooked meals which generally I liked although definitely not wurst and eggs which my brothers and sister ate with relish but I loathed. I tried, of course I did, but the smell, the wiggly, sweet egg impregnated with the savoury, dense meat, the combination all making me feel sick. I liked one fried egg, crispy brown at the edges with plenty of burnt butter made by Dad on Sunday mornings for breakfast OR a couple of dried slices of wurst. But together? No. Yuk.
The others could though. They ate loads of stuff that I couldn’t stomach. White fish soup. Chocolate gateau. Garlicky scampi provencale at Pescatori, the Italian fish restaurant in Soho we’d go to on special occasions.
But I did love chocolate and puddings and that’s why I got so fat.
Cadbury’s fruit and nut, a genius perhaps superior variation on the plain Cadbury’s dairy milk doled out to us kids by Grandma on Sunday afternoon visits; four chunky cubes each. Custard with stewed fruit, particularly prunes of all things (provided they were properly stewed to an almost melting consistency), and wobbly pink or sometimes, intriguingly, vanilla blancmange and heavenly Kit Kats and Crunchies after school.
Red jelly and orange jelly heavy with sugary mandarins from a tin. Dense lockshen pudding with sultanas and creamy rice pudding with sultanas (not jam, the very thought makes me shudder). Home-made apricot sponge with custard was nice too even though the apricots were a bit strange; thank goodness for the custard. And fruit cake – one of my absolute all time favourites. Provided there were lots of sultanas and no horrid, horrid glace cherries or nasty little shreds of dried peel which I’d have to pick out and place at the side of my plate.
Lots and lots of sweet stuff.
I see Mr Osborne has placed a sugar tax on fizzy drinks. Since they often made me feel nauseous as a child on occasional detours to Fortes after lengthy, evening walks along Brighton Prom, I’ll let that go.
But I do hope he leaves custard doughnuts alone.
It would be a shame to stir financial considerations in to such a simple – and altogether quintessential and pleasurable mix, don’t you think?