My first instinct on looking at these chocolate brownies is , “They look really good!” There’s clearly a high proportion of dark chocolate in the mix along with walnuts, both of which are ‘good’ for us, so why do I feel guilty when I fancy a treat like this?
When I was growing up I spent a lot of my time with my maternal grandmother who was a warm, gentle loving person who was hard wired to care for and comfort those around her. Her greatest skill was home baking and standing at her side patiently weighing ingredients, beating eggs and lining tins I would see sponges, ginger cake, fruit cake, scones, pies and biscuits appear as if by magic and never once did I see her refer to a cookery book. These well used recipes were part of her DNA, the ritual of the weekly bake etched in to her schedule of cooking, cleaning, laundering and gardening. The process just was. After cooling the cakes would be placed in a selection of old and often battered, biscuit tins( one of which I still use) and the week would begin again with the new produce being eaten in packed lunches, afternoon teas or at any moment when a child or neighbour needed a listening ear in times of trouble or a hurt knee required a bandage and a little treat to make them forget their woes.
So from my grandmother I developed a love of baking, especially when I am worried or stressed, and a love of cake. I am not a greedy person, not overweight so why am I so often made to feel that the polite answer is always to say,’No thank you, not for me.’ I have to be honest that I am writing about a predominantly female issue here. Along with the search for the perfect body and the streamlined silhouette we have pulled up the draw bridge against ‘bad food’ and feel we must forever ignore the cake and reach for the couscous, deny ourselves the stew and dumplings and reach for the stir fry, always with no sign of regret but rather a self satisfied smirk of superiority that once again we have been strong and chosen the good food.
Meeting up with girl friends for coffee is great when you want to chat, laugh and share news but this is not the time to anticipate the enjoyment of a slice of cake or scone warm from the oven. It only takes one, usually the slimmest of the group, to say loudly, ‘Not for me thank you, I never eat cake,’ and faces will fall before quickly recovering their composure and the group resigns themselves to green tea, black coffee and the second hand pleasure of watching others carry their plates.
Not for one moment would I advocate a regime of daily cake eating, of shoveling down chocolate and sugar in copious quantities, but somewhere along the line the pendulum has swung too far. My diet is packed with fruit and vegetables, oily fish and lean meat, whole grains, water and red wine and most of my choices are healthy ones, so I have decided at the great age of 63 to no longer be cowed by the cake police because I have a sneaky feeling that most of my friends and acquaintances who smile so sweetly as they decline the offer of the brownie are actually seething inside just like me. My husband always encourages me to enjoy a treat when we have a trip out, says in fact that he loves to see the enjoyment on my face when I take the first bite so at the next gathering of my women friends I shall hold hard to my resolve, break the habit and ask clearly for a ‘fresh scone with butter please’ or ‘ a slice of the coffee and walnut’.
I wonder how many will follow my lead?