Baking day (387)

by Max Akroyd


Get to work for 9 am, finish at 5:30 pm. Make meal. Slump on settee for a few hours’ television. Let’s call it the Industrial Day. There’s been variations of course, but generally that’s the framework I’ve been subject to… well, since birth.

Maybe it’s a man thing, maybe it’s a me thing, but it took almost 43 years for me to realise that this timetable is completely unsuited to the peasant life. There’s been hints along the way. I’ve commented before on how the weather is my new boss and defines what I do to a great extent. The animals want to be up and about at first light, not some arbitary fixed point on a clock. Seeds are best sown in the evening, leaving daylight hours for field work. But the timetable of the industrial day has been a difficult habit to break. Yesterday, I resolved to dissolve it.



The trigger was an enduring problem, where to find time in the gardening day to process crops and preserve things? It’s not often that you return from the field at 5 pm and feel inspired to create a meal, let alone start a marathon preserving session. The supermarket beckons at this point; with its array of pumped up preparations and potions, the spell is difficult for a weary manual worker to break.

So this is a tiny war declared upon the sickly regime of the supermarket, a battle against having my already shallow pocket emptied by their shareholders.

Somehow, in consultation with Emma, I got from this realisation to the notion of a baking day. One day a week, probably the rainiest, we’ll set about filling the freezer with cakes, bread and basic soups and sauces to liberate time and save money later. It’s not a real baking day, more a processing day: but necessary to protect us from being led astray by the supermarket. We’re comforted to know that our oldest relative has always done this and her memory extends back before consumer society. 

Undeterred by a house with very few ingredients in it, we all got stuck in this morning . Immediately the good sense of the venture was apparent: the oven only needed heating once, the dough was three times bigger than usual but only took the same effort to knead, chopping twenty onions is almost as easy as chopping three… almost. So far we’ve made six loaves, a big pot of tomato sauce and enough vegetable curry for three meals. Emma has made cakes sufficient for a few normal person’s days – or one of mine – and  is presently creating a range of biscuits…

This afternoon I’m going to attack the rhubarb patch and bring home enough stalks for rhubarb chutney and rhubarb juice. Emma will be tied to a production line of cake creation that Henry Ford would have been proud of!

The ties of the supermarket will only be finally cut when cropping is perfected. (Unless the money markets sever them prematurely, like next week…). But at least we’ll be ready to receive the harvest.