It was always going to be a bold move, something that would make or break me. But what’s life without risks, huh?
“For our next team meeting, I promise to bake a cake”, I gleefully announced to my team, thinking that I’d be swooped off my feet by the cheering crowd and paraded on their shoulders around the office like a victorious general returning from war.
“I’d like to see that,” snorted one person who I can’t name, but lives at… no I can’t.
I was dumbstruck. Surely being offered a home cooked cake, for free, to eat at a boring meeting is a good thing. Isn’t it?
Someone piped up, “Promise is a very strong word you know. You’ve said you’ll bake a cake before and not followed through. You don’t have a very good track record in the cake baking territory. Are you sure you can deliver?”
Talk about pissing on my bonfire. I pulled myself off the floor.
“Promise is only a strong word if there is a chance you can’t meet the challenge. And I can. And I will. You’ll see, you cynical bunch of…”.
I retreated, ego battered and bruised, forehead pressed against the desk.
The meeting would be in two weeks, and a lot can happen in that time, so I put a reminder in my diary for three days before. That’s when I’ll choose what to bake. In the meantime I’ll get on with repairing my battered life.
The reminder popped up in my diary:
Remember cake, team meeting, prove ‘em wrong. And remember, you are ace
That evening I flicked through my trusty Delia Smith and ended up on a page that felt like crusty pastry. Ah, lemon meringue pie! This will floor ‘em.
A lemon meringue pie is more than a cake (well, technically it’s not a cake at all, it’s a pie, but roll with me on this). In my view this is iconic food that stands the test of time. It is what it is – crusty, lemony and fluffy; sweet, sour and squashy. And it has never changed because you just can’t mess with it. Each opposing layer combining perfectly for a balanced, harmonious pie-cake.
The day before the meeting, I intended to go straight home and devote the entire evening to cooking. It started to unravel about an hour before. A colleague asked me out for a ‘quick’ bevvie over the road. I heartily jumped at the chance, completely forgetting that my reputation was on the line the next day.
Four beers and one packet of cheese and bacon balls later, I was on the train back home, blissfully unaware of the events that were about to unfold. I got home, poured a large glass of wine, laid on the couch, and crapped on about how hard it is to manage a team. My wife dropped the bomb shell, “Haven’t you got a lemon meringue pie to bake?”
SHIT, SHIT, SHITTY, SHITTER, SHIT!!!!!!
I hastily made the pastry and put it in the fridge. I started on the lemony bit. Lemon juice, zest, egg yolk, butter. Half way through I thought, “That’s not a lot of lemon curd. Hang on; this recipe doesn’t have a lemon curd. Shit. I’m following the wrong bloody recipe.”
There was no way the lemony stuff was going to fill the pie. I added water, more egg yolk, cornflour, and stirred like a banshee on heat. Bugger, it’s too thick. I know, add some wine (clearly my alcohol-addled brain didn’t have the capacity to think things through properly).
Meringue, make the meringue, make it now, make it bloody quick. HURRY! Egg whites were flying everywhere, pasting the walls. The kitchen was looking like a building site and I was the site supervisor conducting a large concrete pour. I was sweating and moving like I was on speed.
I slapped in the lemony-curdy-wine mix into the pie case, threw on the meringue, wacked it in the oven on timer, lied back down on the sofa and then…
Four hours later, my wife woke me. “Get to bed, you lazy ba$^@rd. It’s 3am.”
“The pie, I need to save the pie”. Disorientated, I jumped up, ran towards the kitchen, bounced off the doorframe and stumbled backwards onto the sofa again. As I came round, I ran into the kitchen, pulled the pie from the cooker, put it in the fridge, collapsed on the bed and sunk into a deep coma.
The next morning I woke with a hangover from hell. I went straight to the fridge, slightly worried about what state the pie would be in. It looked ok. Phew. I tried to put it in the only cake tin we have, but it wouldn’t fit. I put it on a large plate, wrapped it in enough foil and cling film it could survive a small nuclear blast from three metres away.
I then carried it 35 kilometres on public transport, giving it a seat to itself. The moment I got it to work I put it in the fridge. I sat down at my desk in a state of shock. I didn’t do anything for 15 minutes other than stare at the computer screen. God, I wish my life were like a lemon meringue pie I thought – perfectly balanced, in harmony and on a steady course. My life is completely out of control.
I presented it at the team meeting. Everyone loved it, completely unaware of how close I came to a nervous breakdown. Some were still disbelieving that I made it at all. So was I for that matter, it was such a blur. But I suppose it doesn’t matter how you get there. It’s the result that matters. And an empty pie dish in my book is a resounding nod of approval. I think I pulled it off.
But I won’t be making any promises for a while though.