My mum was a great cook,and an even better butter biscuit baker...
She inspired me to start cooking...and I am today a qualified Master Baker...
Growing up in SA in the 60's and 70's meant that families often spent a lot of time together,especially if you lived in the sticks because your dad worked on a remote gold mine, and especially in winter.This was in the days before TV and when shops closed at 1300 on a Saturday and only re-opened on Monday morning.The nearest cinema was 30 kms away and only showed 1 film a week...and only for 1 week.
So every Saturday we were all roped in to my mum's weekly baking bonanza...my dad would occasionally get out of it by doing essential maintenance on his car -he had his own kettle in the garage; but for my brother and I ...-and occasionally any friend unlucky enough to be caught in the house when she switched on the oven-,...there was no escape.
Every Saturday morning she would be out trawling the local shops...a Spar and an OK Bazaars...looking for exotic ingredients...chocolate sprinkle spread...those little silver balls for cupcakes...maraschino cherries even.
All afternoon we would bake...danish pastries,filled with marzipan and chopped almonds and coated in lemon icing.
Coconut and pastry tarts,bursting with (home-made) strawberry jam,all crunchy and buttery.
Jam tarts filled with home made jam and lemon curd.
Brandy snaps...Oy...rolling the warm, dark, sticky,butter and brown sugar rich biscuit around the dowels,to bend them into shape,to be filled with hand whipped ,double thick cream.
And koeksisters ! Plaiting the cool dough and standing back as you lowered them gingerly into the boiling oil, quickly turning them over until they were judged crisp enough and then plunging them into ice cold,clove-scented syrup...
Lewe hemel...is there anything better than half a dozen chewy koeksisters,syrup running down your chin,licking at it and laughing,as you washed them down with a cup of blindingly hot boeretroos coffee,sweetened with condensed milk...
And then,later in the evening,wrapped in a blanket,sitting around the radiogram,listening to Lux Radio Theatre whilst partaking of the afternoons bounty.
Radio theatre...really the theatre of the mind...
I remember a story about a millionaire who has a weird medical condition which puts him into a coma that mimics death...and he has an un-natural dread of being buried alive.
Time passes and he marries a younger woman...as you would,if you could...!!
He builds himself an exotic mausoleum with a telephone line,so that if he wakes up after being buried alive,he can phone for help.
He is interred.
And as his widow leaves the house with a new boyfriend she hears the phone start to ring...she tells the boyfriend that she isn't expecting any calls,that it must be a wrong number and she leaves on holiday.
Cue dramatic music...
Of course,why he simply didn't have a door handle on his side of the tomb escapes me...or even several phone lines...
Still...I was 15...the weather was freezing...we were eating devils food cake...and I've never forgotten the play.
And so this afternoon I went for my brain MRI.
Now...I've seen MRI scans being done...have stood and monitored patients undergoing the scan...but its different when you are being squashed into the machine.
I'm not a small...or thin...person.I enjoy my food normally...and it must be said that in the past few weeks there has been some small amount of 'comfort eating'....'grief eating'...'loneliness eating'...just plain 'missing-her-like-hell eating' well....I *say* small...
Unlike a mausoleum,the room was well lit,cold,spacious,but had the MRI squatting ominously in the corner,like some Airfix torture-apparatus model crossed with a dystopian S&M Orgasmatron designed by Hannibal Lector, all the while humming some vicious little tune to itself.
I was asked to lie down on the bed and place my head into a rigid restraint...that was okay.
The technician placed a pillow under my knees for comfort...that was okay.
Then she fitted me with some earphones, because,-she said-,the MRI can be noisy...that was okay.
She asked if I would like to listen to some light classical music...I said I would...that was okay.
Then she folded a full face mask down over my face...I felt like Darth Vader...even that was okay...
...although I could feel the sweat starting.
"Its going to be a tight fit", the technician informed me."Try folding your arms over our chest."
I did feeling more and more like the poor mans version of Tutankhamun.
Slowly I was ingested into the belly of the beast.
It felt like I was being squashed into a funnel...there could not have been more than 1cm of clearance around my shoulders and my arms were squashed into my abdomen.
The roof was about 5cm above the mask...movement was impossible...well...apart from the hair on my head standing up.
And my anal sphincter clamping very very tight.
Or so I thought...
...cue dramatic music.
I was clasping the emergency call bell in my right hand.My left hand, -through a judiciously placed hole in the pocket of my shorts that I had with some foresight made this very morning-...and out of sight of the technician-...,was firmly grasping my testicles.
Naturally I was 'commando'.
Dear Lord...they provided the only hold on reality I actually had as the MRI warmed up and made the most dreadful grinding noise reminiscent of what I remember shrieking during the unfortunate LadyBoy incident...
"Okay...we're going to do 6 different views...the scan will last about 20 minutes in total...the first scan will be only 1 minute long...I'm going to start the music now...Okay?"
The music appeared to be from the little known 'Violin music for Funerals' CD collection...the third CD..."Getting ready for the Cremation"...gradually I lost touch with reality.
I remember little of the next 20 minutes as I spent the time urgently reviewing my life and trying to find enough moments of pleasure and joy and happiness and excitement and wonder and warmth and laughter and memories of sex and music in the warm summer evenings shared with someone who cared about me...to try and counteract the mounting claustrophobia and shortness-of-breath and sense of impending doom.
Unfortunately I appear to only have had about 2 minutes of joy in my life......so I spent the rest of the time planning what to do to make up for lost time...
And then...as the last 5 minute scan started...
...well...lets just say that all the rubbish I had been eating all morning had build up a head of noxious steam that demanded...simply demanded to be released.
I squeezed my testicles...held on for dear life.......but alas...
...lets just say that if I ever find myself awake and trapped in a coffin,I can simply euthanize myself with my own gaseous contents.