At the moment I’m prepping for possible appearances at the odd UK festival, but my main project is slightly further afield. I am involved with a charity called Project Kajsiab in Laos, with whom I am doing cookie workshops. My cookies are made to order though, so if there’s a flavour in mind, a present to give, or a party to go to, just give me a shout @TheFeralBaker .
It actually came out of time spent developing a chewy cookie version of the traditional English Soul Cake, which is generally thought of as the precursor to Trick or Treating, for Halloween last year. I was creating the recipe for a client of the communications consultancy I was working for at the time. I knew exactly what I wanted from the cookie: It had to have a slight bite to it on the outside, but bend in the middle as you broke it open – my ideal cookie! After a lot of research and even more trial and error, I hit the jackpot with a fool-proof formula that has only changed slightly since then. Now, it’s just about experimenting with new flavours, taking inspiration from other confectionery and desserts and trying out different combinations.
I also bake yeast-free bread as I am yeast intolerant and I find that there isn’t a lot of choice.
To be honest, I couldn’t say that I have one role model, but I am inspired by many many people in my life for various different reasons. One of my great friends, Jamie, is currently running almost the entire length of the Americas, from Vancouver to Buenos Aires, totally unsupported, just him, his feet and his running trolley, which contains the tent he sleeps in every night. He and I talked a lot throughout the planning of his trip and at no point was I ever in any doubt that he would do it but. Even so, every time I think about what he’s doing, I am filled with a sense of awe and pride. More than that, there’s a self belief that comes from witnessing in action the boundless potential with which every human being is filled. It really makes you believe that anything is possible.
Emma Chambers, who played Alice Tinker in Vicar of Dibley. You would not believe the number of people that I’ve come across, from all different walks of life, who’ve met me and said, “d’you know who you remind me of? Do you watch Vicar of Dibley?” It’s quite extraordinary. It’s not that we look alike, but she brings a very childlike quality to her acting, which is a feature that I admire very much in a person. It’s not about immaturity, it’s about not losing the magic and wonder of youth to the tiredness and duty of adulthood.
I was a very fussy eater as a child. I’ve no idea why – virtually all of the foods that I was adamant I didn’t like when I was growing up, I have consequently developed an obsession with as an adult – peanut butter being a case and point. In fact, perhaps that’s what it is, rather than fussiness, I think it’s more a case of fadiness. So, I would develop a taste for something and then that’s all I would want to eat forever more (until the next fad). One example of this, which I suppose I can’t really claim as a memory but I have been told the story many times, was my ‘melon phase’. We went to France on holiday when I was little and at some point I must have tried melon and after that absolutely everything – from porridge and chicken to green beans and crisps – had to be called ‘melon’, otherwise I wouldn’t eat it. I also had an ‘omelette phase’ and a ‘taramasalata phase’ (I know, ridiculous), though the latter one backfired during one sitting in which I consumed such vast quantities of the stuff on Ritz biscuits that I was violently ill and haven’t eaten it since.
Open your eyes and open your heart to possibility – things start to happen when you do. Talk to everyone and remember that the opportunities are out there, you just need the space and the time to see them. Surround yourself with believers, people that inspire you, those that are interesting and interested. The others will drag you down. Remember, doubt breeds doubt.
I’d say that baking relaxes me. Very much so. Making something carefully and creatively with my hands means that I’m in the present moment, which is so essential to mental wellbeing. This is one of the reasons why yoga is so relaxing. I try to do a dynamic practice at least once a week and I’ve started to practice mindfulness on a daily basis.
This week, I’m going to relinquish control and responsibility of some aspects of my life that are no longer helpful or relevant to me. And I’m not going to beat myself up about how it might impact others as they’ve assured me, they will be fine.
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