Saturday, 2 January 2010

A Swiss Roll and me

Since my course doesn't start for a few days, a good way to introduce myself to you would be to answer a question I get asked a lot... why do I enjoy cooking?  The quick answer is usually "Swiss Rolls", the longer answer follows....

We need to eat to survive, so why not try to enjoy everything we eat as much as we can? That is something I have thought since my early teens, and with it came the idea that “I” could cook what I desired the way I desired it! Marvellous news! I would have been about 14yrs old watching shows like “Can't Cook, Won't Cook”, “Ready, Steady, Cook”, “Ken Homs Hot Wok” or one of the late Keith Floyds shows as he drank his way through the creation of a dish whilst all the while berating his poor camera man! Informative AND entertaining... what was not to like about this cooking business?

Thinking about it, I can tell you the exact moment I first discovered the joys cooking can bring through both the creation and consuming of the resulting product, was in fact a few years before this. The day a spark was lit somewhere in me, I was 11yrs old and just returned from primary school. I had already baked little muffins for school fairs and flipped the odd pancake of “Shrove Tuesday” like most kids have done at this stage of their lives. As I was looking around the kitchen for a morsel to satisfy the hunger created by a hard day of learning how to do “joined up writing” or something equally enthralling, my elder brother turned up from high school with a Swiss Roll. He had baked this Swiss Roll in his Home Economics class and I was truly gob-smacked! Not because he had created it, but because for the first time in my life I had seen a product made by a person I knew, which previously I thought only existed in the mysterious and mythical world of “Long Life Sponge Cakes” found in every supermarket across the land. I had seen cakes baked before, I had baked cakes and biscuits myself before, but this was different. This was a Swiss Roll, a technological marvel of soft sponge cake smeared liberally with jam and then rolled into a log shape. A log shape I tell you, with a spiral and everything!

I immediately demanded the recipe from my brother and proceeded to make my own. Things did not go well. I over cooked the sponge to the point where it was more like a biscuit than a sponge. Never to be defeated, especially by ones sibling,I tried again, this time marginally better results, of which my mother said were wonderful. The liar! So every couple of days over the next few weeks in my quest for a perfection, I would make more Swiss Rolls gradually getting to a similar standard to that of my brothers, and then exceeding it... naturally! All the while new ideas for fillings were racing through my brain... Strawberry jam, Raspberry Jam, Strawberry and Raspberry jam, Strawberry jam and Buttercream, Raspberry Jam and Buttercream, Nutella, Raspberry jam and Nutella, Strawberry jam and Nutella, Raspberry jam Nutella and Buttercream... the list of potential fillings was quite literally endless and made my little head spin!

So that was it, the moment the joy of cooking was installed in me. Why the search for perfection that I found myself in? I don't really know. It wasn't due to the desire to create a better product than my brother, but that may have played a part. It wasn't solely my desire to consume as much of this rolled sponge cake as possible, though that too may have been a factor. I would like to think that at that tender age I just wanted to make as best a product as I could, and I knew with each attempt that they were getting better and crucially there was still room for improvement. I derived immense pleasure when things went well and was pretty gutted when they didn't meet my standards. I think the happiness seeing someone else eat and enjoy what I had created was a major factor, and I think if you ask any keen cook or chef they will say the same.

The way good food can effect someone's mood is incredible in my opinion, the comfort, satisfaction and even joy (yes outright, unashamed joy) the simplest of dishes can bring out of someone never fails to amaze me. I think this is especially true when you have cooked the dish yourself as my friend Toni below demonstrated in a Facebook message to me on new years day this year. Toni had asked me how to make mushroom soup and I gave her a brief description of what I would do, here his her response a few hours later...


Holy **edited due to excessive use of expletives** !! It's amazing!
Didn't quite follow your instructions thoroughly, as i do tend to enjoy a spot of improvisation in the kitchen. But it is still bloomin marvellous!
I am now sat on my sofa, with hot mushroom soup on my coffee table, and hot crusty bread, a nice cold glass of Oyster Bay, and i've... resumed my date with Jack Bauer!
Happy New Year!! ;o)

A simple question was asked, a simple answer was received. Yet the joy this small thing brought to Toni is clearly evident (you should see the uncensored text) in her comment. That bowl of mushroom soup made her date with Jack Bauer and her “24” box-set more pleasurable than any she had had before.
So I guess the reasons why I enjoy cooking are encapsulated in the above paragraph in one way or another and in the memory of that Swiss Roll my brother brought home that faithful day. I am sure many of you will be able to remember an experience in a kitchen somewhere which also ignited a little spark in you, and set in motion your own relationship with the creation and consumption of your own culinary treats...




  1. This blog needs more rubber bands.


  2. Nice one! Follow your dream, you are on the right track.

  3. Am I now officially famous?
    I am the afforementioned Toni. I was the inspiration behind every culinary masterpiece that Dylan has ever created! -Oh yesireeee.......

  4. It's good to know what you want at such a young age. I went through University and all studying stuff I thought I should be doing and only started cooking - when I was living alone in Paris while doing my postgrad.

    15 years later I often wonder why I didn't learn how to cook professionally instead...

    Bonne continuation!

  5. Hi Beau,

    Unfortunately I am not as young as you think or as I would like, but better to make this change now than ever. At 27 it only just struck me to do this cooking malarky for real... and having completed a BA in business I just wish it was some years earlier.

    C'est la vie!


I look forward to reading your comments whether they are good, bad or indifferent!