Since Maisie’s husband Don died many, many years ago her culinary skills waned to such an extent that her old gas cooker was only half used. Cooking was a chore and if she couldn’t light the gas on the hob and boil or fry something to eat in a few minutes, she would spread something on bread to serve herself and Paul. She was not a lover of canned food as cans and can openers did not seem to be compatible to her and often the contents of a recalcitrant can had to be extracted painstakingly through the small hole she did achieve after much effort
Paul was established in her home and was indeed part of her family, along with Clarence the dog, the galah now with new feathers and the goat and the cats in the overgrown yard.
Maisie was conscious of her shortcomings in her kitchen skills and she was determined to rectify this by baking a fruit cake that Paul had let slip was his favourite that he used to get at home when he lived with his mother and siblings.
Her first attempt which occupied some extended time during the day when Paul was doing some casual work at the chicken processing plant north of the city was not a success. Maisie’s memory was not the best and her measurements based on an experience of cooking for Don thirty years or more ago somehow enabled her to confuse the former imperial and current metric measurement systems, and to use plain rather than self raising flour in the mix. The resultant masterpiece was something similar to a house brick with the indentation in the top where the mixture had collapsed in the middle and of a colour distinctly matching her black lace up shoes in places.
Some repair work was effected, resulting in a much smaller cake but the slice given to Paul that evening was eaten politely, but with a horrified grimace on his face which he tried hard to conceal. It wasn’t helped that when Maisie was out of the room Clarence refused to accept the remains when offered.
The following week Paul was game enough to suggest he be allowed to try his Mum’s recipe for a boiled fruit cake.
“You mean a pudding?” asked Maisie.
“No” said Paul. “When Mum was in a hurry there was a recipe that she used where all the ingredients were boiled for 5 minutes then when cooled the raising flour and eggs were added. Then it is cooked for about an hour and a half at 170 degrees Celsius” (350degrees F).
“Well, why don’t you try it then?” she said sounding a little miffed.
So he did, and Maisie loved it.