I have never bought flour in my life. There, I’ve said it. I am a flour-buying virgin. I have managed to survive 35 years on this planet without ever needing to buy it. I’ve never been ashamed of this fact. In fact, I’ve never really given it any thought at all. Until I went out with my Latvian friend on Monday night.
She was talking about baking, and trying to convince me how ‘easy’ it was to make various things.
Her: You just get some flour…
Me: Let me stop you there. I don’t have any flour.
Her: (slightly shocked but rallying hard) No problem. Go buy some and…
Me: Actually, I’ve never bought flour in my life.
She couldn’t have been more horrified if I’d told her that every full moon, I like to take a Janis into the forest and sacrifice him to the gods of lean meat in hopes they’ll answer my prayers.
It turns out she has eight different kinds of flour in her kitchen. EIGHT. I knew there was white and brown and um, self-raising… Ok, my knowledge of flour is pretty limited. I explained that I didn’t really need to make cakes as I have a French bakery a three-minute walk in one direction and a Latvian bakery 3 minutes in the other. She persevered in talking about baking, her wholemeal flour, oatmeal flour and buckwheat flour, obviously hoping that her passion for home-made desserts would rub off on me. She mentioned one or two things that sounded horrendously complicated to make. But just before I put down my glass of delicious New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and decided this conversation just wasn’t worth it, she finally arrived at brownies. Everyone can make brownies, right?
After we’d established that I would buy flour at some point, she started to explain how to make them.
Her: You take a big bowl…
Me: Wait, I’ll have to buy a bowl.
Her: You don’t own a bowl?
Me: Well, I have a cereal bowl but I don’t think that’s what you mean.
(Weary sigh from her)
Her: Ok, buy the flour and a bowl. Do you have a baking tray?
Me: You’re funny.
Her: Ok, just come to my house. I’ll make brownies and you can watch.
Me: (Unenthusiastically) Maybe I can help?
Her: No. I won’t like the way you do things.
Sometimes Latvian directness is a good thing. It saves you from burning down other people’s houses.
I tried to convince her that I wasn’t at risk of starving to death and had even added fruit and yogurt to my shopping list this week, it being summer and all. This was met with an unimpressed eye roll. Naturally, being Latvian, she grows her own fruit and vegetables and makes her own yogurt.
She goes to the supermarket, picks up a carton or can of something, reads the ingredients, puts it back, then goes home and figures out how to make it herself. I tip cartons and cans from the shelf into my shopping basket. Come to think of it, this could explain why it takes Latvians so long to do anything in the supermarket (see here) – they’re not actually buying anything just memorising lists of ingredients.
However, yesterday evening, I was the one acting like a weirdo in the supermarket. I was embarrassed/amused to find that I had no idea where the baking ingredients aisle was, despite being in this supermarket almost every day. But I had to see all of these different types of flour for myself – and of course take a photo. It’s true; there is a dizzying array of flour available.
I have even gone one step further and looked up an easy step-by-step guide to making brownies. It doesn’t seem that difficult… So, as soon as I buy flour, a bowl, a whisk, a wooden spoon, dark chocolate, salted butter, brown sugar, a baking tray and something that stops brownies from sticking to said baking tray, I will be good to go. But just looking at that list is making me feel tired – maybe it would just be easier to buy them?