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So, there we were, in Darlo, baking bread daily and me with a bun in the oven.

The bread strike over, I kept on baking, and baking, and baking… The bread was great, and great bread deserves great butter —  lashings of Lurpak. It began to tell on our waistlines and we made a difficult decision. I stopped the baking and we swapped to less enticing bread.

And so the years passed, with yeasted products turning up once in a blue moon. I started a career and a very busy life that involved commuting 120 miles a day and long hours with great responsibility. Bread making was out of the question. I tried a machine. In fact, I have had three bread machines. Only one produced anything that I could possibly have enjoyed eating. Overall, I am underwhelmed by bread machine bread. The machines are useful in emergencies and I recommend Wright’s mixes for  use in them, especially the Sun-dried Tomato and Parmesan (but it is better made by hand!)

Fast forward to 2006, and the move to Orkney.

I now live on one of the outer Orkney islands. The main island is an hour and a half away by ferry. There is no longer a bakery on our island, though neighbouring Westray does have one and products from there are sold in our local shops. To get here, the bread goes via Kirkwall.  Bread is never properly fresh here and choice is limited. Many islanders make their own for those reasons.

Out came the bread machine again. It failed to satisfy. I began to bake bread on a regular basis again. The local shop sells bulk bread flour bagged up in small quantities and we have the choice of white (bleached), wholemeal and Granary. I cannot swear to it but I believe that they are all RHM products (has the M gone now?).

I was just making basic white loaves and granary rolls for a while, with the odd foray into Chelsea Bun territory. Then I picked up the fibre habit and life became full of knitting, spinning and weaving. Tesco opened up in Kirkwall and we could get Warburton’s sliced from there and some fresh baked stuff in-store. I kind of lost the baking habit once more. I made the occasional batch of Naan or Chapattis for the weekly Saturday Curry, pizzas of course, and the odd foccaccia, but found I was making a quick Soda Bread for accompanying soups instead of nice dinner rolls. All that I really wanted to do was to knit.

For most of my life my only creative outlet was cooking. Since a very young age I have loved to create food for others to eat. I was the kind of cook who would happily spend three days in making a sauce for a dish to be consumed in twenty minutes.

Some of the passion was knocked out of me after earning my living that way for several years. I cooked in a private house and lived in a tied cottage. It is a soul-destroying life. It took many years before I wanted to explore new culinary avenues once more. I was just getting there, just finding my passion again, when the fibre obsession took over and consumed my creative energies.

I think that I may have worked through that obsession and got it nicely under control now.

In recent weeks the call to the kitchen has begun again. It is particularly manifesting itself in the bread direction but I also find myself wanting to make preserves, in a way that I have not done since my Twenties. I have a particularly strong desire to make some cheese too. All of these things go together so well, there seems to be something at work…

To be continued.

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