Stepford Wife I’m not….
Last night was, for me, a pivotal moment. An epiphany. I always suspected that I was a bit crap as a wife, mother and housekeeper and have naturally done little or nothing about it. I’m busy, for Pete’s sake. Friends, in the guise of constructive criticism, have even commented on my -ahem – shortcomings in the culinary department. Some, obviously, are now no longer friends – hmmph.
I have been in denial about all this for many years. I can throw a roast dinner together and make a mean lasagne, so I always thought I was getting away with it. At least at home. But last night I attended my first ever “Pampered Kitchen” house party.
Enthusiasm in the first place was low, to be honest. A friend persuaded me to go and me, like a fool, went along. Little did I know it would cause the mother of all insecurity complexes this morning.
It was held in a beautiful oast house, in an amazing traditional farmhouse kitchen. It was like being on the set of Emmerdale. Our host was lovely, and we were soon ensconced on some chairs with a glass of pink fizz. All good so far.
Then, a very bouncy, toothy, buxom lady spent the next couple of hours explaining why she loves stoneware cupcake trays, bamboo rib ticklers and rubber-bottomed basins. Some of the implements would not have looked out of place at an Ann Summers party, but perhaps that is just me. She was wonderfully wholesome so that sort of thinking probably never crossed her mind. She also cooked – in front of us – right there, in the kitchen. Such confidence frankly blew me away.
We discussed how to pronounce scones. Seriously. This was an actual audience participation moment. I let myself down fairly early on. When the lovely lady presenting asked how much cassis we thought should go into the sponge for the trifle thing she was making, I suggested the whole bottle. That moment – right there – was when it all became clear that I am NOT LIKE OTHER WOMEN. You could sense the pitying looks – bless her, they were all thinking. She is a lush.
I spent those two hours flicking back and forth through a catalogue of items I do not own now, nor can summon any desire to in the future. Bamboo mini snack bowls the size of a single peanut just shout of people who do not actually eat. A chopper for crushing meringues is not something I need or want in my life. Can’t I just sit on them in the car by mistake, like I normally do?
There were metal sticks called party picks which apparently you stick in the mud when you are having a picnic and they suspend your drink off the floor. WTF??? Love to see those at your average football tournament. “Er boys, please don’t keep kicking the ball at the party picks, there’s good chaps!” Have any of you ever tried going on a picnic? I have. It was hell. With wasps. The thought of my delicate polka-dot glass of Pimms suspended in mid-air while I waft about in a flowery dress dispensing home-made scones is, to be honest, horrifying. I prefer to put my Pimms in a thermos flask, with a brown paper bag around it so the wasps – and kids – have no idea what is in it, and then swig it when no-one is looking. If I’m being truthful, I’ve usually drunk it in the car by the time we get to whichever sorry patch of nettles my husband decides we’re going to sit in. And putting his can of lager in a party pick is frankly ridiculous. Picnics are not a pleasure – they are a sweaty collection of ropey sandwiches and a torture to be endured, not enjoyed. Ditto camping.
So it was with trepidation and a looming sense of personal failure that we got to the point of the evening where I HAD TO ORDER SOMETHING. OMG, please let the floor swallow me up.
Reams of cake stands and glass bowls swam in front of my eyes and I felt panic beginning to rise as people began to HAND IN their already completed forms! One lady there, who was a lovely person but clearly of the Stepford mould, ordered only a little as she “practically had most of it” anyway. She and the lady presenter almost shared screaming orgasms over some batter bowls they mutually owned. Good for them, but batter bowls?? Really?
I was saved by p.37 of the catalogue which featured an innocuous looking microwave rice cooker. In black plastic. I do rice. I do warming up rice. I do left over things mixed with leftover rice shoved in a bowl and re-heated. I ORDERED IT! Success was mine. And I know precisely the spot at the back of the cupboard where it will sit once delivered. Gathering dust. Unused. My friend, also not a Stepford, ordered the same thing. Hurrah for rice!
But the feeling of euphoria, that sense of belonging for a moment to the world of real wives and mothers, was shortlived. I discussed with my man this morning whether he would like Nigella in the kitchen (and the bedroom, since I believe food and sex to be bedfellows – literally) or was he happy with the hopelessly flawed but never predictable creations that emerged whenever I went near an oven (and the bedroom, or is that too much information)? I spent a good half hour berating myself for not being like the other lovely ladies who were there – all mumsy and interested in entertaining, table layouts and presentation dishes. How lovely to be like that. Seriously. I mean it. I think it is wonderful to be creative in that way, and care about things like how your trifle will look from inside the dish to the outside observer rather than smeared around your mouth. I truly do. I am NOT being sarcastic – honestly.
I’m just not like them, that’s clear. My preparation to entertain extends to scraping off the Weetabix from the pine table, making sure the cutlery doesn’t have smears and purchasing some natty paper napkins to shove in some Ikea wineglasses. That’s entertaining to me, and frankly it takes a lot to get to that stage. It would need to be near royalty turning up.
Am I therefore failing at marriage, motherhood and simple domestic science? Are these paragons of perfection the norm, and me the odd one out? Does the fact that I’d rather spend my money on the kids or on shoes and handbags than a rectangular traybake tray make me a waste of culinary time and decent upbringing? I suspect that yes, this is the case.
In Stepford, the wives had to have their personalities and will to live removed and replaced with a robot brain before they could conform to the ideal their husbands had set. My husband doesn’t yet feel that is necessary, so he assured me this morning. But then he hasn’t yet seen those party picks, which may send him into a spasm of longing for a picnic with party picks and a proper wife. Only time will tell.
If I start typing recipes for carbonara alla flambe here instead of my usual meanderings, it means my brain has been replaced by a robot. Please call the police immediately. I have been stolen.