And so it began. He bought knives and cookery books. He rolled up his sleeves. And for a few months, he rarely arrived at my house without some homemade offering – a batch of oatcakes, a bowl of exotic fruit salad with anxiously simmered syrup, selotaped shut to prevent a slow, sticky seep all the way from Norfolk to South London. That's how I remember it, at least. Maybe this only happened once or twice, but they're my memories and I'll misshape them how I like.
One of the last presents I bought him – and I don't remember if it was the last Christmas or the last birthday – was a kitchen blowtorch. It was the perfect marriage of man and miniature machine – flash, nifty, yet with a considerable capacity for foolhardy calamity. In my childhood, my dad memorably a) fell backwards through the glass of our living room window while trying to secure a rope on his hand-built boat which lived on our driveway, and b) almost perished under the weight of our car when he was working underneath it and the puny power of a sub-standard jack was dramatically exposed.
After he died – and incredibly, in the run-up to this event, he had managed not to set fire to his own eyebrows – my mum gave the blowtorch to me and I buried it deep in one of my kitchen cupboards, where it has been in the intervening four and a half years.
Until today. Today, with an appropriateness that is as pleasing as it is coincidental, the culinary blowtorch was resurrected. I made a Simnel Cake, according to the gospel of Nigella Lawson, to take to Miss W and Marbury's for Easter lunch. I handrolled the 11 tiny marzipan balls that go on top – as you will know, they traditionally represent the apostles (soz, Judas – you're barred). Mine are of slightly uneven size and randomly spaced which, of course, is of considerable, if indeterminate, religious significance.
'Now for the bit I love,' says Nigella, introducing the notion of artfully scorching the marzipan topping, 'but you can ignore altogether.'
What are you saying, Lawson? That I am not up to a bit of live-action charring? Who do you think you're dealing with? I have won over £3.75 in high-level baking competitions. Step back, cow eyes*, while I open the throttle and hit the ignition.
(You may guess from this that I am not a driver.)
Just so you know, blowtorching is AMAZING. I have rarely felt more alive. I may have found my inner superhero. She has a blowtorch coming out of the end of each limb and she is called The Caramelizer.
All back to my place for crème brûlée?
*I don't mean this. I love Nigella. I'm just showing off.