Today was Abuela’s birthday. Now Abuela is a no nonsense type of woman (as the chicken that she is killing for the Paella this weekend will testify). She doesn’t really do birthdays in a big way. Little did she know that her daughter-in-law and amigos had been planning a surprise. (I love the fact that we are known as the three Amigos. We have decided that Karen is Martin Short and Nik and I are deciding who is Chevy Chase and who is Steve Martin. I have Steve Martin’s hair, but I wouldn’t wish being compared to Chevy Chase on my worst enemy. Actually I keep having Steve Wright’s comedy hit of the 80’s “The Gay Caveleros” going though my head. Forgotten what it sounds like? Google it. Want to keep your sanity? Don’t.)
First there were the presents. Rachel bought her: 6 China mugs (lovely), a glass tea light holder with 24 jasmine tea lights (nice), an artificial orchid in a ceramic vase (thoughtful), a trio of hand creams of various scents (could be misconstrued that she has smelly hands, but let’s go with it for the time being) and one packet of floral tissues (I think she was getting desperate at this point. But no cuddly toy). Nikki brought a selection of glasses frames and offered to have one pair made up with her prescription (which she obtained from the Spanish optician by lying last time she was here. All’s fair in love and opthamology). Karen made her a beautiful card with Happy Birthday in Spanish on the front and little floral arrangement. I signed it. So all in all, we had all made an effort. Abuela appeared to be quite touched, as she doesn’t normally get presents like this on her actual birthday. It was a lovely touching scene which immediately came back down to earth when she proclaimed “well this is the last time you will have to do this for me” signalling her own demise in the next 12 months. Don’t you just love the cheery outlook old people have. (FYI she did say this in Spanish, she hadn’t just learnt the ability to speak English, although after I apparently laughed at exactly the right part of a conversation the other day, she is now convinced that I understand everything they say.)
But the really amazingly thoughtful present that we (I.e. the others) came up with was that they were going to bake scones for her. Yes, we were going to turn Abuela’s kitchen into the the Bake Off Tent. Nik, Rach and Karen were going to be the contestants and I was going to be Mel and Sue, Paul Hollywood, and Mary Berry all rolled into one and put them off with with smutty remarks whilst fixing them with a steely stare and finding something positive to say about anything they produced. Part of Nik’s luggage allowance was taken up with a 310g of Sultanas and a 500g jar of jam as we had been told that the Spaniards don’t have such things. They do apparently have flour and sugar though (they are Europeans, not heathens).
The one thing that we (by we I mean “they”) didn’t have was a rolling pin. Luckily Tibu and I (that really does not sound right; Tibu and myself. Yeah I know it’s wrong, but so is squirty cream. Just live with it, ok.) had drunk a bottle of cava over lunch so that was improvised as a rolling pin. That was effectively our contribution to the proceedings. The other 2 problems the caterers had were:
1. Abuela’s scales didn’t seem to measure correctly. Now I think measuring is overrated, but apparently it is important in bakery.
2. The oven went up to 10. Not gas mark 10 (it was electric) just 10. I have a hunch that Franco probably decided to decimalise temperature but wanted to be different from the rest of Europe, so made all ovens go from 1 to 10. Whatever the reason, Abuela’s oven goes to 10.
Undeterred by the fact that they had no idea what they were measuring, or how hot the oven was, they persisted in trying to make the perfect English scone. Eventually, they produced some “slightly darker than mum’s” scones (as it was her recipe that they were using). They were cooled on the wire frame of either a halogen grill, or an electric fly killer; not 100% sure which it was. The scones were presented with butter, jam and cream to Abuela, Abuelo and Tia Fina (Aunty Fina. Just put it on the family tree for the time being. I will come to the aunties another day. Oh and the coffees. Don’t let me forget about the coffees). They all tucked in and the reaction was…that they ate them. They are a hard crowd to judge. The fact that they had seconds boded well, so I think it was a success. There is another batch ready for cooking when the family comes tomorrow. Let’s see what they make of them.