Oh, sweet-heart! (and why you don’t need a cake tin to make a sponge cake)

I’ve thought a lot about the warthogs and I’ve reached a conclusion. They’re not going to stop me.

I need out. I need to shop – no, don’t be sexist, not that kind of shopping, food shopping. I’m cooking for Tex tonight and baked beans are not on the menu.

I grab a bag and check my supply of borrowed cash. Needs must when you’re banished with only a maxed-out credit card to your name.

I stride to the gate, daring the warthogs to gore me, and breeze down the dusty hill.

The walk’s an exercise in anxiety management. As I approach the thatched huts of the village a fudge-coloured dog with a backward-curling tail follows me, barking. I speed up, keeping my eyes on the path ahead, ignoring fudgy dog and concentrating on the chickens dashing headlong in front of me. Daft things.

I cross the great iron bridge and finally reach the main road that runs through the Heavenly Valley. Across it lies my destination – the petrol station where we sometimes stop to buy grenadilla ice lollies, refreshing confections shaped like knobbly hand grenades.

I take a deep breath, smile as if I’m confident and enter the little shop. It’s surprisingly well stocked. No fresh dairy produce but a tin of Nestles cream and a block of margarine. Rice, dried onions, salt, pepper. Eggs, sugar, flour, jam.

And . . . vanilla ice cream.

Yes! I can do it!

Just one thing missing – well, apart from real onions and nutmeg: beef.

Courage screwed up, I approach the other roadside retailer.

Men are lounging on the step beneath the open door. It’s dark inside. I can see the carcases hanging from the ceiling – and I can hear the flies buzzing. But there’s no alternative.

‘Good morning, what kind of meat do you have, please?’

‘Meat.’

Right. Meat it is, then.

Back at the shop I buy a newspaper to wrap my meat and ice cream – the day’s warming up – and trudge back over the bridge, up the hill, through the gate and, with an epic degree of relief, open the door to my cabin.

I stow the ice cream in the ice box of the fridge and send out ‘thank you’ vibes to my old domestic science teacher – I can make a sponge cake just like that (clicks fingers) without so much as a recipe. Or in this case, cake tin. (A Pyrex dish, since you ask.)

Once that’s in the oven I do the best I can to make the meat, tinned cream and dried onions into a passable stroganoff. I’m really quite proud of the result. The meat’s a bit tough – but then, who knows what it is? Or was.

He’s not exactly effusive about the main course – and now I’m nervous. Maybe the pudding’s a bit too ambitious.

A smell of heat rises from the oven. By the time I add the sugar my wrist hurts from beating the egg whites. I spread jam lavishly on the cake.

Tex is puzzled. Good, good, that’s the plan.

I take the ice cream from the fridge and arrange it over the jam.

‘Is that an ice cream cake?’

I smile what I hope is an enigmatic smile and not a drunken leer (Tex brought wine), slather the egg white over the ice cream and bung the whole lot in the oven.

Minutes later a triumph of a Baked Alaska has changed my life forever.

That may be a slight exaggeration. But only slight.

He liked it. Very much.

So, is the way to a man’s heart through his stomach? What do you think?

Next time: not sure, maybe a fast forward in the time capsule to Mr Custard and the charcoal (since we’re on a food them) – but we’ll see

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