It’s a girl! No not the gorgeous little princess born this weekend on the other side of the Irish sea but our very own Caitlyn Alice Bloor, our Katy, who arrived in a hurry four weeks ago today making an unexpected entrance into our world. Her early arrival in the suburbs of Sydney deprived her Mum, my daughter Claire, of pre-natal maternity leave and some much needed sleep but spared me three weeks of fretting, jumping at every phone call and wondering if every silence longer than 24 hours meant that something was stirring.
It’s a surreal experience when your daughter, your first born has her first born and a daughter of her own on the other side of the world. It brings up every memory of those early tentative days of motherhood, the nervousness and the joy, the exhaustion, the fretting and the wonder. More than 35 years dissolve into a rush of vivid memories of those first six weeks. Suddenly dislocated from the world of work into the foreign and at times lonely territory of being a beginner again with no script to work from, no “how to” guide that really prepares you for the challenge no matter how much you have longed for it, no matter how competent you have been in your professional career, no matter how supportive your partner. The powerful rush of love that sometimes comes like a thud to the heart and sometimes sneaks up on you over days or weeks until this little person feels as if she has always been there and you know she will never again be far from your thoughts.
Distance makes it all the more surreal, especially when this little girl has quite literally peopled your dreams for so long so that you felt you knew her before she was born, even before she was conceived and were so utterly certain she would be a girl that you feared how you might react if you were proved wrong. And yet you don’t know her. You’ve studied her photos, several a week, noticing that she is already beginning to lose the sleepy, new baby look. You’ve tried to make “conversation” with her on FaceTime realising that she can’t yet focus on your face on a screen but watching the way she tilts her head towards your voice, hoping she will recognise that voice when you get to hold her at last. And in some ways you are still more focussed on your daughter and all the new experiences she is going through than on this little person who is not yet quite real to you because you haven’t felt her slight weight against your shoulder or smelt her milky breath or the scent of the soft folds at the nape of her neck.
And so for the second time in a little over two years you pack your bags to traipse across the world to meet a new grandchild. You are a little bit wiser and more confident now that you’ve learned how to get to know a toddler grandson through FaceTime and intermittent holidays in a way that has provided the basis for you and Dermot being devoted to each other now that he is living just down the road. You are a little bit less of the rookie NaiNai and ready to be a Glammy Granny to a little girl. But still you are filled with nervous anticipation about how you will form a relationship with her.
Into your bags go a suitcase of gifts for Katy. Family and friends are unable to resist the urge to press a bit of pink or strong, vibrant colours, into your hands – “just a little something, it won’t take up much space”. And then there are the books because every child needs books and their parents need them to lull themselves and their baby to sleep long before she can understand the words.
Katy herself hasn’t had her big reveal yet. Her parents have her cocooned in a social media free zone, keen to keep her digital footprint to a minimum in these early weeks. Maybe if I ask really nicely they will let me share a photo when I finally get to meet her in person.
We arrive in Sydney at the start of next week just in time to take a little of the pressure off Claire and Mike, at least in the kitchen. I will travel armed with a folder of laminated recipes, some from the blog, some from Shan, some from favourite cookbooks. Since Dermot and I started baking together every weekend, I’ve been revisiting some of Claire and Shane’s childhood favourites – the taste memories of school lunches and the kitchen scents of batch-cooking weekends. I’ve rediscovered the pleasure of working with yeast and these yeasty granary baps made with a mix of spelt flour and barley and rye granary flour taste every bit as good as they did 30 years ago. I visualise myself serving them up to Claire for lunch filled with good things while she curls up on the sofa feeding Katy, passing on to her through Claire the nourishment and the traditions from one generation to the next in that most essential of ways, the making and breaking of bread.
- 450g granary flour
- 450g spelt light or wholemeal flour (or a mixture of both)
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tsps fast acting dried yeast
- 300 ml warm water
- 300 ml warm milk
- 2 tbs malt extract
- 2 tbs sunflower oil
- Spelt wholemeal flour for dusting
- Mix the flours, salt and yeast together in a bowl.
- Add the warm milk, war water, malt extract and oil to the flour and mix to a soft dough.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for five minutes until smooth and elastic. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place such as the hot press for about 1½ hours until it has doubled in size.
- Turn the risen dough onto a floured surface, punch it down. Knead it again for a few minutes and divide it into 16 pieces. Knead each piece into a ball then roll it into a 10 cm round and place on a floured baking sheet leaving plenty of space between them.
- Cover each baking sheet with a light cloth and put in a warm, draught free place or back in the hot press to rise for about 30 minutes until they have doubled in size.
- Meanwhile heat a fan oven to 220 degrees C. Dust the tops of the risen baps with a little flour. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until they sound hollow when tapped underneath. Allow to cool on a wire rack.