Only one kind of help is welcome in the kitchen, and that's the mechanical kind.
Even if you can take the heat, stay out of my kitchen
For quite a few years now, I have hankered after my very own Kitchen Aid mixer. This appliance is commonly used in restaurant kitchens but can be found in a few lucky homes too.
This Christmas, to my surprise, my wish was granted and a shiny red mixer, complete with gleaming silver bowl, is now the focal point of my kitchen. I don't mind admitting that I've taken to giving it a nightly polish with a splash of olive oil, just to make sure it retains its dewy charm. Don't worry, I don't use the pricey extra-virgin stuff - I'm not quite that enamoured of it.
When I tell people about my newest possession, they tend to be rather less excited about the gift than I am.
Perhaps they're not aware of the sheer versatility of the Kitchen Aid, which is, you must remember, no ordinary mixer. The whisk attachment whips up the glossiest meringues imaginable, the beater creams together butter and sugar in seconds, and the hook attachment flings flour around the bowl at such speed that a smooth ball of dough is never more than a few minutes away.
As you can probably guess, I've been spending rather a lot of time in the kitchen over the past few weeks and I've come to realise that when cooking, it's much better for everyone if I'm left to my own devices (and mess). When friends saunter in and kindly offer to lend a hand, perhaps stirring a sauce or prodding a piece of meat (grrr), I am quick to send them back to the safety of the living room.
In general life I'm pretty easy-going, but as soon as there's a cooker in sight, I become strangely controlling. I'm ashamed to say that the words: "No, you can't chop the onion, because, frankly, you won't do it right" recently came out of my mouth. Not a sentence I'm proud of having uttered.
It's worse when I go around to someone else's house to eat. On such occasions, I try not to cross the threshold into the kitchen. I found myself counting to 10 in my head when, a few weeks ago, I watched in wonder as a friend tipped olive oil and expensive wild mushrooms into a cold frying pan before placing it on the hob, thus forcing the lovely fungi to stew in their own juices, rather than roast.
And don't get me started on the time my sister chucked the broccoli into a pan of boiling water, before she'd even begun to cook the Yorkshire puddings.
You know what, reading this back, perhaps it's lucky that I'm so attached to my new Kitchen Aid, because it doesn't look as if I'll be invited out for dinner any time soon.