The first was long and oval with six matching chairs gathered around its sides. The timber was stained a deep mahogany, and there was always, always a tablecloth: the pastel blue was always my favourite.
The second was rectangular, and made by my father from some leftover decking pieces from a handyman job. He had varnished the top until it was smooth, but the underneath was still rough. During dinner I would run my hands over the rippled surface; always praying that I wouldn’t get a splinter but revelling in the texture.
There were many more kitchen tables in my childhood. Now we have another smooth timbered surface, no tablecloth in sight though. Truth be told, nowadays I can’t stand them and the way crumbs have a way of sticking in the weave and haunting you even with the most vigorous beating after dinner.
The kitchen table to me is more than a surface to eat from, more than a clunky piece of furniture that takes up nearly our entire (small) dining room, the kitchen table is where my family gathers.
Deep inside I know that if I sit at the table for long enough someone will come along and sit near me. Someone will wander in asking what’s for dinner, or tell you they are putting the jug on (‘Would you like a cuppa?’), or slide a page of newspaper under your nose asking for your opinion on a piece of writing.
I think that’s why I feel the need to spend most of my day at the table in our kitchen: breakfast, writing, university work, reading a book, having a cup of tea. I am a lonely sort of person and if I sit here I know my family will be here soon.
You are never alone for long.
Kitchen table pear and spice cake (gluten free)
Not overly sweet, with the warmth of numerous spices, this cake speaks to the place in all of us that needs comfort, company, and a little wholesomeness. An afternoon-eating sort of cake with a cup of tea, or try a slice warmed up a little with a plop of ice-cream that will slide down the slope of crumbs as it melts. Whichever way you choose to indulge, make sure you cut another slice for someone you love. You won’t be alone at the table for long.
- 175 grams buckwheat flour
- 50 grams almond meal
- 100 grams golden caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 225mL milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup rice bran oil (or other lightly flavoured oil)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 large pear
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar, extra
- Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Grease and line a 6-inch diameter cake tin.
- Peel the pear and cut it in half. Remove the core from each half. With half number one dice it into small pieces and set in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom. With half number two slice it thinly and leave aside until required.
- Sit a medium bowl on top of your kitchen scales make sure they read zero then weigh in the buckwheat flour, almond meal, and caster sugar. Then measure in the salt, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom. Whisk all ingredients together to aerate. Set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk together milk, eggs, oil, and vanilla extract.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour half of this mixture into the cake tin and sprinkle over the spiced, diced pear. Then pour over the rest of the cake batter.
- Arrange the thinly sliced pear over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with extra caster sugar.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
- Once it is cooked remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin. Remove the cake from the tin and allow to cool on a rack.
Or if you are like me, burn your fingers removing the hot cake from the tin and then console yourself with a warm slice of cake. Then return later for another, cooler, slice….