Kristen Bailey’s debut novel, Souper Mum, is published today by Accent Press and I have the great honour of welcoming her to my blog. Kristen is a kindred spirit; she’s as hopeless in the kitchen as I am! Some of you might remember my Great British Burn Off? But today’s all about Kristen. Over to you…
Can I cook? Well, in theory, yes. For example, if you gave me a chicken breast, I could season it, apply heat to it and you’d end up with one cooked chicken breast. Ta-dah! The problem is I’d probably overcook it. It’d be charred (code for burnt) on the outside and inside the consistency of chalk but yes, definitely cooked. Bon Appetit!
My culinary prowess is a bit of a running joke in my family. It started back at school where I had to create a dish for my Home Economics lesson. I had the truly great idea that I’d coat bits of cod in cornflakes. I called them Fish Flips. I didn’t use any binding agent like egg or flour. So it just ended up as shrunken rubbery pieces of cod in a sea of baked cornflakes. Yum. My brother still brings up this spectacular culinary fail fifteen years down the line. When there is talk of Christmas, family birthdays and celebration meals, the conversation often goes as such:
Mum: It’s my birthday! Let’s go out for dinner!
Me: I could cook?
Mum: Or we could go out for dinner?
And I’m not sure why I’m so bad at cooking, I give it a good ol’ stab. I have cookbooks about my person which I bookmark and drool over. I watch the odd cookery show and help myself to those random recipe cards you find at the back of supermarkets. But for some reason, those glossy pictures of burnished lamb shanks with crowns of rosemary, and lustrous fruit tarts usually get lost in translation through my cooking skills. I’m not sure if it’s my bad maths that can never work out the timings or perhaps there is something fundamentally wrong with my palate but many a time, my kids curiously drag their forks around their plates. Children who are essentially, the worst food critics, ever. ‘I don’t like it.’ Imagine that as a restaurant review in The Times, just that. Ouch.
And what is worse is that I come from a family of foodies. My mother is the archetypal kitchen-dwelling matriarch. When you eat at her table, it’s a veritable feast of courses and flavours and love. My sister produces layered, well-iced cakes that are GBBO worthy. I have aunts, cousins, grandmothers who have recipes and dishes that are firm family favourites. And then there’s me. Mac and cheese, anyone? I make a decent mac and cheese? With a side of frozen peas?
So in a market saturated with cook books, foodie blogs and faddy diet advice, I wrote Souper Mum for mums like me, the non-cooking sorts. The ones who try, who let occasional junk pepper their dining tables but who also level it out with a bit of broccoli. Mums who have limited cooking skill, fussy little customers and who have to think about other constraints like time, fatigue and budget. It’s like the proper Hunger Games. Your kitchens are the battlefields; they’re not the pastel, beech work-topped utopias you see in your cookbooks. These kitchens are covered in yesterday’s washing up, school newsletters, Lego and a remote control without any batteries. The mums within have little to no foodie wisdom or ability; they’re literally just winging it with a bag of pasta, a tin of chopped tomatoes and half a block of cheddar cheese.
My Souper Mum is Jools Campbell: she grills cupcakes, messes up scrambled eggs and has never really worked out the secret mastery involved in chopping onions. Let’s just say I had a catalogue of excellent bad-cooking anecdotes to lend to her story. Her journey is one of self-discovery – the same one that I think most mothers go on when they find themselves embroiled in parenthood and are trying to dig through the debris to remember what’s important in life and reclaim their sense of identity. Her story is set against a foodie culture she decides to take a stand against with hilarious if life-altering consequences. If your life is full of quinoa, samphire and you’re one of those full-on crazy people who feel the need to make their own puff pastry, then I warn you, you may not like what Jools has to say. However, if tonight you’ve opened your kitchen cabinet, reached for the baked beans and are examining those last few slices of bread for mould then Souper Mum might just be your new best friend….
Souper Mum is the story of Jools Campbell, a stay-at-home mother of four, who becomes an unlikely foodie hero when she stands up to a pompous celebrity chef, Tommy McCoy on a reality show. Armed with fish fingers and a severely limited cooking repertoire, we watch as she becomes a reluctant celebrity and learns some important life lessons about love, family and the joyless merits of quinoa.
To buy Souper Mum, click on this link:
Mother-of-four, gin-drinker, binge-watcher, receipt hoarder, hapless dog owner, enthusiastic but terrible cook. Kristen lives in Fleet, Hampshire and has had short fiction published in several publications. The sequel to Souper Mum will be published later in the year.
She writes a weekly blog about being a modern mother. That and more can be found at her website: http://www.kristenbaileywrites.com
You can also find her on:
Twitter @baileyforce6 and Facebook www.facebook.com/kristenbaileywrites
Sounds fantastic, Kristen. Best of luck – with the book (and tonight’s supper!). x