It seems to be a week of rants for me.

Image Courtesy: Tristan MacAvery/DeviantArt

I was chatting to my friend a while back and discussing her plans for the day (which included baking for her husband and children) when she suddenly informed me that she couldn’t bake, as she didn’t have the right ingredients. When I inquired as to what she was missing she said she was missing self-raising flour.

Startled, I asked if she had any plain flour in her pantry. She said that she did. I told her to add 1 teaspoon of baking powder for every 100 grams of flour in order to ‘make’ self-raising flour. Sift the whole thing, and voila. Problem solved.

Upset that nobody had ever taught her that, my friend trotted off to do just that. It was then that I wondered why people don’t seem to want to find solutions to their problems any more. If something isn’t cleaned, packaged, labelled, and available on supermarket shelves, people don’t really seem to want to go to any trouble to find out if there are alternatives.

I grew up in a small town in India in the eighties and nineties. We didn’t have self-raising flour. What I did have, though, was a mother and a grandmother who were passionate about food and baking – a passion they’ve passed on to me. I started young in my grandmother’s enormous stone-lined kitchen, learning about things, and what I learned more than anything else was about substitutes.

After ‘wash your hands and put on an apron’, I learned a number of tips and tricks, shortcuts, and alternative paths to achieve culinary greatness. If you don’t have something in order to make a dish, my mother always said, it didn’t mean that you couldn’t tackle it. You just needed to see it from another perspective. The one destination, I learned, has many roads. And so I learned to hang yoghurt up in muslin in order to make cream cheese, and I learned to bake blind using rice, and I learned to ‘make’ self-raising flour. I learned a lot of skills that I carried with me into my teenage years and into adulthood, and someday my children will learn them from me.

On the subject of baking blind, though, I found this product yesterday that made my jaw drop. Is that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard of? Why on earth would you want to spend money on that? I mean, what on earth is wrong with you if you decide to go and buy that? This is even worse than the garlic chopping tool that one of my friends bought (I viewed that with contempt, and advised her to learn to use a knife). I like nifty kitchen tools just as much as anyone else, but there’s nothing nifty about the Pie Weights. It’s just stupid.

Press some foil onto your pastry, advises the manual for the Pie Weights, and then fill it with the weights. BOGGLE. Or, you could press some foil onto your pastry, and fill it with uncooked rice. Baking uncooked rice in the oven does nothing to it; it doesn’t harm it in the least, and could do for your dinner another day. That’s how I learned to bake blind; that’s how I still bake blind, and I make amazing pastry, if I say so myself.

And so there you have it: We return to my original question. Whatever happened to common sense? Well, I think I have an answer. The problem with common sense, as someone once said, is that it’s not very common.