Our father has died. Thanks to the those of you who have sent us your thoughts and support. We are so touched that so many of you have done so.
The days since his death have been a whirlwind of mind boggingly complex administrative tasks, sorting through heaps of clothes and personal belongings and supporting our mother who is in bits. I never knew death would involve so much beaurocracy. So far, I haven't really had the time to mourn. I am in 'project manager' mode: organising, rationalising, making sure that loose ends are tied up and that my mother, when she is ready, will be able to make sense of everything.
My father loved rum babas. If you've never had one, I highly recommend it. It's a light, springy, brioche type cake drenched in a rum syrup. It's a burst of sweet, moist, squidgy, rummy goodness and I love it. I've never made a rum baba - there's a lot of kneading and proving involved and I always told myself that I could never do better than the delicious ones found in most patisseries across Italy. In the days following my father's death I was overcome with a very strong urge to make one.
I searched the internet for recipes and printed off the one which seemed to be the most 'authentic' (there are many variations on the rum baba recipe, I discovered) and borrowed a specially shaped cake tin from my aunt. Over the next few days, every time I decided I was ready to bake I found that I was either missing an ingredient or something came up that needed my urgent attention and the days slipped by and the rum baba didn't get made. The tin and the recipe sat in my mother's kitchen, waiting to be used.
In the end, I came home without having made it. I'm not sure why - maybe I'm resisting because somehow, when I do finally make it, I will be admitting to myself that my father really is no longer here. That he's gone, that he'll never taste it and enjoy it and share another rum baba with me. It also felt wrong, at some level, to be indulging in one of my favourite hobbies. How could I possibly want to bake when I'd just lost one of the most important people in my life?
A friend called me yesterday and as we talked about the pain of losing a parent she asked me what I was doing to support myself. She urged me to look after myself in some way. She said: "It's like Beyond Chocolate, take one tiny step. Do something - anything - for yourself, even if it's just for five minutes." When I set out to wrote this post I didn't really know where it was going. I just knew that I wanted to write about our father's death and my reluctance to bake a rum baba. But the conversation with my friend and putting all this into words has been incredibly useful. I know now what I need to do.
I'm going to make time to mourn my father in the best way I know how. I'm going to set aside a morning to make the rum baba. I will not answer the phone or check my emails. I won't tidy up or surf the internet while I wait for the dough to rise. I will allow myself to think of my father, to remember him and I will indulge in therapeutic baking and memories. I will make the most delicious rum baba I possibly can and then savour every bite. Knowing that he is somewhere watching and that he is happy to be honoured in this way with his favourite cake.