Several years back I started reading a book called "The Fig Eater" which is set in Vienna in 1910 and under the guise of being a murder mystery is really just a means of sharing all sorts of facts about Vienna in Freud's era, there is some writing about psychoanalysis, much about forensics, some about culture, some about feminism (or it's precursors) and some about food. I of course focused in on the food aspects...
In the book there is a character who travels from house to house cooking, very much like today's personal chefs but with one great distinction. The mehlspeisen küche only bakes delicious sweets. She pulls sheets of pastry as thin as gossamer to fill and roll into strudels, she kneads sweet doughs to make into tiny cakes, fills layers with creams and custards and mixes batters to bake into warm, sweet and comforting cakes.
Of course, upon reading this I thought what a wonderful idea to recreate this old custom- to travel form house to house filling it with delicious nibbles and desserts, to warm the hearth and, well, let's be honest, fatten everyone up. We did live in health conscious Berkeley, CA at the time and I imagine I was a bit fed up with granola and raw food. So with only the Atkins Diet as an obstacle I set about organizing myself as a Mehlspeiser. (Pardon my Germlish). I put together brochures that listed pastry after pastry, all stamped up with my running bitters bottle logo and my fancy new mobile number and email address. I distributed these at the local fancy food stores, shops and such and I waited. I waited patiently to start a new trend- the traveling baker.
Well, the phone never rang. Oh, well, it did but it was to cook for a lovely family in Napa who I had the pleasure of spending many years with. They liked desserts, but they preferred barbecue and bread. They longed to be leaner, so a daily addition of sweets and cakes wasn't in their plans.
Which left me with the occasional dream of rolling and pulling and throwing out sheets of pastry, ready for a life as a strudel filled with fruits and drenched in glaze. The perfect friend to a piping hot cup of coffee.
But maybe I was in the wrong city? Maybe London needs some fattening up?