Last weekend I was back on the demo trail, baking gluten-free biscuits with a little added banter. Arriving early at Harewood House, the beautiful but muddy site of the Great British Food Festival, I squelched my way to the demo tent, dumped my gear and went off to find lunch. Joining a queue for pulled pork sandwiches, I was suddenly interrupted by a panicking steward who'd tracked me down to tell me that it was 1.30pm. "Someone should have told you - you're meant to be judging the Cake Off - they're all waiting!"
Now it should come as no surprise to those who know me that I always favour savoury over sweet, but duty calls. Battling through the crowds I arrived to see a catwalk of cakes labelled A to Q - a grand total of 17 chocolate concoctions rising to the occasion. My heart sank.
Ominously, the Cake Off venue shared its space with 'Man vs Food' - something that involved seeing how many cream crackers you can fit in your mouth. A task probably more suited to me than the one before me.
Clearly a lot of effort had gone into these cakes, but so had a lot of chocolate. Personally, if I don't fancy a one way ticket to Migraine City, I take my chocolate in moderation. Oh, and I like it very dark and fine. A couple of Paul A Young's creations would definitely get the thumbs up, but I'd rather have a scotch egg than a creme egg any day.
By the time I reached Q, I was begging for that licence to kill. Having successfully avoided dishing out any heavy criticism so far (even of one which had all the appeal of a deep 10-inch disk of solid lard) I looked at the final cake, and thought that the decorations on it reminded me of plastic flowers. And then in a strange chocolate induced bout of honesty, I heard myself say just that! The cocoa solids had reached a critical mass and I was channelling Sophia Petrillo.
After handing out the prizes it was time to beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the demonstration tent. High on a sugar rush, I probably gave my best performance yet. Witty, confident, informative - I had won the crowd over. Except perhaps for one woman. At the end, she approached and with a deadpan expression and a voice as flat as a northern cap (yes, I know I'm a fine one to talk) she asked, "Is is part of your quirky stage persona that you sometimes come across like you don't know what you're doing?"
Ouch! A prize observation. Give the lady a rosette.