The lunchtime high tide has been and gone without the sea over topping the coastal defences at Jaywick. As the morning advanced the risk receded in the judgement of the council and the police, leading to some confusion among the residents according to the local paper as people who had previously refused to leave decided that they or their family members did now want to go up to the reception centres and found that transport had been withdrawn. Now the authorities are worried about tonight's tide, when of course it will be dark. The trouble is, the more false alarms there are, the less likely anybody will be to take warnings seriously. At least the council has learned from the last attempted evacuation, when people were not allowed to take their pets and some refused to leave without them.
Our first house in Essex was flooded to a couple of feet back in the big floods of 1953. We bought it anyway, but since then we've gone uphill with each move. I like the sea, and rivers, but am very happy not to live too close to either of them. Delightful converted old watermills give me the willies. Who now understands the complex system of water management that once fed them, and is it being maintained properly? In our sandy fastness we are battered by the wind, but not water.
There was thin, barely frozen snow lying in patches on the lawn when I got up, and the merest skim of ice on the pond. Then it snowed with big, wet flakes, and the kittens stared at it appalled through the windows as if it was the most terrible thing that they had ever seen. Then it rained and melted most of the snow. Hurrah. But I did not dare to attempt to get to Dulwich when there had been snow in London with the possibility of more to come, and so I shall miss their Dutch Golden Age artist I should have liked to see. I feared that would be the case once I didn't manage to get there before the trains shut down for Christmas. The first couple of weeks of the New Year so often seem beset with illness and horrible weather.
By way of consolation I made waffles for lunch. The Systems Administrator gave me a waffle iron for my birthday a couple of years ago, and I haven't used it as much as I'd have liked. I did ask for a waffle iron, so it was not a case of being ambushed by an unwanted kitchen gadget, but the couple of times I did use it the waffles were flabby and disappointingly insubstantial, like a cross between a pancake and a cotton waffle weave blanket. I thought the answer was to try making a yeast based batter instead of using what was essentially pancake batter with added bicarbonate of soda, but that meant mixing the batter right in the middle of the morning when I'm generally busy doing something else.
Today, watching sleet blow horizontally across the roof of the conservatory, it seemed a good morning for experimenting with batter and so I followed the recipe for My Mother's Waffles in Ruth van Waerebeek's The Taste of Belgium. Or at least, I followed it reduced by two thirds. Ruth van Waerebeek's mother must have wanted to make an awful lot of waffles. The batter, enriched with quite a lot of melted butter and sugar, looked much more substantial than the aerated pancake mix I'd tried before, and bubbled convincingly as it sat on top of an upturned baking tin on the warming plate of the Aga for its requisite hour of proving, while Our Ginger, who had been sitting on the warming plate himself, sat outside the kitchen door and howled.
My first pair of waffles were slightly overcooked on the underneath, and I was too stingy with the batter for one of the second so it didn't manage to fill the iron completely and the top didn't get toasted. I overfilled the plates for one set and the excess batter oozed out and dripped over the kitchen worktop, but by the end I was definitely getting the hang of them. Our iron is the sort that makes two fairly substantial square waffles rather than a round of eight small ones, and I found you have to be bold and add slightly more batter than you might if you were worried about it leaking.
We ate them with whipped cream and my January store cupboard version of fruit compote, made with tinned cherries in some of their juice lightly set with cornflour and pepped up with some cherry jam. My inner Gwyneth Paltrow told me that this was not healthy eating, but that's tough. We had bean stew last night. It was sleeting and blowing half a gale and we have both been ill, and sometimes you need a treat.
I was pleased with the waffles, and so was the Systems Administrator who likes cherries. You can serve them more modestly with melted butter, or I should think they would work with bacon or ham, in which case you could cut back on the sugar. One thing puzzles me, though. They do not come close to the waffles I remember from childhood holidays in Brittany, where I was first introduced to the delights of gaufres, which sounded like 'goffs' to my English ears. You could get them freshly cooked from street stalls, lightly dusted with icing sugar, and I remember them being crisper and more melting than my home made efforts. Is my memory at fault after forty years, as it is about so many other things? Otherwise, what is the secret?