I made the mistake, today, of going down to my nearest Lakeland shop near Handforth. The shop itself is perfectly pleasant, the staff some of the most helpful you'll find anywhere. But, lord oh lord, the sheer quantity of stuff you never knew you needed! At first it was just a little overwhelming, and it was easy to start picking up stuff saying, "Oh yes, that would be useful for making such-and-such".
But half an hour into the visit, and not much further round the store than when i started, a kind of self-preservation order steps in. I start to wax lyrical to myself about the joys of using my old paring knife and a wooden chopping board, stained from years of being misused as a pan stand by teenagers too lazy to bother to look for one. I think fondly of my old battered pans and wooden spatulas, sharpened to a point by years of stirring into the corners of pans. And then i start to take a closer look at some of the must-have products. All tested and undoubtedly up to the job, (but essential?).
I spotted a rather magnificent electric egg-shaped contraption, about 1 foot high which was for boiling eggs. Amazing! And another, large electric shoe box, which apparently cooked six perfect cupcakes. Why has no-one thought of this before! There was an electric jam maker, a sous vide - some sort of vacuum cooker (sounds very space age), and an overwhelming choice of choppers and grinders. I manoeuvred past the rainbow selection of silicone breast enhancers, posing as poached egg pockets, on my mission to find the only place i know where i can get rolls of beautiful thick waxed paper for wrapping up cheeses. There is something distinctly old-fashioned about this product - and I'm very grateful to Lakeland that they still make it. However, as if to prove to me that it is one of their less popular products, the male assistant took ten minutes to locate the said item - no doubt he too was dazzled by the array of breast enhancers in his line of vision.
The catalogues are definitely porn for the middle aged - of both sexes it would seem. Their target consumer stopped me in the isle. She recognised me although i had no recollection of her. She was accompanied by a mildly jovial and obedient spouse with a plummy voice and a well- fed tummy - no doubt a victim of the silicone macaroon mould or the whoopie pie tin. And she was educating him in a loud and tittering voice about the cleverness of Lakeland in making a particular product that would perfectly do the job. He was doing a good job at being enlightened and hadn't yet resorted to braining her over the head with her new croquembouche mould (that would surely come later).
The waxed paper located, i escape back to the relative chaos -free zone that is my kitchen. I am relieved to see there is still room for a chopping board and a knife on the work surface. I set to and cook a boned shoulder of lamb. Simply.with vegetables and dark gravy. There is uncharacteristic silence at the table. Everyone is just intent on eating and enjoying. You choose to go for a simple dish also, a chicken stew from a well exercised bird with heavy bones (could have been me today after all that shopping), and a dollop of mashed parsnip with parsley and mustard stirred in.
Roll on the Spring; there will be no call for salad and lighter things until the air warms up and the light returns to the blur that is the dregs of Winter's heavy shoes.