A baking disaster cost me my reputation | BBC Radio Solent's Alun Newman

What I’m about to write is deemed by some to be nothing short of revolting.

Monday, 15th February 2021, 5:05 pm
Updated Monday, 15th February 2021, 5:06 pm
Alun made a huge mistake in the kitchen.

However, there may be others who will say, albeit quietly in their mind, that they’ve done that too.

It’s the decision that everyone has had to make at one time or another. Every adult on earth has faced this question and they’ll be thousands of different variables to consider.

The question is: what do you do when food falls on the floor?

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Straight away most people go for the five-second rule.

Believe it or not, a quick search on the internet and many believe the five-second rule was first introduced by Gengis Khan at one of his many banquets. The Mongolian ruler was a hoot when it came to food safety.

The science behind the rule has been heavily scrutinized by the American food scientist Donald Schaffner who looked in detail at the speed in which bacteria transfers from one surface to another.

What I can tell you is wetter does not make it better. Quite the opposite. Germs actually like it.

Anyway, even without prior food-science knowledge, we’ve all got our own experiences of decision making.

Especially if you’ve had children. Many times, I’ve seen the parent of a toddler dusting off an ice lolly or a biscuit. Really very dangerous.

This leads me to the week's controversial issue that became a thing because nothing else was happening that could become a thing.

I was making a fabulous, indulgent and very bad for you cake.

It required three eggs and I had exactly that number remaining in the fridge.

As I transported the remaining eggs to my workstation (kitchen table), I dropped one of them.

It broke with some impact on to the freshly cleaned (that morning) kitchen floor.

I looked at it and processed 100 different options at lightning speed.

Within seconds, it was scooped up with a spatula and entered into the cake mix.

‘It’s going to be cooked,’ I thought.

The internal temperature of the cake will be over 75 Celsius. That kills most things.

Who will ever know?

The answer was everyone.

I was spotted committing this food ‘sin’ by my son. He became the local sheriff of the town.

Within 10 seconds, my food hygiene rating had fallen to minus one from a glowing five.

The revolution entered the kitchen. I was accused of nothing short of being an assassin. I was a culinary killer.

It was communicated to me, from various team members, that on occasion things can be picked up off the floor but a completely broken shell in two pieces, needing a spatula to rescue the spilled egg was wholly unacceptable.

In fact, such an act would almost certainly end in instant death to anyone who even touches the finished product, let alone eats it.

I was beaten and lectured by the government advisers but pressed on to finish what I’d started.

However, by the time it was cooked and sat on the wire rack it might as well have been shouting ‘who wants a monumental stomach ache! Come and get it’.

In the end, the only pleasure extracted was watching our local birds attempt to tuck in.

They’re not nearly as fussy.

How can their tiny stomachs be so robust?

As for seagulls, they’ve no such rules about things that drop on the floor. In fact, if it hits the floor that’s seen as a call to get stuck in.

I have learned a valuable lesson.

Sometimes it takes a level of ridicule and astonishment for meaningful change to happen.

From now on, I will never again try and close the fridge door with three eggs in one hand.

It’ll end in tears.

Communities come together

I remember many years ago hearing a talk about how communities used to work.

It wasn’t particularly revolutionary. In fact, it made a lot of common sense.

It just seemed, at the time, like a different existence. They were the old days but we’re different now.

The person speaking was talking about how entire villages would see it as a corporate responsibility to help each other, especially when it came to raising children. I never thought that I would ever reflect back on those words.

This week, I found out that one lady had started to teach her grandchildren art, every Tuesday, via the internet. The lessons were so good that a few more children have joined in.

Upon hearing this, another grandma said that she would do a cooking lesson for a few hours on a Thursday. The same thing happened with a couple of others asking to join.

Not to be outdone, a grandad pitched in to help a child who’s struggling to learn French. The grandad is fluent in French but a tad nervous about teaching.

This is all happening in a small village. None of these people are being paid. None of them had heard of Zoom or Microsoft Teams a year ago.

Now they’re impacting their community by imparting skills, helping educate children and demonstrating kindness while lending some welcome help to parents under enormous pressure.

When I heard this story, I was touched by how events of such sadness can give rise to events of such joy.