Offer to help didn’t grate, but it was the last straw

COMMENT: University has to prove it offers value for money

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When it comes to offering assistance, you do what you can don’t you? When we were invited to a wedding reception in a field I offered to help in any way I could.

I was asked to provide some food for the evening buffet. I liked that; offering to help and being taken up on it without a qualm. We should all be more like that.

The problem was, I was asked to make cheese straws which I thought would be easy. Cheese straws, it turns out, are one of the hardest things to make in the universe.

I blame the internet. Before the world wide web I would have used a cookery book for a cheese straw recipe. But as I haven’t bought a recipe book for aeons and my Delia was significantly lacking, I had to consult the internet where I became thoroughly lost in the debate of pastry-based against shortbreadish variety and – more worryingly – the social standing of cheese straws.

How at one end of the spectrum the type you make shows you to be contemporary and amusingly ironic, while at the other end you seem like a social misfit hung over from the 70s.

After dismissing the best-cheese-straws-ever recipe as being too old-fashioned, I finally settled on the ‘ultimate’ as I thought it might show off my culinary skills more.

After grating lard, yes, you read that correctly, and grating butter, and finely grating the cheese, I followed the recipe to perfection, measuring and crumbling and rubbing and chilling and rolling and baking. And what do I get? Dog biscuits.

Nope, that’s not fair. My two-year-old Labrador-cum-Heinz 57 who drools at the smell of my son’s teenage cheese feet turned up his nose up at the frazzled output rejecting my cheese straws completely. So how would they ever be good enough for wedding guests?

Luckily the internet also told me which supermarkets stocked cheese straws, and what time they opened, so on the wedding day I had the oven on to warm at dawn while I rushed out to buy boxes of frozen straws.

Did anyone notice or care? I know not, but I do know this... next time I offer to help, I am going to quantify it in cash terms. Can I buy you anything you need?