You looked on knowledgeably as my chubby five-year-old fingers creamed butter and sugar with a big wooden spoon, added sticky, runny eggs and white, dusty flour, beat it all together with intense concentration as sticky yellow splodges were flung around the room. You patiently put up with me as I sat before your door waiting for them to cook, opening it frequently and peering in, before I proudly produced my first sunken fairy cakes.
You kept quiet as I sneakily dunked my fingers in the golden syrup tin, slurped the sweet flavour off, like the seven-year-old that I was, and then spooned the contaminated remains into a big glass bowl, added my favourite jumbo oats, plenty of crumbly brown sugar and, of course, butter, licking the knife before I tossed it into the sink. You watched me snip apricots into minuscule pieces as I attempted my next baking venture. Flapjack: the crumbly, golden bars of goodness that, years later, would be wrapped in silver foil and chomped on as I trudged across the valleys of Dartmoor.
You listened to my curses as I melted chocolate on your flame, and then burnt it. Again and again and again. You were loyal as you ignored me whilst I licked the chocolate-coated spoon then stuck it back in the bowl, in my cheeky nine-year-old way, before adding the huge double-yolk eggs from the farm down the road, along with butter, sugar, flour and more butter. You let me repeatedly yank your door open as I feared dried out brownies without the luxurious gooey centre that I desired.
You heard me mash over ripe bananas with a fork and learn how to properly line a loaf tin, as I scoured the old books on the shelf for the best banana bread recipe. Sticky eleven-year-old fingerprints covered you as I slathered slices of my newest creation in thick layers of butter, much to your horror, as you too were covered in the creamy, yellow spread.
You listened to the screams as home-made strawberry jam spat boiling sugar onto my arms, but you knew it was worth it when I carefully spooned it onto layers of vanilla sponge cake, which you had cooked to perfection, before whipping up creamy buttercream and plastered it on top. At thirteen, I was all about Victoria sponges, and the glorious puff of smoke that appeared when I opened the bag of icing sugar, ready to sift it over the top.
You wobbled as I impatiently stomped up and down the kitchen, waiting for the yeast to make my bread rise. Hours and hours of pacing and waiting. And pacing and waiting. You tried your best to cook each batch perfectly as my fifteen-year-old self was determined to experiment with enriched dough and flavoured dough and shaped dough. You never failed to amaze me as small, carefully rolled buns appeared three times the size, but always soft and always delicious.
You started to flag when my ideas became more elaborate, more detailed, more challenging. But when I crossed my fingers as I placed the mixture for the six layer ombre cake that would surprise my best friend on her seventeenth birthday, you did what you did best. You produced something that made people smile and laugh and pick every last crumb from the plate.
But it wasn't long until you began to burn my madeleines on one side of the tray, whilst they were still raw on the other. It wasn't long until you started to take 45 minutes to turn my shortbreads golden brown. You couldn't get hot enough to make my lemon cakes rise, and I could never get my brownies perfect anymore.
It was then that the decision had to be made.
You sat quietly outside as the shiny white beast was carried in to take your place. Mucky, smeary fingerprints still covered your doors, burnt-on fudge still splattered your top and memories of what you created still filled the house. You may not have had clear glass doors, you may not have lit up as you cooked and you may not have had a multi-function grill. But you had something much more, you had celebrated my first birthday and my eighteenth, you had put up with my successes and my failures, my elaborate ideas and my simple comfort food. You had warmed our bellies on cold, stressful days. You had been there through it all.