Essay by Robbie Cheadle, Friend of Carrot Ranch
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My love of baking and writing both stemmed from attempts to do the best I could for my two boys. When Gregory was born, I decided that I wanted him to have as healthy and preservative free a diet as I could possibly manage. That was when I started baking as this was the best way I could think of to ensure that he didn’t eat a whole lot of unhealthy additives in biscuits, cakes, pies and other baked goods. It might seem to some people that I would have done better to steer clear of these [delightful] foods altogether. I, however, believe that if you try to take these sorts of treats away from your children they will find a way to partake of far worse sweet items [like fizzers] behind your back. If you can’t beat them, join them and do it your way.
My first major attempt at baking something more impressive took the form of Gregory’s first birthday cake. I made a Winnie the Pooh cake using a cake mould that I hired from our local baking store. This venture took me the entire day before the party and I did make a few small mistakes. I made a double cake mixture for starters and soon discovered that this was far too much for my single cake mixture cake tin. I didn’t want to waste so spend a good hour making cupcakes with the rest of the cake mixture. My attempt at red butter icing was a bit of a bright pink failure but, fortunately, the one year old Greg was not unduly fussy about colours. Last but not least, I iced the cake on the plastic lid of a large Tupperware box. Once iced with rows and rows of butter icing stars, there was no way I could move the cake off the lid without damaging the icing. I surrounded the cake with the cupcakes, iced with the left over butter icing, and served it like that. Luckily, most parents of one year old children are far too busy surviving to notice little details like that.
From this illustrious start, my baking developed. Greg turned out to be a very avid assistant. He was happy to stand for at least 30 minutes sloshing the dirty dishes around in a sink full of washing up water. He would join in the baking by licking out the bowl and, frequently, upending it on his head thereby necessitating an immediate bath and hair wash.
When Michael was born two years later, he also swiftly took to the world of baking [and eating]. Michael’s interest in baking and cooking has continued and he will often make pancakes or French toast for breakfast and will participate in making stews, dumplings and curries with his father or my Mother. I like to share the pleasure of cooking so I am happy for my Mother and husband to dominate the everyday meal space if they want to [they apparently do want to!]
Some of the birthday cakes and food the boys and I have made over the years are as follows:
When Michael was six years old and started school, he was diagnosed with a processing learning barrier. This meant that Michael struggled with reading speed and, particularly, with writing. I knew that Michael had an amazing imagination and loved to make up sweet stories. His favourite made up characters were Mr Chocolate and Mr Sweet. This fun pair lived in Chocolate Land where everything was edible, including the trees and the flowers.
This original idea of Michael slowly developed into the Sir Chocolate series of books that exists today. We have written ten books, three of which are currently published.
Set out below are some pictures of Michael’s original writing and drawings that ultimately became Sir Chocolate and the strawberry cream berries story and cookbook.
We have kept the books as close to Michael’s original concept as possible. I re-wrote his ideas into rhyming verse and we, over time, we started making the illustrations out of fondant. My brother-in-law gave us the idea of adding the family recipes and that is how the books, in their current form, were born.
Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl”.
Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.
Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books. Robbie is also the author of the new Silly Willy series the first of which, Silly Willy goes to Cape Town, will be available in early July 2017.
Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.