I'M CONVINCED there's a conspiracy at work. First, a piece of paper landed on my desk extolling the virtues of good old-fashioned baking.

It rambled on about career women having discovered the joys of the kitchen and how more and more of these work-obsessed ladies are indulging in the latest stress-busting trend of bake-atherapy.

Inspired by the so-called domestic goddess Nigella Lawson, this involves preparing delicious puddings in a warm kitchen filled with the aroma of fresh baking.

Next, what do I receive for my birthday but a cookbook by the domestic goddess herself, giving hints and tips on how marvellously fulfilling the art of food preparation can be.

And this week I arrive at the office to find Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management on my chair. This book, a copy of the original 1861 classic, is focused almost entirely on the kitchen and the goings-on therein.

"I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of discontent than a housewife's badly-cooked dinners," writes Mrs B.

Is someone trying to tell me something? That, as a woman who visits the kitchen only to put the kettle on, I'm missing out on the "joys" of baking? That cooking is a satisfying pastime and the kitchen is the place to be for women of the 21st century?

Apparently, in a recent survey of 1,000 women, half said that baking a pudding or pie had therapeutic effects, causing stress levels to plummet. And the sense of accomplishment from baking something from start to finish produced a powerful feel-good factor.

I'm sorry, but I can't quite relate to this. The last time I cooked something -- last Saturday actually, as my master chef husband carried out some crucial DIY chores -- it was about as stress-relieving as crossing a motorway on foot during rush hour. This is the timetable of events, as I attempted to cook pork (we like to live dangerously) chops, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, broccoli, and pepper sauce (from a packet)...

8pm: Peeled potatoes and put them on to boil.

8.20pm: Attempted to open bottle of cooking oil, but plastic seal broke. Tried again with a knife and stabbed hand. Overcame pain to heat up some oil in a roasting tray. Left it in too long and opened door to find it spitting violently. Removed it with difficulty then drained potatoes and stuck them in tray.

8.30pm: Sliced parsnips too thinly and drowned them in oil.

8.45pm: Put chops under grill to cook, as per instructions, on moderate heat. Left kitchen for two seconds and smoke alarm went off. Husband tore down stairs screaming: "What's going on, you'll wake the children, shut it off." I replied that I couldn't reach it. "I'll have to do it, get me a chair -- it would have to be while I'm in the middle of this, at a crucial stage," he yelled.

9.10pm: Noticed chops were a bit on burnt side so turned them over. Hurriedly put broccoli in microwave. Didn't know how long to leave it. Gave it five minutes. Didn't seem cooked, so another two. Result: Something stringy with texture of rubber bands.

9.15pm: Broccoli overdone, chops black on one side, raw on other, potatoes not bad, parsnips inedible - and I hadn't even started sauce.

9.30pm: Served up. Husband came into kitchen: "It's like a bomb site in here!" he screamed. "Why don't you wash up as you go along?"

"How can I, when I'm using all the pans all the time?" I screeched. "Anyway, I'm not doing this again."

Major row resulted, stress levels soared. By then my state of mind was nothing short of maniacal.

The pleasures of baking? I've had more fun having teeth pulled. Some -- I have to say crazy -- women may be heading back to the kitchen in droves. I'm staying well clear.

And I'm pleased to say that the person -- who shall remain nameless -- who gave me Ms Lawson's book for my birthday did keep the receipt. It's back on the shelves at the bookshop.