How’s everybody doing? My experience of UK Lockdown Life is bog standard, I suppose – this past year has been a huge fuggin’ ball of relentlessness. NOBODY in this house has been learning a new hobby / language / yoga poses. That whole idea can absolutely get nuked, it’s all about survival mode here. By that, I mean, getting to the end of every day without being in a sarcastic temper or an anxiety whirl. I’m very aware that we’ve been pretty lucky compared to lots of others. My pal just got out of hospital after one month of gruelling Covid ‘funtimes’, and I’m so thrilled that he escaped!
I’m not sure what has been the most grinding thing to deal with (among many)…but currently my Lockdown III status is that my brain has been turned to fromage. I’m bamboozled from the long months of making hundreds of everyday decisions that need to occur about the most banal things. E.g. shall I to go to the Post Office? Will it be busy, how long will I be stuck queuing, will my glasses fog up, do I have hand sanitiser, do I keep my gloves on or off…etc etc etc. Or even just walking down the pavement – ‘uh-oh, here comes a group of four walking abreast, are they going to move to make space for me, no, wait, they’re not, I’m having to circle around them into the oncoming traffic, YOU’RE WELCOME’ etc etc…It’s SO BORING. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I’m tired because it’s impossible to engage with anything larger or more exciting at the moment. How we all miss the bigger picture. Planning an escape abroad? It’s in my dreams, but right now, I’d settle for a daytrip to Brixton…
In terms of food, cooking and eating, well it’s amazing how Lockdown Life has tested my patience on so many levels. Despite being a greedy wanker and fairly confident cook, there are many, many days where even the merest flicker of having to decide what to make for dinner makes me want to scream. My kids (who appear to be never going back to school) require lunches. EVERY DAY. Oh God. Before Covid I never realised how important school – and its brilliant lunch provision – is for all of our sanities. Now, I’m grumpily churning out soups and feeling like a bitter old crone making endless sandwiches – the frustration comes in waves. The ever-increasing demands for snacks splinter my fragile concentration into shards. Often, an innocent query of ‘what’s for dinner’ sends me into a hysterical flap – why should I have to be thinking about this ALL THE TIME? I do realise my kids are having a tough and boring time, but Jesus, they really know how to behave like Marie Antoinette and the Prince Dauphin when rejecting lunch because ‘we had the same thing yesterday’. My son told me I could ‘Arise’ the other day, when I was shuffling to and fro like a serf, sweeping the endless crumbs that litter the floor. Tout de suite, mon prince!
Anyway, for a long time I was getting to about 4pm most days and needing to lie on the floor. Then I discovered this incredible hot chocolate recipe, which will help if you start to get into that zombie state. It’s a bloody revelation, and I don’t say this lightly – I mean, after months of inertia, it inspired me to write this blog again! I nicked the recipe from The Happy Pear ‘Recipes for Happiness’ cookbook. The trick to its fabulousness is the addition of nut butter, which makes a thick, silky hot chocolate that is rich, decadent – your spoon will almost stand up in it – and the orange zest gives it the taste of a posh chocolate orange. NB I will eat chocolate orange in any format – in its original ball, in a drink, in a biscuit – is there nothing that can’t be improved by this holy combo?
You will need:
1 small mugful oat milk (or any milk)
1 tbsp smooth nut butter (any type, I’ve tried almond, peanut – all good)
1 – 2 tbsp cocoa powder (depending on how intense you want the chocolate taste, I always go for 2)
1 tbsp maple syrup or runny honey
Zest of 1/2 orange
All you need to do is put the ingredients together into a small saucepan and heat, while whisking everything vigorously, until the mixture starts to bubble and forms a thick, rich liquid. (I use a tiny metal whisk that my daughter got in her Xmas cracker to do this – it’s literally the most useful thing to come out of one!) Pour into a mug and enjoy ALONE and IN SILENCE, even if you have to barricade the door to get five minutes’ peace. A word of warning: it might be something to do with the oils in the nut butter, but the drink takes ages to cool down – I’ve burned my mouth a few times in my haste to knock it back!