FINDING YOUR INNER 16 YEAR OLD
Remember slumber parties? Sleeping bags spread out on the floor of your parents’ den, flashlights creating halos of golden warmth around youthful, innocent faces, silly whispered gossip about cute boys and evil catty gossip about rival girls while nibbling on forbidden snacks smuggled in from the kitchen while the folks watched TV only a few feet away? There was something so gloriously decadent and slightly subversive about a good slumber party, especially once one has reached the so-called age of reason and understanding when innocence is tinged by the naughty and one feels the burden of hovering parents lifted. Childhood slumber parties replaced by teen sleepovers, when the gossip becomes just a little less innocent, the snacks slightly more sinful and the laughter maybe just a tad less virtuous. Those carefree times of our youth spent in pajamas curled up in front of some old B movie or black & white horror flick, giggling, eating popcorn and forgetting all about responsibility and homework until Monday morning rolls around.
Ah, those slumber parties of our youth lost in the past, long ago nights spent with our best girlfriends long exchanged for nights spent with husbands and children. Hours on the phone or lunch out at some sidewalk café just doesn’t take the place of a good slumber party. But are we now too old for the goofiness, the childishness of a sleepover? And what do we do with the husbands?
Food Blogger Connect was the perfect excuse for a small group of otherwise perfectly respectable, well-behaved, responsible women to conjure up their inner 16 year olds and meet up for a wicked weekend! Sophisticated to a tee, leaving grumbling husbands behind (much too easily, one could argue), they swept into London on a carpet of good intentions and met up at their own proverbial Bat Cave, Cook Sister HQ, where shoes were kicked off, hair let down and the good times started to roll! It all began rather innocently with a braai – a South African barbecue – which found charming Nick, rather flustered surrounded by all that giggling womanhood, manning the tongs and firing up the grill. Glasses of rosé in hand, we nibbled on cheese that each of us had brought from our respective countries: France, Germany, Switzerland while waiting for the spicy sausages and the lamb chops to hit our plates. Mmmmm, hungry. Cameras already poised over plates, the food blogger in each of these lovely women pushed their way to the front of the bus. Everything, absolutely everything that would be eaten over the course of this long weekend would be photographed for posterity’s sake.
Snarky, Sporty, Saucy and Zesty joined Sweary * in the conservatory for a hearty meal followed, of course, by a plateful of Koeksister! Dense and sweet, these are special South African treats like crullers. The ladies also spilled a load of candy and chocolate out onto the table, treats brought along from their homeland. Gifts were exchanged as was laughter, gossip and good food. And one very Spicy Weekend was kicked off!
Some highlights of a very Spicy Girly weekend:
- Saucy very excitedly shows up at London City Airport to a text message announcing “Zesty has landed and in need of a very STIFF drink!” and running straight into Zesty’s arms, dancing and screeching like teens, she listens in horror to Zesty’s death-defying experience on the autobahn.
- 4 women (Snarky slept chez elle) sprawled out on an air mattress and sofas or snuggled up in a sofabed or dashing in and out of the kitchen, coffee mug or wine glass in hand depending on the time of day, buzzing between laptop computers perched atop rowing machine and kitchen counter in order to keep the twitterverse alive with our updates and news. Clothes and shoes and chocolate strewn around, stacked on furniture, stepped over on the floor like those good old college dorm days. Spice Sorority anyone? The elegant dance of sharing one bathroom was choreographed to perfection and it was proclaimed that the FBC Spice Girls could easily live together in wonderful, joyous harmony all year round. Has anyone ordered that Tour Bus yet?
- Wine, women and song… and chocolate, macarons and a risqué dvd of hot rugbymen in various states of undress, women draped over furniture, swanning between ogling the cute ones and screaming “fast forward!!! Not hot!” while carefully dividing macarons into 4 and tasting, analyzing, judging, commenting. And voting Zesty’s Studmuffin Raspberry Tea Macarons with Dark Chocolate Tachini Ganache filling the best of the evening hands down!
One husband slouched on the edge of said sofa nervously flipping a rugby ball in his hands, up down, up down, back and forth, with a grimace on his face as if he was being forced to watch open heart surgery, finally, disgusted, mumbling under his breath, stomping off to bed.
- Why am I the only one that needs coffee and carbs to start my day? One downs an invigorating tall glass of water and grabs a piece of fruit (but they don’t call her Sporty for nothing!) while the other two seem to be able to take it or leave it. Argh! Am total catatonic monster without breaky!
- There’s no plaice like home. Wrong plaice, wrong crowd. Lovely evening planned at the Tate Modern restaurant although some (moi) are a bit astonished at stark, bare, low class diner design look for something meant to be so upscale. Food ordered, spirits high, Spice Girls + one lovely friend + one darling Mowie gathered together for a delicious meal. Three of our sisters are served their lemon sole which looks and tastes mysteriously like inexpensive plaice. Do not try and fool a table of food bloggers, mister! Haggling with the waiter, demanding an explanation, manager finally is pulled out of bed (or wherever he has been hiding) who then explains to a table of I’m guessing bimbos is what he thought? that 1) it is sole, 2) that sole and plaice look very much alike so easily mistaken 3) that he’s had trouble with his suppliers and that 4) he’ll not charge the table for 3 desserts. Sweary, arms crossed, lips pinched tightly together, is slowly fuming, the steam coming out of her ears visible. Snarky who’s head was expected to explode at any moment, is furiously texting husband who is sending back confirmation of the price difference between plaice and sole while Sporty, being the sport that she is, has put on her well-educated, knowledgeable school marm voice and taken the entire situation in hand: “There seems to be some mistake here….no, this is definitely not sole so why are our friends being charged for sole….I’d like to speak to the manager…no, this is not good enough….” She kept her head, sounded very professional and eventually got the job done! And enjoyed every minute of it, a sport to her. We had to calm Sweary and Snarky down and finally did and ended up deciding that we will not eat at the Tate Modern ever again. But I would like to mention that my Cappuccino Panna Cotta was out of this world delicious!
- Shopping: Ladurée, snapping pictures until requested to stop, it is not allowed s'il vous plait! Fortnum & Mason with Mr. Snarky, hands full of brilliant Papoose, scooting joyously around store eating all of the free samples. Sporty snappy pictures of sole (£12 per portion) and plaice (£1.10 per 100 g) to send with her letter of complaint to said Tate Modern, buying and buying, and finding, to my heart’s delight, food coloring paste for macarons! Out on the street, Zesty dashing out into traffic to snap that perfect photo of a double-decker bus!
- Traditional fish & chips in a traditional English pub followed by a run through Greenwich market and the noisy, brilliant, look-at-us-aren’t-we-fun Spice Girls talking their lovely way to a free plate of cinnamon churros and chocolate dipping sauce.
- An evening cooking together. Zesty’s fabulous Chicken Curry and Chick Peas & Spinach. Yum! Every girl in her jammies, A-Ha and Duran Duran playing loudly, dancing, singing, twittering, drinking wine and cooking and knowing that we have found true friends and sisters for life. Out of 5 simple food blogs friendships are created, like minds, like souls are brought together.
Too old? No, I don’t think so. There is indeed a teen still left inside each of us and all it takes is an amazing weekend together to realize this. Yes, we’ve added cooking to the gossip and the naughty dvd’s, the wine drinking is now legal and mostly under control, but the rest was there. All except for the prank phone calls. Maybe next time…
Girl Scout Camp was never like this!
- Monday: standing for what seemed like hours ;-) listening to Sporty animatedly discuss dates with the date man, Saucy finally, carefully, thoughtfully selects a lovely jar of date mustard to bring back to her man (Grumpy Spice) as a surprise gift. Said jar of date mustard is duly haggled over and finally confiscated by customs agents at London City Airport claiming that it is actually a liquid and cannot be brought aboard the plane. Terrorism by mustard? Mean, evil customs lady stalks away and Saucy, at wit’s end, has nice young agent practically in tears. She finally thanks him for his kind help and tells him to take the date mustard home and enjoy it. She buys two ties for Grumpy instead.
- Later in the week as Grumpy Spice was grumbling about his difficult week, Saucy in all of her sauciness exclaims “Yes, it must have been sad for you to start your week without me!” which leads to Grumpy snorting “yeah, and we didn’t exactly waste a lot of time rushing to answer the phone every time you called!” Ouch! Did he really want me to call him over the weekend?
* Names have been changed to protect the innocent….and the not so innocent!
In honor of a delicious, spicy, chocolate-y weekend with the Spice Girls, I’ve made Cinnamon Chocolate Feather Puddings, otherwise known as Chocolate Pots of Loveliness. This recipe was adapted from the recipe in my wonderful old 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking. The puddings are steamed in a bain-marie in the oven and, eaten warm, they are indeed feather light and gooey with an incredibly rich chocolate flavor though without the bitterness of bittersweet chocolate. It is almost like eating a chocolate bar in meltingly mousse form. Chilled, the puddings sink slightly and become dense and very creamy and it is like eating the most decadent of fudge brownie puddings. And with only 1 tablespoon butter, 1 egg and 1 ½ ounces (42 g) chocolate! For 8 puddings! Not bad and definitely Girl friendly!
I would like to send this to Meeta of What’s For Lunch Honey? Monthly Mingle. This month it is hosted by Erin of The Apartment Kitchen who chose the theme Special Sweet Treats. And these puddings are indeed special!
(and another huge thank you to Kerrin & Meeta for sharing their pictures!)
CINNAMON CHOCOLATE FEATHER PUDDINGS
Or Fabulous Potted Little Pots of Chocolate
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 large egg
1 cup (250 ml) milk *
1 Tbs (15 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ oz (42 g) semisweet chocolate, melted
1 ½ cups (190 g) flour
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ Tbs (7 g) baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
* milk can be replaced by coffee for mocha puddings, but omit the cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter 8 deep individual ramekins.
Beat the egg until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar until the mixture is thick and creamy.
Add the milk and the melted butter and chocolate to the egg and sugar and beat just to combine.
Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon together and then stir into the egg/milk mixture until well blended. Stir in the vanilla.
Ladle into the prepared ramekins not more than 2/3 full and cover each dish with a piece of aluminum foil. Place in a large baking pan (I place a folded page of a newspaper in the bottom of the pan which keeps the water from boiling) and carefully fill the pan around the ramekins with hot water to come up about halfway. Bake/steam in the oven for ½ hour.
Carefully remove the ramekins from the pan, uncover and serve immediately for the warm, creamy version. Serve with salted caramel sauce or salted caramel, vanilla, cinnamon or coffee ice cream.
These can also be refrigerated and eaten chilled, but they will have sunken slightly and turned into dense, fudgy brownie puddings. Serve these with any of the above or whipped cream and fresh fruit. Or eat as is standing in the door of the refrigerator trying not to look guilty. Or being caught.
Decadent, sweet and chocolate-y like the perfect slumber party!