We are in Florida. And, I have to say, it is fairly delightful. Hot as a witch’s tit, and humid as her inner thighs. As I type this (wearing only my bikini – now there’s an image to be stuck with for the day) the Boy is splashing about, fishlike (if fish wore armbands), in the pool, the Man is floating about on an inflatable raft thing beside him, the Girl is examining her front-bottom in a Little Mermaid splash pool, and a lone alligator is regarding us, from the lake beyond the house, with a mixture of disdain and greed.
It is not entirely idyllic however; as of several seconds ago, the Boy has just bitten the Man’s toe and been rewarded with an unintentional (I assume) kick in the face, the Girl has just pissed on her hand and is HORRIFIED, and the ‘gator has, worryingly, disappeared from view.
There are a few other minor clouds on the horizon.
Firstly, we are staying in a beautiful, large, brand-new house. It has everything you could possibly want for a luxurious stay: Pool? Check. Fancy wheels? Check. Assortments of technological entertainment? Check. Golf courses and club-houses? Check. Into this pure clear ointment, add the flies that are my children. There is little less relaxing than staying in a house (did I mention it was brand new? Or that my in-laws had only lived here for a few weeks before abandoning it for the rain and ticks of Sweden for the summer?) which is filled with beautiful things, gleaming clean, and whispers to your children to come and put your filthy little paws all over me... On the plus side, I am perfecting my screeching, and am now a mistress of making up House Rules off the top of my head.
Said children are, it has to be said, being an almighty pain in my pregnant behind. While my non-stop screeching, wiping and running after them with a j-cloth cannot be helping matters, I suspect it might actually have something to do with my having abandoned them for 5 days last week (although it’s not as if I left them rotting in a cellar somewhere; from what I can gather, they got all-access passes to sugar-tv-and-adoration-land). Whatever the reason, they both now spend large portions of their day trying to crawl back into me – at least that’s what it feels like. On top of this, the whinging is quite monumental (theirs and mine), and the non-stop bickering, swiping and tale-telling has me longing for late October, when I can happily drink myself into parenting oblivion at 7pm every day.
And then there are the groceries. I love you America, however, your produce SUCKS EGGS. Now I understand why Amercian tourists go so bananas for the food in Europe – it actually tastes of something, without costing an arm and a leg. (By “Europe”, obviously I mean continental Europe; the tourists in London – the ones who aren’t lost trying to find their way to the Olympics – are instead wandering the aisles in Sainsbury’s, wondering why we only have 6 types of breakfast cereal). Food here, generally speaking, is at best, bland, and at worst – well, it’s pretty offensive. And expensive. An apple really shouldn’t cost over a dollar, and if it does, I’d like it to be the best apple I have ever tasted. Cream – plain old whipping cream – doesn’t need stabilisers and preservatives, and honestly, it doesn’t need to be ultra-pasteurised. Also, it should whip in less than 10 minutes, and once whipped really should taste of... cream. Not froth. And what the fuck is with your butter and cheese? You may make fun of the
surrender monkeys French, but faced with this shit they would down tools and spend the day insouciantly blowing toxic Gauloise smoke in its face.
Since we arrived – 6 days ago – I’ve spent, shockingly, over $300 on groceries – and really, the only things which haven’t tasted of nothing at all have been: a packet of Doritos (does this count as produce? It has a shelf-life of several thousand years, so I’m not really sure. Tastes darn good tho’); a loaf of bread (at $4.99 I should bloody well hope so), a packet of Irish butter (I can’t even bring myself to list the price, and will only say that I assume the gold packaging was in fact real leaf gold); some ears of corn (actually, they were fantastic, although the half pound of Irish butter may have helped) and a tub of “No High Fructose Corn Syrup!” peanut butter (which is covered in reminders that THE OIL IS NATURAL).
Total duds have been: the aforementioned cream; a packet of American butter (oh my goodness people, hard, oily snow-white butter - really? You accept this as a food stuff?); green-skinned avocados (bought purely because they were more expensive than the Hass ones, and thus, I assumed, better), which were cunningly black-fleshed; luminous pink strawberry yoghurt (my own fault really; I ignored the obvious warning given by the word “flavoured” on the packaging); luminous white natural yoghurt (boasting it was “whole milk”; in fact it just tasted of... fat); and “English Breakfast Tea” (which, unless the English breakfast on swill – and arguably they do - is a slight misadvertisement). In between were about $230 worth of blah products, which altogether have yielded about 3 days’ worth of meals.
I guess I just need to get into the American spirit of things and commit myself, seriously, to processed food. Other than Doritos (and baked Lays – yum) I’m a bit lost, so if anyone has any recommendations, let me have ‘em. In fact I’m so lost – and so in a spin by the sheer quantity of products in the supermarkets (how do you choose? I spent TWO HOURS in Publix on Friday, and still left without anything vaguely fun) – that today, following a desperate plea by the Man for something – anything – sweet (my suggestion of Bran Flakes fell short of the mark), I made these cookies. They’re piss easy, and I like to think quite American. Despite the lack of high fructose corn sryup.
Note: these are definitely NOT cookies. For a starter, they’re small – two bites at the most. And relatively wholesome. And free from chocolate chips. Although feel free to rectify that last part as needed.
I pinched the recipe from Paul Rankin, and then realised that actually it’s just a simple short-crust pastry with peanut butter added. To liven them up I added “jelly” (jam, to you and I), although they’d also be great with added nuts, dried fruit, or whatever else you remember to buy when you find yourself in a supermarket the size of Heathrow Airport.
You Need (for about a dozen; they don’t keep particularly well – no more than 24 hours – and are quite rich, so I wouldn’t make any more at once)
- 8 heaped tablespoons plain flour
- 2 heaped tablespoons castor sugar
- 3 heaped tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
- 2 heaped tablespoons peanut butter (crunchy, preferably)
- 1 egg yolk
- Couple of teaspoons of cold water, to bind (if needed)
- A few tablespoons of jam (any flavour).
Preheat the oven to 180c / 350F / Gas 4.
Sieve the flour into a bowl, add the butter cubes, and rub with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs,
Add the sugar, mix, then stir in the egg yolk and the peanut butter. You might need to work it with your hands to bring the dough together; if it’s still crumbly, add a few drops of water. You want to finish with a firm ball of pastry dough.
Break walnut-sized lumps off the dough, pat them down gently onto a baking sheet and make an intent in the middle with your finger. Spoon about half a teaspoon of jam into each indent, then stick in the oven. Mr Rankin says for 10 minutes, but mine – which were smaller than his – needed 20. I think you should listen to me, not him. Either way, take them out when the jam is bubbling and the dough has gone more golden brown than it was when you put it in.
Leave for at least 10 minutes to cool (unless you don’t care about the roof of your mouth, in which case tuck in immediately). Hand out to your children and watch in amusement as they try to find all the icky stuff you normally get in cookies. HAHAHA.