Today is my birthday, and not just any birthday, also my 30th. People tell you different things; some say that everything becomes easier since you’re less concerned with the need to be cool, you’re still young but have more experience and confidence than before. To others, it represents the end of being young; I remember a while ago overhearing some students commenting on the play we had just watched and complaining that the leading actress was simply far too old as she must have been at least thirty! It feels a little strange having these two digits suddenly attached to my name, something I never imagined would happen. There’s a distant memory of our holiday in Brittany as child, walking along the beach and watching the sea wash away our footprints but now it’s such a long time ago.
As ridiculous as it sounds though, when I turned twenty, there was only the sinking impression of being older, of having lost the true youth of Le Grand Meaulnes while everyone around me was saying what a great age it was to be. I remember reading and empathising with the famous lines by Paul Nizan, “I was twenty; let no-one tell me it’s the best time of my life”. I’ll start with a true cliché then, that if I had the choice, I wouldn’t swap my life now for the one I had ten years ago. Even if others have achieved more and I still don’t even have a drivers’ licence, I seem to have come a long way, the places that I’ve lived in, the people I’ve met and most all, I finally have my own place at last. It’s difficult for me to describe the emotion and exhilarating sense of freedom of simply being able to close the door behind me when I return in the evenings or waking up slowly over a cup of tea in the kitchen, looking out over the rooftops. There’s the pleasure of cooking for myself every evening, sitting down with a good book or on Fridays, making pizza and watching a film noir. I love being high up at the top of the building, being able to watch the people from the front window as they come back from shopping or on Sundays stroll leisurely hand in hand. Coming into the building, there’s the smell of dust and deep wood warmed by the rays of the midday sun. Good things are going to come out of living there I feel.
Others are mourning the upcoming end of summer, wondering with each sunny day whether it will be the last good weekend but personally, I can’t wait to see the leaves begin to turn red and gold and feel the first chill in the air as evening falls. September has always been my favourite month, abundant with apples and plums. The light has a special quality and you long to make the most of the fading beauty before winter sets in.
To finish with, a recipe I’ve been wanting to post for a long time. Growing up, it was my birthday cake for the first few years. We used to own a caravan and were normally on holiday whenever it was my birthday which meant we either needed to buy a cake from a shop or make our own which was tricky as we didn’t have an oven. My mother found a solution though by sandwiching a pack of digestive biscuits with chocolate flavoured cream overnight so they turned soft like a cake. It might sound unappealing, something only the British would go in for and I’d never pretend it’s my most sophisticated recipe but somehow it has a special place in my heart and after remaking it earlier this summer, I was pleased to find it still made a nice dessert.
1 pack of digestive biscuits/Graham crackers
500ml double/heavy cream
3-4 tablespoons drinking chocolate (or use whatever flavour you prefer)
1. Whip the cream in a large bowl until it begins to thicken. Add as much drinking chocolate as you like (I prefer my cream not too sweet so went for 3 tablespoons but it’s up to you) until you have the desired sweetness then continue whipping the cream until very thick but not too stiff.
2. On a long, oval shaped plate, spread a layer of cream over the area where you wish you have the cake so the biscuits stand upright. Taking two biscuits at a time, sandwich them together with the cream, then stand them next to each other in a row on the plate. Keep going until you’ve used all the biscuits or come to end of the plate. Spread the remaining cream over the tops and sides of the biscuits so they’re completely covered. Chill in the fridge overnight, then cut pieces diagonally and serve immediately.