One nice thing, really the only nice thing, about Facebook is the ability it gives you to reconnect with long lost old friends. Actually, this can be a bad thing if the reason they are long lost is because you wanted to lose them in the first place and now they are back in your life having ‘friended’ you and you’re not going to be mean and ‘ignore’ them. So you ‘confirm’ their request and then you have to put up with all of their ‘updates.’ And since you didn’t miss them when you had lost them you aren’t going to care about anything they share with their Facebook world. It amazes me how kvetchy some people are. Why are you telling us, ad nauseum, that you are mad, sad, sniffly, stuck in traffic, plane delayed or cranky? I have my own problems. Buck up and say something witty or interesting or don’t say anything at all.
Back to the people you are thankful to have in your life again. I was so happy to hear from Liz, a college classmate, when she popped up in my Facebook in-box. We lived together the semester I spent in London our junior year and I can’t think about her without thinking about that city.
Those few months were my first experience living on my own without the structure of a dorm or dining hall and fending for myself resulted in a pile-up of mishaps. Our building had no washer/dryer so once a week the two of us dragged our laundry (usually in the rain, don’t forget we were in London) to the “launderette” ½ mile away, sat watching the clothes spin round and around while we did our homework, and then schlepped back home (still in the rain) while my “smalls” fell out of my bursting laundry bag onto the wet sidewalk—like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail of Bloomies “knickers” along Notting Hill Gate.
Once, while sitting in our living room watching an old Cagney and Lacey on our rented telly, I felt chilly and decided to adjust our radiator. Instead of a knob it had a strange little key that fit into a hole at the top of the pipes. Just as I started to turn it a geyser of water blasted out of the little hole, shooting the key somewhere into the middle of the room, and wouldn’t stop. I screamed for Lizzie, who I think wanted to kill me for fussing with the heat in the first place, and while one of us grabbed towels to sop up the rising flood the other was wading through water in search of the key. I still can’t believe the flat one floor below us stayed dry. It was one of those things where you don’t know whether to laugh or cry so we laughed until we cried. Back to the launderette we went, this time with ten pounds of towels.
The most challenging thing proved to be meal preparation. With minimal funds we had to “cook” at home which I’d never done for myself on a regular basis. I couldn’t figure out what in the world “gas mark” meant on our “cooker” or how to convert farenheit to celcius so that left the burners to boil water and the broiler (mounted on the wall like a restaurant’s salamander) to make toast. Of course lighting either component was a hazard what with making sure just the right amount of gas was seeping out and waving the lit match somewhere in that vicinity just so. After the smell of my singed hair threatened to overcome my appetite, ignition became the job of my more adept roommate. Because of my limited kitchen experience the menu at our place consisted of two nightly choices; either pasta a pesto (if that’s what you call spaghetti topped with a tablespoon of butter, a few shakes of dried basil and a few more shakes of canned parmesan cheese) or an open faced grilled cheese and tomato on pita bread. As tragic as those two carb heavy meals sound the grilled cheese came to be a house special; the cheddar cheese from the Tesco around the corner was sharper and richer than anything you could find at Zabar’s today and the Coleman’s mustard we slathered all over the bread made Grey Poupon taste like Gulden’s—a hot bite that added a tongue tingling surprise. Still so good.
Let’s keep my destitution in perspective (hello, I was on an all-expenses paid semester abroad) and remember I never did without sweet treats. To torture myself I might wander the Harrod’s Food Halls on my way home from class, once in awhile springing for their sub-par version of a chocolate chip cookie. Or I’d walk to a French pastry shop in Bayswater for a glossy petit-four. But mostly I bought “sweets”. Crunchie bars were a favorite, milk chocolate enrobing a, you guessed it, crunchy honeycomb center or Smarties (a better version of M & M’s) or my absolute favorite, Mintolas. Imagine a square pack of Rolos. Now imagine dark chocolate instead of milk and mint goo instead of caramel and you have yourself Mintolas. I still crave these bite sized tidbits with their perfect proportion of mint to chocolate. So much better than their distant American cousin, the Junior Mint. Recently, when a friend traveled to London, I practically drew him a Mintola schematic diagram in my attempt to describe his assigned candy purchase. Guess what? They have been renamed twice since 1985—first to Mint Munchies and now to After Eight Bitesize. I know this is only interesting to me but it does solve the mystery as to why no one else but the intrepid (or maybe it was terrified? He knew I’d kill him if he came back empty-handed) Rich managed to track them down on a recent trip across the pond.
In this month’s issue of Bon Appetit Molly Wizenberg wrote an article about British Flapjacks, an oatmeal bar cookie she had discovered on a trip to the U.K. many years ago. She referred to them as a “common sweet.” To quote my mother when she learns of a piece of gossip others have been buzzing about for quite some time, “Why was I not told?” I have never heard of these “flapjacks.” That word means "pancake" in American. So, of course I had to make them and the exciting (for me) thing was that they involve Golden Syrup, a squeezy bottle of which is still in my cabinet left over from my attempt to make a corn syrup-free pecan chocolate pie. There are only four ingredients in this recipe and because I know how to read my oven (which was actually made in Poland. Go figure) it couldn’t be easier. Imagine the texture of a chewy granola bar with slightly burnt, brittle edges combined with the buttery, caramel-y taste of a lace cookie. Very nice with a ”spot” of tea. I’m just sorry I never met these treats on their home turf but when Liz comes to town next month she will be served flapjacks for dessert—after an open faced pita grilled cheese of course. And hey, Facebook? Thanks for reuniting me with my old friend! Now, please stop complaining.
New Old Friend British Flapjacks
Bon Appetit, March 2010
1/2 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup golden syrup
2 1/3 cups quick cooking oats (not instant or old-fashioned)
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350
Butter 8x8 square metal baking pan
In heavy, medium sized saucepan combine first 3 ingredients.
Over medium-high heat stir constantly until butter melts, sugar dissolves and mixture is smooth.
Remove from heat.
Add oats and salt, stir until coated.
Transfer mixture to prepared pan, spread out evenly.
Bake until top is golden and edges are darker, about 25 minutes.
Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes.
Cut first into 4 squares, then cut each square into 4 triangles.
Cool completely in pan.
YIELD: 16 wedges