Last week, I went back to my old school for a lecture from an author my mother and I both like.
We sat in the audience, as we had done many times over the years, and listened as one of my former teachers welcomed us. If he’d started talking about A-level choices and the university application process, I don’t think I’d have been at all surprised.
Unconsciously or not, I’d dressed that morning in an approximation of my school uniform. Grey trousers, a white shirt and a red cardigan. I clutched my blackberry in my hand, scrolling through the emails in a vain attempt to make myself look important or not like the schoolgirl that I felt.
I haven’t really been back to my school since I left nearly 11 years ago. I didn’t go to either my five or my ten year reunion. I still felt so much like that 18 year old girl that I didn’t really feel the need to go back.
It seems that there are reminders of the past every where I look (or perhaps it’s just that I’m looking for them?). My ipod shuffles onto songs and albums that I haven’t listened to for years and I’m immediately transported back to a place or moment in time. I’m frantically trying to finish my maths coursework having started it the night before it was due in (Fiona Apple’s Tidal). Or learning lists of Latin vocabulary by heart until I could recite them like song lyrics (Suzanne Vega’s Days of Open Hand). I’m sitting in my room in the first year of university watching the river wind lazily through the cobbled streets and wondering what the hell I’m doing there (Damien Rice’s O).
I went to my brother’s flat the other day for the first time in years (because it smells funny, not because I don’t like him). It was filled with side tables and vases and pictures that used to adorn our family home. In the hall, they have the mirror that was in our bathroom for years. There was even one of my grandfather’s golf trophies sitting on the windowsill. I talked to my brother’s flatmate who I’ve known since he was an eleven year old boy and he and my brother first became friends. I picked up one of my dad’s old James Bond novels.
After we’d moved away from the town where I grew up, we used to drive through it sometimes on the way back into town from visiting my grandparents. I sometimes wondered what would happen if my dad pulled over outside our old house. How far would I get before I remembered that we didn’t live there anymore? The front gate? Halfway up the path? To the front door itself where I would search fruitlessly for my keys? (I suspect the latter).
Whilst I’m almost certain that one day I’m going to open my eyes and discover that I’m 16 again, other parts of my life (work, my boyfriend, moving) demand that I’m fiercely in the present and, as much as it is an anathema to me, the future. I spent so much time feeling like I was torn between the three before realising that, actually, this is probably what it feels like to be a grown up.
Of course, the only thing to do when you feel the sudden onset of adulthood is to make cookies. There’s nothing spectacular in these cookies – a jar of hazelnut butter, a dumping of coconut sugar (although you can use whatever you prefer), an egg to hold it all together. The edges are a little crisp, the centres have a satisfying chew. At the last minute, I stirred a handful of chocolate chips through the batter because everything’s always better which chocolate chips.
Flourless hazelnut butter cookies
Yield: About 18 cookies
Adapted from these flourless almond butter cookies
The hazelnut butter that I used was fairly liquid (as I imagine it might also be if you use homemade hazelnut butter) so I found it necessary to chill the dough for half an hour or so before baking to stop everything spreading too much. You can make the cookies without the chocolate chips but hazelnut and chocolate is such a perfect combination, I don’t really know why you’d want to.
- 210g (1 cup) hazelnut butter
- 180g (1 cup) coconut palm sugar (or other sugar of your choice)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
- A pinch of salt
- 50g (about 1/4 cup) chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F (fan). Line two baking trays with non-stick paper or silicone.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl with a wooden spoon or your hands. Chill the dough for half an hour or so.
Roll tablespoons of the dough into a ball, place on the baking trays and gently press down with your hands or a fork.
Bake for 9 -10 minutes until the edges start to brown.
Leave to stand on the baking tray for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.