I’ve been having trouble coming up with a good adjective for the mug. At first I went with dopey, because he does look a bit dopey (yes, it’s a he). On reflection, that sounded like it was a Disney mug, in the shape of one of the dwarves, and that was misleading. I considered drunk mug, too, but that was more of an insult than anything else; ‘here you, ya drunk mug!’. I saved the photo as ‘Happy Mug’, and he does look happy, albeit in a drunk or ‘has just taken a knock to the head’ way. He is being sold in Morrisons as a Hallowe’en mug, alongside a witch mug and a Frankenstein’s monster mug, but what I really like about him is that, to me, he’s suitable all year round. October doesn’t have a monopoly on the colour orange, though it might like to think so. The month October is neither he nor she, you may be glad to note, although if it came to it I could probably give it a gender. When I was little, I had building blocks with numbers on them, and I vividly remember assigning them genders and personalities. I didn’t really like three. He was green, and a bit snooty. I wouldn’t like you to think I was a child with rigid gender boundaries, though; as I was explaining to some of my colleagues this week, I went through a phase of being Peter Pan, and only answering to Peter. I’m not sure how I felt about Pete. I do remember that I had a sword made out of a Weetabix box, that my sister made me. The sword, not the weetabix box. I’m not sure why I wanted to be Peter Pan so much. I don’t think it could have been as complex as feeling the pressures of ageing and wishing that I could stay young forever – I can’t have been more than four when this was going on. Probably I mostly liked the idea of being able to fly and waging war on Captain Hook.
Here is the mug in question – do you see what I mean? How should this facial expression be interpreted? I like to think that I am usually good at all the empathy and that, but he is posing me a problem. Maybe I’m howling up the wrong canyon altogether and he’s actually very sad, and trying to but a brave face on, despite his trembling lip? And what should be made of his mismatched eyes? Perhaps we will never know. I choose to believe that he is happy and just a little dazed from too much being picked up and put down, not to mention being filled with near-boiling liquid day after day.Whatever emotions his face is meant to communicate, he makes me smile, and so is a Thing of Beauty to me. I mean to look after him well, though I will be continuing to fill him with near-boiling liquid. If he gets sadder looking I’ll stop though, I guarantee it.
The orange mug had his first outing yesterday, when I came in from work soaked through. The rain has started in earnest here in Glasgow, and not only were my trainers and socks soaked through to the skin, the rain was so heavy that my wool coat was soaked through at the shoulders and the top I was wearing underneath was damp. I must get winter shoes – have been on the lookout for the ultimate pair of wellies for under £20, but it’s now becoming a mission of greater importance than I first thought. If this winter is going to be like last year, I’ll also need something that will grip to the ice rink surface that many of the pavements are going to take on as their winter look. Last year I wore my trainers all winter. It’s a miracle I didn’t lose any toes.
On coming home in that drowned rat kind of state, my first instinct was to get into dry clothes, which I did with much speed and much standing on of wet trouser cuffs, to general yelps of discomfort. The second was to have a lovely mug of hot chocolate. A couple of weeks ago, I stocked up on Options hot chocolate sachets, thinking that they would help to get me through chocolate cravings and stop me from buying snacks. I know that this theory is sound, as I have tested it before. Unfortunately, I haven’t quite implemented the ‘stop buying snacks’ part of the plan as yet. Also, I bought a bag of marshmallows to go with the hot chocolate sachets, negating their low fat-ness in one fell swoop. It’s unfortunate that the phrase ‘it’s the thought that counts’ doesn’t apply to dieting. I was glad of both the hot chocolate and the marshmallows yesterday, though, and got the kettle on to boil. I put a chocolate fudge sachet in the mug and added a dash of soy milk, then stirred to make a smooth paste. This usually helps to stop the chocolate being gritty at all, or leaving any in the bottom of the mug. I topped it up with more milk, then filled almost to the brim with water, leaving space for six (yes, six) mallows in the top. It hit the spot, I can tell you. I was missing the skooshy cream, but that really would have made a mockery of buying low-fat hot chocolate in the first place. That and the fact that I didn’t think about it when I was in the supermarket.
For dinner, to continue the comfort food theme, I made macaroni cheese. I’m going to go ahead and post the method I use, which proves controversial and which I hotly refuted when I first heard it, too. I am a convert. It is Laurie’s method (@toomuch_tv), and it produces great macaroni cheese. Laurie also produces great comics and, just lately, a fictional blog that I am all over like a cheap suit. Her work is all here at Too Much T.V.
Macaroni cheese, method but not ingredients as a) I always make too much and b)I never weigh any of it.
- Boil macaroni for about six to eight minutes – if you’re going to bake it later, as I did last night, only give it five or six.
- Drain then return to the pot and add a lump of butter, and melt in.
- Add enough milk (I use soy, and it’s fine, and have also used skimmed with reasonable results) to almost cover the pasta. Yes, add it to the same pot. Yes, I know the pasta is already in there. Heat until just below a simmer.
- Add a heaped teaspoon of plain flour, an eighth of a teaspoon of english mustard powder, and mix through. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken. Sometimes I find that taking it off the heat after a few minutes, leaving to sit for a minute, then returning helps with the thickening. If it still looks more like milk than like white sauce, add more flour. If it looks more like wallpaper paste than white sauce, add more milk.
- Add grated cheese – whatever you like. I’m partial to a Red Leicester for the colour, or a Double Gloucestershire for the creamy tanginess. If you’re not sure how much, start with a smaller amount and work up. Stir the cheese through the pasta until melted, then taste. You will probably need salt, and definitely pepper, so add these. I always add four or five drops of malt vinegar to give the sauce a bit of an edge. Mustard isn’t edgy enough for me, apparently.
- If you’re just having it as-is, that’s you done. Eat until you feel warm and comforted, and slightly uncomfortable because we humans aren’t really meant to eat a lot of lactose.
- If you want to bake it, put the mac cheese in an oven dish and cover with either a layer of grated cheese, a layer of breadcrumbs or both mixed together. Put in the oven at 180C for ten to fifteen minutes. *Now* eat until you feel warm and comforted, and slightly uncomfortable etc.
It’s one of my favourites, and what I often crave in cold weather. It can be made with low-fat cheese and skimmed or soy milk, if you want to knock back the old calories. It can be made with full fat everything plus bacon if you’re not bothered. It’s also good with chicken and broccoli (another suggestion from a friend, Miss Mouse). Just look at it. I feel comforted already.
Also, the Rock Salt Week 3 Playlist is finally here, even though it’s Thursday now… Enjoy. It’s the final Rock Salt Recommendations with four extra tracks added, to bring it up to the 22 tracks that I seem to think is the optimum playlist length. There is no reason behind this.