One thing that has become apparent in lockdown, especially now that the Twins are doing their schoolwork at home, is that everyone needs a computer nowadays. It’s surprising how much I use mine when I think I’m actually doing something else, like cooking, or gardening, or even just reading; I need to look things up, or write things down, constantly, obviously. After forcing our children to basically live the life of Luddites (no phones until you’re 12 years old, no electronic games until you buy them yourselves, very little TV, and definitely no computers when you don’t need them for school, which up until now they didn’t), we are now seeing the following:
- The Oldest bought a Nintendo Switch and now spends a not inconsiderable amount of time playing a game on it, a game that even I have to say looks like fun even though I can’t see the point. Wait, maybe that is the point.
- We have given up any pretense of limiting telly, with the exception of no watching before noon. Why this particular time, I wonder, when no one is even out of their room before 12:00 unless it’s a school day?
- The Twins have taken over our computers every school day for approximately six hours, and the Author and I have become hoverers, trying to help when necessary but not interfere too much lest we be the ones answering the questions about the difference between Hindus and Christians, or why Dickens uses similes to describe Scrooge. The only exception to this is when they work on computer coding, and then we make ourselves scarce. (Bonus: I am one of the only ones with the patience to navigate the ridiculous email systems that come with home-learning, making me – I’ll admit it – smug.)
If this all sounds like the Author and I are Luddites, well, maybe we are. It comes with the Boomer territory that the Son in particular likes to put us into. I am watching myself recede into a stereotype of the mother who stays at home, and cooks and bakes, and gardens, and helps the kids with homework (complaining about how ‘this isn’t how we learned it when I was in school!’), and grumbles about having to clean the bathroom.
This is surprising to me, because I grew up in a time when feminism was burgeoning. My mother and her friends were at the forefront of the women’s movement in our little Vermont town, and I happily learned that women can do anything and be anything they want.
In my 6th grade class, during our morning meeting, Mr Abateil asked all of us, ‘Who believes in feminism?’ and I shot my hand up; but when I looked around the circle, I saw that I was the only one. I remember our postman delivering Gloria Steinem’s holy grail of feminism to our house monthly and asking me, “What is this M – S magazine about?” When I went to friends’ houses, I saw that most of the other moms did not have jobs outside the home. So perhaps not everyone was on board with this new vision, but I still thought my future for myself did not include the tropes of womanhood that I saw on television and in advertisements, with the ladies breezily mopping their floors, or proudly pulling cakes out of the oven, or cringing in shame over ‘ring-around-the-collar’. I knew that, one day, I would be a woman who would roar.
So, here I am, in a little house in a little parish on the edge of the moor on a little island. My roaring these days consists of me plaintively and loudly asking that people take their own clothes from the laundry basket please and fold them and put them away, or don’t eat all the cookies until I’ve photographed them please. When the pandemic is over, I will go back to work, where I will cook, and bake, and clean. I will have to share a computer with my co-workers. I will have to ask people to do things they don’t want to do, including getting and folding the laundry. I guess this is my lot.
I am strong, I am invincible. I am woman.
Brutti ma Buoni (translation: ugly but good) (GF, DF)
(makes 30 cookies)
Just to be clear, the name of these cookies (translated from Italian, which is where they originated) and my decision to make them today has no relation to my homelife musings. I made them because, after making bearnaise sauce for last night’s dinner, I had 3 egg whites to use up, and I instantly thought of these, which are ridiculously quick and easy to make. They are sweet but not too sweet and are very good with coffee, tea, yogurt, milk, wine, really pretty much anything. Additionally, they don’t require flour, which is still hard to come by, or at least is not consistently easy to find.
Although I wouldn’t say that Brutti ma Buoni are ugly, they perhaps aren’t winning any beauty contests. However, I would say that they are definitely very good.
Bonus: I promise you that it will take longer for your oven to heat up than it will to put these together. If you do not have 3 egg whites sitting around waiting to be used up, don’t worry about cracking some open; you can use the leftover yolks to make some lemon curd.
Preheat the oven to 170C/340F (155C/325F fan oven).
- 150g (1 3/4 C) ground almonds (almond meal)
- 115g (2/3 C) granulated sugar
- 0.25 tsp salt
- 3 egg whites
- 0.5 tsp vanilla (optional; or you could use 0.25 tsp almond essence, or omit altogether)
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the ground almonds, sugar (reserving 2 tablespoons), and salt (this is to make sure they are well blended and there are no lumps of almond meal).
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the two reserved tablesoons of sugar, whisking all the while, until stiff peaks form. If you are using vanilla, whisk it in now.
Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture, being careful to keep as much air in the egg whites as possible.
Using two spoons, drop the mixture onto a baking sheet about 5 cm (just over an inch) apart. Bake for approximately 20 minutes (check and maybe rotate them after 10 minutes), until they are golden brown. Cool on a baking rack and then store in an airtight container.