I am a man. There are several pieces of evidence I can point to which support this bold assertion. I can read a map, but I cannot do so and simultaneously absorb any helpful advice I am being robustly offered, as that would be multitasking. I can reverse parallel park, in a single move. I want to win at anything I play (which does in my view cast doubt on Baron de Coubertin‘s claims to maleness). I hate musicals. I can describe my car in terms of the make, model, engine type and specification, without needing to resort to the colour. I struggle to make trifling decisions but have no problem making difficult ones. When in the pub I go to the toilet on my own, with the sole intent and purpose of addressing internal capacity limitations. I like to retain possession of the remote controls for the audio and video equipment in the lounge (anyone’s lounge, it does not have to be my own). I do not feel it necessary to resort to reading instructions when programming or building something, although I am perfectly comfortable with using help files on the PC. I have managed to produce two children without significant physical discomfort* to myself. I can, without any effort at all, watch sport on the television for the entire weekend. I believe that just because a job (especially around the house) needs doing, does not mean it needs doing right now, or even today. I enjoy playing Monopoly, and Risk. I have no idea whether what Gok Wan assembled from old bits of bin bag looks better than what the American Cruella de Ville wannabe on his show bought for the price of a small car and, more importantly, neither do I care. I am not predictably excessively grumpy / angry / suicidal at a given point every month; I maintain a sound level of grump throughout the year. I rarely let my children beat me at games, claiming they will learn better that way. I can leave a bed unmade for the whole day, and not only that, I can quite happily climb back into it once the day is over.
Most incontrovertibly my anatomical bulges are to found hanging between my thighs rather than from my chest.
There is, however, one strong piece of evidence to the contrary that would be enough to at least bring the case before a jury, despite the apparently overwhelming number of exhibits in favour. It is very simply this: I like shopping.
Now before you ladies say “ah, but my man loves shopping, he’s never happier than when having just bought some technical wizardry beyond my ken at the Sony Centre”, that is something very different – buying. Most men enjoy just as much as any woman the experience of owning something they didn’t two minutes ago, although the something in question is generally very different. Buying is a part of shopping, but it is far from being the whole thing. Shopping is as much about the preparation for buying, and the respite between buying, and the aftermath of buying, as the buying itself; indeed, it can be said without any fear of contradiction that shopping does not have to involve the actual purchase of anything at all. It normally does though, although often almost as an afterthought: how many times have you heard a bloke complain that his missus hauled him round town for three hours looking for a wedding outfit / birthday present for her mother / pair of lying jeans (“they’re size 10! And they fit me PERFECTLY! I must have them!”) and then went back to the first shop they’d been in and acquired the first item they’d laid eyes on? That’s me, that is. And that’s what most blokes don’t get; there are few worse feelings to an eager shopaholic than to buy early and then see something BETTER for LESS MONEY. Three hours’ worth of traipsing is a worthwhile investment in peace of mind, even when you’re wearing inappropriate shoes. And the best bit about shopping is, at the end of it you can congratulate yourself on your shrewdness / luck / diligence by sitting down somewhere and having an overpriced latte and a slice of something containing well-hidden chocolate (the calories don’t count if you can’t actually see the chocolate, you know).
I describe shopping, as many things, with the guilty wistfulness of most young parents. Any woman will agree that dragging a stubbornly disengaged, sulky creature (e.g. a man) round the shops somewhat dulls the fun; when you have more than one such creature and they are not able to just sod off to the pub and stop winding you up, enjoyment is eroded to the point of requiring measurement in units starting with “nano”. But it’s all relative: even nanosmiles (why not) are better than no smiles at all; you just learn to measure by a different scale.
And so, on the subject of chocolate, to my recipe. We don’t really do desserts at home; I find them a bit of a faff to be honest, and justify my idleness with the reasoning that having worked hard on starters and mains, it’s only fair that the dessert be low-effort. Plus, I’m sorry to say, however fancy and sophisticated the dessert, it’s unlikely to beat the simple pleasure of a Vienetta. However, occasionally, when entertaining, my wife has turned her hand to this simple but effective dessert. Enjoy.
Mascarpone and ginger baskets
- 100g dark chocolate chips (or a bar smashed into uneven chunks)
- 250g mascarpone cheese
- 3 tbsp dark rum
- 2 pieces stem ginger in syrup
- 2 tbsp of that syrup
- 8 brandy snap baskets (cheat and buy them, no-one will be impressed enough to warrant homemade ones!)
Finely chop the ginger and mix thoroughly with the syrup, rum, chocolate and mascarpone. Chill for as long as possible. Spoon into the baskets and serve, perhaps with a little of the chocolate grated over the top. You can choose to grate all of the chocolate into the mixture for a less rustic and browner effect. A teaspoon of vanilla extract also works well.
*I do still have a dodgy bit at the bottom of one finger when my wife squeezed my hand a bit hard during one of the more advanced contractions, but I am firmly reassured that this does not count as significant.