Much like knowledge, a little nostalgia is a dangerous thing.
Get too wrapped in thinking that life was better ‘back in the day’ and you start to forget that everything wasn’t chocolate boxes and roses. No matter what the right-wing press will have you believe, life is better now than it ever has been.
However, take off the rose-tinted glasses for a moment and there are still some aspects of bygone times that are just as appealing: train travel, picnics, cricket matches, slow food as the norm rather than a concept. And elevenses.
Elevenses is a notion that, along with Gentlemen’s Clubs, steam engines and cholera seems to belong to the past, to an age seen only in history books or episodes of Jeeves and Wooster (or Zimbabwe).
Elevenses don’t belong in an era of conference calls, celebrity perfumes and instant messaging.
But they should.
In fact, I have an idea: it should be mandatory for employers to provide coffee, tea and cakes and a fifteen-minute break at some point between 10:45 and 11:30. Actually, sod it, make it twenty minutes.
Hear me out on this one. Not only would it make the work place a far happier place (little things go a long way), it would also make the prospect of Monday mornings a lot more bearable, knowing that there was a steaming mug of coffee and a slice of Victoria Sponge cake just round the corner.
It would allow socialising and chatting and catching up and all those important human interactions to be done in a designated window.
It would foster a sense of community spirit and help to iron out any differences or bubbling animosities. It is hard to be angry with someone if they have cream running down their chin or chocolate round their mouth.
It would give employees a sense that they are being appreciated and not just being shafted by ‘the man’ in return for the privilege of a monthly paycheque.
Pretty soon, this happiness would start to spread from company to company, city to city, politician to politician, nation to nation and NGO to NGO.
The UN would be a different place altogether if they stopped for Sachertorte every day and imagine how much easier diplomatic relations in the Middle East would be if they knew there was a baklava break to look forward to in an hour?
For those that have to whittle everything down to a balance sheet - Happy people are happy employees. Happy employees are more productive and more productive employees are more profitable.
In short, it would make the world a better place.
The logic is flawless and my own projections (done on a spreadsheet, I’ll have you know) suggest that not only would the cake start to pay for itself after just a month, you would start to turn a profit (thanks to productivity going through the roof) after only six weeks. Depression, recession, credit crunch solved and a new era of world peace and harmony entered. All through cake. Here’s one to start with:
Recipe – Chocolate, Hazelnut and Coffee Cake
This is based on a Nigel Slater recipe which he, in turn, adapted from a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe. It is awesome. Serves six.
125 grams of unsalted butter, cubed
125 grams of Demerara sugar
2 large eggs
A large shot of espresso
A heaped teaspoon of baking powder
125 grams of plain flour
100 grams of ground hazelnuts
125 grams of ground dark chocolate
Mix the butter and sugar together until they are fluffy and pale. Unless you have arms like Brian Blessed, I suggest you use an electric mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat it all together.
Stir in the coffee then sift in the flour and baking powder. Using a spatula of some description fold the mixture together before adding most of the hazelnuts and chocolate. Hold some back for topping the cake.
Tip the cake mixture into a lined cake tin and pop into a pre-heated oven (about 180 degrees). It will take about an hour. You know its ready if you stick in a skewer and it comes out clean. Turn it out onto a wire rack and leave to cool for about fifteen minutes.
If you are feeling really decadent smear on some cream cheese mixed with icing sugar and cocoa powder.
Call someone, anyone, who enjoys cake. Brew some coffee, cut large slices and enjoy, smug in the knowledge that you’ve done your bit in fostering a new age of global harmony and happiness.
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