I spent approximately 7 1/2 hours at my youngest daughter's Sports Day today.
While I have been to versions of "sports day" (in other words, competitive races between school children requiring parental attendance) all over the world, Sports Day in England takes the biscuit. First of all, it takes place on a Saturday -- a day that many people mistakenly feel should be given over to the leisure activity of their choice. Second, it requires sartorial decision making that must span the challenges of both weather and fashion. Thirdly, it involves competitive picnicking, drinking and tent-building -- should you be so inclined. (For more on this, you might enjoy reading multitude -- who attends the same Sports Day that I do.) Fourth, it requires the endurance usually only needed for weddings that have lengthy outdoor receptions peopled by (mostly) strangers.
Poor Sigmund; he hates Sports Day.
Last year, my oldest daughter's birthday fell on Sports Day -- and, oh, what a shame . . . but I had already booked theatre tickets! While I was swanning around London, with several of my dearest friends in the world, poor Sigmund had to accompany little daughter to the dreaded event. To make a bad thing worse, it was drizzling. And cold. And he didn't know anyone -- as he had been living in Holland. He coped as best he could, but several people brought back tales that he had been discovered sleeping in the back seat of our car!
This year I gave Sigmund a pass -- and he just showed up for lunch, which was somewhat tolerable for him, if not wholly enjoyable. Even so, he did ask this (rhetorical, I believe) question: Does anyone really like Sports Day?
Well . . . actually, yes they do.
According to my close observation, the people who like Sports Day are (generally) the people whose kids are good at sports. Unsurprisingly, as athletic ability is bred in the blood and the bone and perhaps even the badgering attitude, the people whose kids are good at sports are usually rather sporty themselves. These sporty people understand what is going on -- not only that, but they find it intrinsically interesting and entertaining.
Needless to say, as fairly unsporty sorts, Sigmund and I spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly between the various spread-out events and are usually chatting when anything exciting occurs. If I were to enter the Mother's race, (which I wouldn't, under any circumstance), I would probably be like the poor soul who (1) fell down, and (2) starting losing her skirt, which managed both to slip down and gape open, and (3) ahem, "popped out" of her blouse -- thus exposing herself on all fronts. Worst of all, perhaps, she came dead last. As for Sigmund, he left sporting humiliations in the graveyard of his childhood memories -- a place to which he does not plan on returning.
I can like Sports Day, but only under specific conditions. Specific weather conditions. If the weather is sunny, but not hot, breezy but not windy, I can enjoy even an epic outdoor activity. But mess with this balance, and I become what the English hate above all things: a moaner.
Earlier tonight I was reading an article which mentioned neurasthenia -- and I wondered if there was some similar mental/physical condition which explains an oversensitivity to weather. Unlike most of the English, who seem impervious to the weather, I am hugely sensitive to its vagaries. Until today, I had carried a dread of the "Sports Day" fixture on the annual school calendar. But until today, I had never experienced a sunny Sports Day.
In the sparkling sunshine, Sports Day seemed charming. The headmaster in his blue blazer looked dapper. The many dogs frolicking on the field were positively adorable. The long queue at the (free!) ice cream truck seemed like a good way to bide one's time. Hour after hour of clapping and shouting "Well Done!" was quite pleasant. In fact, the only bad thing that I can think of is that someone left out the chocolate chip cookies and they melted in the sun.
So with that brief segue, I move on to a recipe for Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies, as per Debski's request -- and with a bit of commentary, of course.
8 oz butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla.
Add two eggs, beating well after each addition.
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating until just combined.
Stir in 2 cups of chocolate chips and 1 cup of chopped pecans or walnuts -- but obviously, this last step can be modified to suit your tastes.
Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 9 -11 minutes at a 375F/190C oven.
This is the Tollhouse recipe -- taken directly from the back of the Nestle semi-sweet morsel wrapper. (An imported good which I try never to be without.) For those English people who do not have the opportunity to visit the U.S. and bring back chocolate chips and Crisco sticks, I offer some good news: Marks & Spencer has just started offering a "plain chocolate chip" which has proven to be darn close to the original. So far it is the best chocolate chip I've managed to encounter in the UK.
A few more words on chocolate chip cookies: When I was a child, we made these cookies with Crisco (vegetable shortening) instead of butter. People used to fall into two different camps when it came to baking, and to this day my mother knows which of her friends prefer a "butter" chocolate chip cookie and which swear by substituting Crisco. In my considered opinion, the BEST chocolate chip cookie is made with 4 oz of butter and 4 oz of Crisco. Butter for taste, and Crisco for texture.
I think that you would approve of this slight amendment to the original recipe, Debski, as I know that you are a person who appreciates a bit of this and a bit of that. I'm not sure how you feel about Sports Day, but I bet that I can make a pretty good guess.