Thursday, 19 March 2015

Bircher museli for Charlie Potter

I had a very nice email recently from a reader seeking advice. My favourite kind of reader email, really - actually asking my opinion. It gives me licence to take a deep breath and just go on and on and on about what I think, which is the state in which I am happiest, as long-time readers of this blog will know.

Anyway the email went "Shall I take my 2 year old on a 7 hour flight to Montreal?" And my answer, which ran to several hundred words, was: "No." I guessed that if she was even asking me, she was really looking for a "no" answer anyway, she just wanted it validated by a dispassionate third party.

As I was writing my reply to her, hammering away at my keyboard (I do not type in a tapetty tappetty tap way, I HAMMMER THE FUCKING KEYS LIKE THEY HAVE DONE SOMETHING BAD - I always used to get complaints at work about it) some things became clear to me.

I ended up writing this paragraph:

"I’ve always felt like I had my whole life up until having kids to travel and fuck about and do whatever I want, and it’s not long now until my kids can both travel and appreciate the ride and have a good time. 

I don’t understand why some people *insist* that children shouldn’t slow you down and root you a bit. Why not? Why can’t we all just be still for a few years and then take off round the world and be wild and crazy once everyone’s a bit more grown-up? I find the pressure to continue on as you always did after you’ve had kids very oppressive and it pisses me off."

I didn't know that that's what I thought until I wrote that down, but now I realise that this is exactly what I think. I am probably over-sensitive to it, but I do feel under pressure to carry on as if I haven't had kids and it properly fucks me off. It's the thing I encounter most often that makes me most angry. Because the fact is that although my children are perfectly alright, I do not find them relaxing company. I cannot just drag them about with me and get drunk and not care and let them run wild because within moments Sam will have fallen down hard against something and there will be blood. Kitty will have found a pair of scissors. It's not relaxing, I don't like it, don't make me do it.

I recall my friend Max, who I think occasionally reads this from California where he now lives, declaring that he and his wife do not drink when they are in charge of the kids because if they were to let go in such a way, their children would be found "covered in nettle stings, being eaten by wasps". They are modern, cool and thoughtful parents and I have clutched this statement to me, like the Gollum with his ring, since hearing it.

There is a little saying that my husband once heard and was impressed by, which goes "don't compare the inside of your life with the outside of other people's". This works in two ways: first, don't think that other people are having a better time than you from what you can superficially deduce. Second: other people have a different experience of life from you, they are different people, they make it work in their own way.

Once upon a time it was people who wanted their children to stay up late, to be free and relaxed and hippyish about everything who were on the margins, who were looked down on by other, stricter parents. Now I feel like it's the hippies who are taking over the world and those of us who choose not to go raving with our kids or bithely take them on very long flights or move across the world with toddlers or go sail across the world with them or whatever, are the ones who are judged. I say that's how I feel, but I am obviously the world's most defensive and paranoid person, so maybe just forget I spoke.

Now: bircher museli. I don't really know how the cropped up in the world or where it's from or what it means but I think Donna Hay (also a mystery to me) has had a lot to do with it.

What you do is soak oats in apple juice overnight and then apply all manner of exotic mixings and toppings to it and then you eat it in the morning and find it freaking delicious.

The huge benefit of this is that in the morning you don't even so much as have to get a bowl down for your breakfast, you just remove the pot of museli from the fridge, get a spoon and dive in. I did think that the application of apple juice to oats in a domestic context would be rather revolting but in fact you don't especially taste the apple juice (I used really basic kids' plastic apple juice from Waitrose) and it softens the oats and makes them all, just... completely delicious basically.

Anyway this is a very basic recipe for a bircher muesli, for a really echt one I think you are supposed to add grated apple, but I don't want to grate apple in the morning and I'm not sure if you add it the night before that it might not go brown and unappealing. I think it might be okay, but I've got a few experiements still to do with this.

Alright so:

1 glass
about 2 tbsp oats
enough apple juice to just cover the oats
probably 3 large dollops of plain yoghurt
maybe 1 tbsp of granola to cover the top
some runny honey to drizzle over the top

1 Layer the oats, juice, yoghurt, granola and honey on top of one another in a fetching glass last thing at night
2 stretch some cling film or foil over the top and put in the fridge
3 go to bed
4 get up, get your muesli out of the fridge and eat it

This post is dedicated to Charlie Potter, who is, apart from my husband, the best man to sit next to at a dinner party because he is very interesting and chatty and lively and asks your opinion about things.

This is very rare. If you are a girl, you often find that men at dinner parties (or anywhere else) don't ask you what you think because they don't give a fuck and they don't laugh at your jokes because they don't think you're funny. Charlie always laughs at my jokes and said to me once: "I don't know... what do you think?" and I was so stunned and taken aback at being asked that I missed my opportunity to let go and have a massive rant and probably let myself down rather.

Anyway Charlie does some job and works hard and I imagine often doesn't get time for breakfast, so this recipe is particularly appropriate for him. 


  1. You can grate apples in and they'll be fine and not brown. Also I really really love baked porridge, which I think might be a Gordon Ramsay (slight personal bleurk) idea but I really love (and I mean eat it 4 x per week throughout porridge season) and which is also fairly hands-off.
    Put oats in oven-proof dish (I use 30-40g) with half a finely chopped or grated apple, maybe some blueberries, a sprinkling of cinnamon, a good grating of nutmeg and a splosh of vanilla extract. Pour in about 150ml milk (and a splodge of sour cream for the health), stir well and bake at 170C for 30-35 mins. it does set rather firm, but it works for me as I can't stand milky breakfasts. I like to have mine with maple syrup on, but honey or more fruit is good. I think GR adds nuts too. And I've also (top tip) started greasing the bowl first with coconut oil... Partly because of the health properties (?!!) and mostly because washing it up is a shitting pain in the arse. But as a breakfast that's done while you walk the child to school, it's pretty perfect.

    1. Jo thank you for this impromptu and excellent recipe

    2. Got a bit carried away in my zeal, so slightly uncalled for but it's pretty lovely if you like quite firm breakfasts...!

  2. A saying that I've always liked is "don't compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else's highlights reel".

  3. Thanks for this reassuring post. I'm 1 year behind you with each child, so good to know the end is in sight. Especially as I read so something on mumsnet today saying how much harder it gets as children get older. Don't think I can cope with harder; I'm at my limit most days at the moment! Will try the muesli AND baked porridge.

  4. You're right about the relaxed hippies making you feel like you're too uptight. They do do that!

  5. You are hysterical Esther! I LOVE your posts. Poor men not thinking you're funny! Halfwits.

  6. Love this - came to musesli late - not marketing strategy but have you discovered Graze ? The children and I get overly excited and the granola is fabulous. I also feel terribly chic and organised when people come over and I can offer them swish 'nibbles' ...

  7. Stupid stupid question, but the oats you speak of are bog standard porridge oats yes? Like quaker oats?

  8. This makes me anxious because last year I agreed and booked for my whole family to go to my brother's wedding in Cornwall in July. I have a 2.5 year old and a 5 month old and live in Melbourne, Australia. I just didn't want to disappoint anyone and no one else appeared to think it a massive deal so I thought I might be wrong.
    Anywho. A friend has offered to babysit these children for one night while we are in London so my husband and I can pretend we are on holiday. May I bother you for a restaurant recommendation? (We will be staying in Islington). (This is probably not the sort of advice request you were after - I should probably just google some Bristish restaurant critic or something).

  9. Not wanting to hijack your post, Esther, but we find ourselves Islington & Shoreditch frequently. Both the Pig & Butcher or The Smokehouse are very fine eateries...

  10. Having never met Charlie Potter, I can't comment on his niceness. But I'll take your word for it, because OH MY, such men are rare indeed. Are you familiar with the term 'mansplaining'? It's all about men having to be the experts on everything, all the time. The real expert on mansplaining, though, is Rebecca Solnit (a woman!). You must read her 'Men Explain Things To Me' essay - - it's brilliant.
    Nice muesli, too.

  11. Thanks for the link to Solnit's essay, Kitchenmaid. It's fabulous! And thanks for the recipe, Esther. I can't wait to try it.

  12. YES! I don't want to carry on as before as it is NOT enjoyable. I look forward to a weekend in Wales in a child-friendly resort because we won't want t kill each other by the time we arrive, I know there will be stuff there to entertain them and it won't matter when they toss food all over the floor and chuck their shoes around (they INSIST on taking their shoes off when we go out to eat. I don't know why). Saluting you.

  13. Anniki Sommerville7 May 2015 at 11:42

    I get super anxious if I'm at one of those parties where all the parents are getting pissed and the kids are charging about like in 'Lord of The Flies'. But then I'm made to feel uptight because I should be just carrying on regardless. I hate it when these two things collide. I want to get pissed on my own (that sounds sad I know) and not with small people who can get hurt underfoot.