For the first time ever, and because it’s so c-c-cold, I’ve had to move my chaise longue away from the window because of the freezing air that was seeping in … from where? The windows are double-glazed and properly sealed. And then I remembered. The ventilation slits above the windows. The French believe that ventilation, otherwise called aération, is très important and certain apartment buildings, depending on what year they were built – mine was built in the 1970s – have actual round holes in the wall for that purpose, usually in the kitchen under or above the window.
Above my windows are narrow openings. I climbed up on a footstool last night, put my hand against one of them and yelped out loud. You could feel the damp freezing air pouring in. It was minus 5 degrees celsius outside.
See those black things above the window? They’re a pair of old socks. I stuffed a sock into each slit and my action helped a lot. No more frosty draft blowing onto my body as I recline on the chaise longue. Most of western Europe isn’t prepared for cold weather like this. “But you’re Canadian!” people say to me when I complain. I know it, but I haven’t lived there for a long time. Plus Canadian houses are well-heated and insulated, not necessarily the case here.
Right now (Saturday morning) it’s brilliantly sunny and minus 3 degrees outside. I’m off to my local supermarket to stock up on food. There’s no lockdown in France, but there’s a 6 pm curfew which makes it difficult for working people to do their food shopping Monday to Friday. The good news is that I’m on vacation for a week, a week to stay home and finish the manuscript of my memoir. I’ve been given an editorial deadline of February 28th, in other words my 60,000 words need to be polished and ready to go by then. I have a new London-based editor who has agreed to take on my manuscript; she’ll be free on March 1st. She edited the memoir of André Aciman, the man who wrote the novel, Call Me by your Name, that was turned into a movie. I’m thrilled at the opportunity to work with her.
Anyway, back to the supermarket and nut milks. I could eat dairy all day long – whole milk, cream, butter, cheese – but the truth is that eating too much of it is bad for you. So as an alternative to animal-derived milk, I make my own nut milk and it’s delicious. Weekends, I pour a generous amount into a big mug of coffee, sometimes with an added splash of coconut milk, and it’s a treat to look forward to. I use a mixture of almonds and cashews.
“But why don’t you just buy nut milk?” people ask me. Because when you look at the ingredients on the side of the carton, it’s loaded with sugars, salt and unpronounceable names of weird stuff. When making your own food, it’s you who controls the amount of sugar and everything else.
Buy good quality nuts, soak them all night in water, throw away the water the next morning, rinse thoroughly then throw them into the blender with filtered water and strain. Add honey, dates or dessicated coconut for natural sweetener if you want. Here’s a video from The Kitchn on the subject –