There’s a lot of pressure, when you live with someone, to make their birthday special. You are the person they wake up to on the one day of the year they can reasonably refuse to do any washing up and you have to begrudgingly say fine. Jake turned twenty-three last week and I was ready to create birthday fun times.
The real fun of Jake’s birthday had been planned for the weekend, when a group of our friends descended upon Peckham Levels, and then our house, for a few hours of alcohol, mini-golf and abusing breakfast items. Jake and I were then going to a sushi-making class as the finale of his birthday weekend.
His actual birthday was a Thursday, and, in one of the most unfortunate aspects of adulthood, we both had to go to work. But pancakes, a home-made birthday badge – which has become an accidental tradition, Hobbycrafts be warned – and the reveal of the elaborate cake I’d spent six hours baking the evening prior at least got the day off to a good start.
Peckham Levels is a cool place; a disused car park turned crazy golf venue/street food stall haven/nightclub/glittery shorts and fur coat market. This is peak South-East London and, aside from Kate, Chloe and Jake’s sister Alinka, none of us were cool enough to be there, though we didn’t let this stop us from having a good time regardless.
On the upper floors, where the bars and food stalls are located, I had what can only be described as a life-changing fried chicken burger. The garlic mayo and parmesan dressing ended up all over my hands and face, making it clear to anyone watching that I was not looking to pull that evening. Don’t let anyone tell you there aren’t benefits to being in a relationship – you can get food all over yourself in a hip public venue and they still have to go home with you. Absolute win.
Kate’s glitter-dar also proved effective as always. We were standing by the bar waiting for our drinks when she suddenly pointed and charged. “Free glitter!”
The results were excellent camouflage for those of us who were still distinctly too uncool to be there, and great additions to the outfits of those who already looked at home. It’s worth noting that Kate’s glitter was applied on top of the glitter still on her face from her night out only 24 hours ago – the true sign of someone who was born for Peckham Levels.
This weekend was also a great opportunity for me to attempt activities that I am never going to be suited for, with photographic evidence. The aim and fine motor skills needed for crazy golf have never been my strong suit. The patience, attention to detail and delicate hand movements needed to make beautiful sushi are not in my repertoire. Still, like taxes and hangovers, occasionally making a fool of yourself for the amusement of others is just part of life.
Crazy golf transpired as predicted. Too much aggression combined with a total lack of ability to aim resulted in many wayward golf balls and one angry glare from another patron. Sorry, woman I don’t know – I was egged on by everyone screaming “WANG IT” at me repeatedly and got caught up in the moment.
After being suitably thrashed at mini-golf, we headed back to the upstairs bar for cake and more drinks. We’d brought the rest of the cake, pre-sliced, in two Tupperware containers, which, as Kate pointed out, “was the clearest sign of our true personalities yet.” You have to embrace being someone who brings Tupperware to a disused car park turned nightclub. I accept myself.
We went home, Jake fell asleep on the floor and then growled when I tried to move him to bed. Twenty-three off to a good start.
The next morning, some of our friends hadn’t learned their lesson from the night before returned to spend even more time with us. Something about aggressive gesturing and shouting as a form of conversation is apparently keeping people around, an improbability for which I am grateful.
We started cooking early, because to have been without an enormous stack of pancakes, a stack of gluten free pancakes for Kate and a tray of waffles too big for the oven would have been a disgrace. We then spent the morning committing breakfast atrocities, in the form of the birthday cake pancake (put a slice of birthday cake in the pancake, douse it in whipped cream and
question everything enjoy) and, in a particularly inspired and horrifying move, create the pancake sandwich, which, if I recall correctly, contained pancake, whipped cream, bacon, honey, strawberries and cinnamon sugar sandwiched between two waffles. I don’t know if I should be proud or disgusted, but we should probably all get our arteries checked for blockages and our frontal lobes checked for impairments in decision-making.
By the time the sun was setting (which was at 4pm because winter is the actual worst) the dehydration was in full swing and, after an afternoon of board games, I felt done with concentrating for the weekend. However, we still had another serious activity to go.
We said goodbye to our friends and headed off to North London to attend a sushi-making class at the London Cookery School, my birthday present to Jake. The class was excellent, my sushi making skills less so.
Of course, Jake was perfectly suited to this activity, from his years of folding pierogi at home and just being annoyingly good at making dumplings and other things requiring a calm temperament and fine motor skills. But it was his birthday present so I was happy for him or whatever.
We made hosomaki, uramaki, nigiri, temari and temaki sushi. I also learned what these words meant in Japanese, which was much better suited to my strengths.
Hosomaki are the classic nori-coated rolls, uramaki are the rolls with the rice on the outside and nigiri are the lumps of rice topped with fish, while the temari are ball-shaped sushi that apparently have not made their way to the UK yet and temaki are delicious hand rolls. Temari sushi balls are known for needing to be identical and intricately decorated. You can imagine how I fared.
Our lovely instructor, Will, repeatedly made clear that patience, attention to detail and speed were all necessary skills in Japanese cooking. I whispered to Jake, “there is nothing on Earth I am suited to less than being a Japanese chef.”
Honestly, watching me try to make sushi was like watching a drunk bear in oven mitts try to cross-stitch. Confusing but you can’t stop watching.
But hey, style isn’t everything, I have well-developed taste buds and my sushi did taste delicious, despite any structural issues. Though, to be fair, Jake’s were also delicious, looked a lot more uniform and didn’t keep spontaneously unrolling. I had also eaten half of my sushi before we had a chance to take a picture, because I’m an animal and sentimentality should never come before food.
I also got over-ambitious with the wasabi – not the water and powder stuff, this was the real pureed root – and felt like something had punched me in the face in a room full of onions that was also on fire. It wasn’t pretty, but again, it was funny. I’m realising that this may be the theme of my life.
I then fell asleep on the tube on the way home. Happy birthday, babe! Let’s make 23 great.
*if the images are a little funny, may I suggest reading on your mobile or using Chrome, instead of desktop Safari. I discovered this issue at 11pm last night while raging at my laptop. Don’t let anyone tell you that blogging isn’t a glamorous hobby.