Sheilagh Matheson raises a glass to both a cherished drink and some harsh feelings about a famous newsreader.
It’s a sad state of affairs if you reach the age of 68 without having at least one guilty secret.
We should all have a skeleton in the cupboard, like a sexual fling, drugs, being a Tory, being the school bully – something we hope never comes to light. A guilty secret means we have flirted with deviancy, dipped our toe outside our comfort zone and we know the difference between what’s right or wrong. Otherwise we wouldn’t need to keep it a secret.
>So confession time: I could easily be a drunk and the only thing that stops me is the hangover. That, and the boredom. But that isn’t the guilty secret. Drinking advocaat is. Not so much drinking, as spooning it out with a soup spoon then licking small amounts off until it’s so clean I put it straight back in the cutlery drawer and no one is any the wiser. Not washing the spoon is a wanton act of defiance. That’s the 2nd GS.
I have a large Kilner jar of advocaat I bought in Belgium this year and keep at the back of the fridge. Quite often, late at night, I open the jar and spoon out the yellow, globby, alcoholic custard and swallow it down.
I wouldn’t like my friends to see me. It’s not a classy drink, like one of the new craft gins. In this country it only ever appears at Christmas, mixed with lemonade and called a Snowball. Grannies like it. Sickly sweet, a bright yellow non-Masterchef colour, glutinous.
Because it’s the texture of thick cream, I’m not sure whether I eat or drink it. It’s too solid to pour out. It just slides down, easy on the gums, no chewing needed.
Advocaat looks like solid custard and the way I eat or slurp it isn’t too sophisticated either. From jar to spoon to mouth is a bit grungy. Cut out the middle man – the glass – and spoon it down. Sometimes, when no one is in the house, I dollop it into an egg cup and add double cream, or single if that’s all I have. I have to use a teaspoon then because you can’t get a soup spoon in an eggcup and I like to stir it round mixing in the cream. Advocaat and cream, one thousand calories in every teaspoonful.
The only other person I know who enjoyed neat advocaat was my mother in law. She didn’t like alcohol but ate advocaat in the bath, went a bit red in the face and sometimes fell asleep until the water went cold.
Although it is sold widely in every supermarket in Holland and Belgium, I’ve never seen anyone eating/drinking it in a cafe or bar in either country. Some Italian ski resorts sell it as a drink called a Bombardier, when the nozzle of a steam machine is plunged into it to heat it up then cream is poured over. Brandy is added sometimes. I kid you not, skiing is much easier after a couple of Bombadiers. I’m more relaxed so it doesn’t hurt when I fall over and I sleep like at log as soon as I get back to the hotel.
I have no intention of stopping this guilty secret. Why should I? No one is hurt except maybe my cholesterol level.
Occasionally, I think my third guilty secret is worse than liking advocaat. I can’t stand Kirsty Wark, the presenter on Newsnight.
She’s old, a woman, and presents a decent programme so I should be a supporter. Yeah. Women’s rights, glass ceilings, ageism – she ticks all the boxes. She’s the cultural Queen of Scotland. But she wears hideous clothes, her voice grates and sometimes she isn’t as clever as she seems to think she is. I don’t think she’s very good and wonder what hold she has over the bosses who keep her in the job.
But she’s on BBC 2’s Newsnight, I hear you cry. A serious woman in an important role. Okay, I admit I’m very jealous that she’s rich, famous, has written books and is still working in current affairs and I’m not. But she still wears horrible clothes and has an irritating voice.
Don’t tell anyone in the sisterhood I said that. At least, wait until I’ve had a few advocaats then I won’t care who says what about anything.
PS. I have other guilty secrets but that’s the way they’re going to stay.