FFS. I had to get out of bed to write this.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem getting up. Normally. (Alright. I’m being honest with you. Sometimes I do. I do try to be awake in the mornings. Really, I do. But I find it difficult.) It was 3 am. And I was tuckled with my favourite uman.* And my duvet had made a cocoon of temperature perfection around my warm body.

So I really didn’t want to do this. (Especially not given the company I normally end up with in this damp little house in the small hours of the morning…) (I have photographic evidence that you don’t want to see. Trust me.)

But I had gone to bed thinking about trifle. (I do this annually, around this time of year – forward-planning the trifle I will make for Boxing Day. It’s the only trifle I will eat this year. And, if my plans come to fruition, I will eat it for breakfast the next day, and hopefully the day after that. In bed. With my Kindle and some bit of brilliant, hysterically funny chick lit. Fingers crossed for a perfectly timed release from Lucy Score. AND THERE WILL BE NO COOKING. Mwa-ha-HAH.)

Anyway, my favourite uman, who’s recently discovered one of my favourite things – liquid, alcoholic raisins in a glass, aka Pedro Χimenez sherry – did that thing that messes with my head.

“Could you make a trifle with Pedro Χimenez?” he asked me.**

Oh god. He asks me that, at 11 pm. Does he not yet understand what that will do inside my head? It will detonate a food bomb. And the fallout will be a 3 am blog post. Because the food gods will not be satisfied until they have a valid, appropriate sacrifice: my night’s sleep. Which means that in the morning, I will be a cabbage. Like the one the slug is currently munching on in my kitchen.

Right. Trifle.

I already wrote about trifle – check out my post, here, for the perfect trifle, with all its whys and wherefores.

Trifle’s all about love, IMHO. Of food. Of people. Of togetherness of people with food. It’s a delicious bowlful of some of the very best things in life.

Trifle’s empowering. Or thinking about it empowers me, which perhaps isn’t quite the same thing…

Trifle. The best “afters” in the world ever.

But what are the “afters” your business provides to your customers? What’s your WHY? Who are you? What’s your unique value proposition? What do you do for people that no one else can do for them?

These are questions all businesses have to deal with. And I’m a business. And this has been my year for working all this stuff out.

But you’re never alone. Even when you think you are. (Reader, beware – the next paragraph is all the thank-yous, which you might want to skip; alternatively, check out all their amazing power via the links; you won’t regret it.)

I HAD SO MUCH HELP.

The lovely uman, my best friend, and his awesome book were there right at the start.

Katy B, my favourite vegan – who really likes my trifle – has been key to helping me in my quest, through her unstinting friendship and the excellent Asentiv program. (Katy, see below – you need a vegan cream option: did we ever get to the chickpea thing? Make the chestnut purée a little sweeter for your custard layer and you’re in vegan business!)

Mark Schaefer, aka the Schaefdawg’s, great book gifted me an important lightbulb moment.

So did the colourful Ray Holding, who made me see myself more clearly.

The Alchemists phoned – thank you!

The lovely Steve Watson did a thing, which really moved me forward, although it might not have seemed that way to him.

Andy Gorman, who metaphorically backed me into a corner and shone a bright light in my eyes, forced me to give up the secrets I really wanted to hold tight to, but left my fingernails intact, thankfully.

Fiona helped me find ways of dealing with stuff.

gemmy, with rosé, a great voice in every sense, was just there being gemmy in the best way.

My Rozzy, self-help guru and dispenser of great wisdom, walked and talked with me for hours.

The Aunt, counsellor extraordinaire and Shamanic healer, with all her awareness of the backstory, was at the end of a phone whenever I needed her.

My sis was there in a new and altogether better way.

I met my lovely Birthday Sis, Jules White, and made a new friend.

Gillian said I should write it down.

The Lockdown Lunatics aided and abetted at all times, especially KBS, who made me write stuff for her.

And my favourite Swedish birthday cousin friend, Synne Lindén, made me believe it all, do some sums, and finally get on with putting some vowels and consonants down in a Word document.

So, wow. What a year of discovery it has been.

Now I know what the afters are. Trifle, always, yes. Because trifle is empowering.

You can easily make a trifle trifle. But when you’re working with someone who’s totally into what they do, at the deepest level possible, you can make a trifle so powerful that the experience of it remains long after the bowl’s been washed up. So amazingly flavourful that you’ll remember it for all time.

I do words like I do food.

And when we meet up – YOU, the person who’s totally into what you do, at the deepest level possible – and we sit down together to discuss the story of your business, your why, and what you do for your customer, that’s when the magic really begins.

Go have a look at my beautiful new website, created for me by the fabulous boys at Strand Creative – thank you, Andy – and see how the images, the text and the gorgeous logo – thank you, Shiv – all work together to show you who I am and what I love to do.

And let’s play.

*It’s been such a long time since my two other favourite umans have been tuckled up with me. And it was never both of them at once, I don’t think. But if I close my eyes, I can still feel their vibrant, wriggling, chubby solidity right there next to me. It makes me cry. But I smile at the same time. Because this year has taught me that this is part of me, always, that can’t be lost, ever.

** Of course you bloody can. But it won’t be a sherry trifle like the ones you’ve made before. It can’t be. Because Pedro Xim is liquid raisins in a bottle, not a light, dry, straw-y thing.

So you start to play. What does work with PX? It’s dark, sweet, unctuous. You need flavours which work with it. Complement it. And big it up, without overpowering it, or being overpowered. What would work? And would it not end up being ridiculously sweet? This was the game my brain was playing last thing before I fell asleep, and the reason why, at 3.53 am, I’m writing this. Thank you, lovely uman, for doing this to me. Gah.

I played. And I came to the conclusion that my sponge would be light and a little spicy with the spices of Christmas – warm, exotic nutmeg; mysterious, peppery mace; a small dose of medicinal cloves; a sprinkle of cinnamon; and a smattering of mouth-tingling ginger. You feed a Christmas cake with something alcoholic, don’t you? PX is a perfect partner for this task.

Come on, then, says my brain next, what fruit would work with this? The jury’s still out at the moment, but I’m wondering about figs, somehow. Which of course will have to come from Turkey or Greece or somewhere and will be just as burdened with airmiles as my usual summery raspberries flown in from god knows where. Damn it. Lightly roasted with a little brown sugar first, then left to cool in its syrup. Mmmm.

Next up, custard. Vanilla just isn’t going to work in this flavour palette – the notes are all the wrong colour. But maybe something with chestnut purée, to enrich the interesting in a deeply savoury, nutty way, add to the depth of the complex, brown richness of this equation? Sweeten – not too much, mind – with maple syrup. Nommy, nommy, nom.

Cream, obviously. But is it obvious? Because this is all quite rich. So maybe sour it up with a little Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche, to take the edge off and freshen up the palate a bit. Never be obvious.

And last but not least, the thing on the top, to make it all look pretty and add the finishing flourish. I’m thinking pecan nut brittle. Crushed into shards. For a hit of amber, crystalline nuttiness to leave your mouth resonating with warm, rich, sweetness that complements the spices and the fruity base notes of the PX. Oh, yes. Mouthgasm Central.

Really looking forward to December 26th. 2021.

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