I am not Michele Kwan. Let’s just be clear about that. Hell, I’m not even one of the Peanuts Gang, who all seem to be able to glide across the ice with ever fluid, though somewhat repetitive motions. (I am, however, a far better dancer than any of their lot.)
No, rather my ice skating is as awkward and clumsy as a first date. My knees shake and swivel like a teetering toy top at the end of its run while my arms flail about in unstable gyres. There will be stops made only by the fact that there is a dependable wall - one of Gods of the ice rink that all beginners prostrate themselves on time and again - in front of me.
Yet, I never fall.
Or, well, rarely. I rarely ever fall.
Thing is for all that tottering around the ice and almost taking out a few small children who have no concept of one-way rink traffic I actually have good enough balance to keep my rubber-boned ankles vertical. I blame it on years of gymnastics in college carefully running balancing beams and flying through the air where having a firm understanding of my center of gravity meant the difference between a solid landing and dreadful tumble like a quail shot out of the sky. I can stay up and, given a few minutes to recall my younger years in the 90’s on roller blades, can eventually move with enough grace (for lack of a better word) to look like I know what I’m doing.
Frontwards and backwards, none of it becomes a problem after a good twenty minutes of finding the steels on my feet. You won’t see a lutz or spin, but you won’t see me falling face first.
So, like every year, I had arranged some time to go ice skating. Fiance’ stayed behind on account of, “I don’t want to spend an hour falling on my ass,” which meant I would go alone with my friend Mike who was better on the ice than me and eager to bundle up for a bit of weekend winter sport.
We walked many blocks from Mike's place to the rink allowing the stroll to warm us up. The air was crisper than a wafer cookie and each puff of hot breath hung long in the air like small persistent ghosts following us down the street.
We arrived, paid for our tickets and rental skates, and laced up. The first few minutes were rather precipitous, lots of wavering arms and near crashes due to kids, twigs, or sometimes nothing at all. Mike found his footing first and soon began to zoom past me time and again. Once in a while he would turn and flash me a facetious little smile like a child tightly holding onto a secret. This would almost immediately be followed by his total lack of focus and a small dance on the ice as he tried to ready himself back up and avoid the hard, hard ice.
A few circles around the rink and soon I was fine. My legs found rhythm in slow, steady glides that paced themselves appropriately. The blades slipped across the water as effortlessly as I could hope to guide them and, damn it, I began to have a blast. We dodged first timers with ice walkers and jived around fallen heaps of people as they moaned and rubbed whatever part of them had made first contact with the ground.
Still, Mike and I were just dandy. Little gay ice rinkers in cute hats and coats.
At then, rather suddenly, a small child cut across the rink right in front of Mike. Mike, having at least 34 years and 120 pounds on the kid, stopped in a way that shall we say successfully enables him in falling in a confused thud with all the grace of heroin addict suffering a stroke. In skates, of course.
The next two in a half seconds was one of those odd moments where it becomes surprising how many slow, lucid, and rather contemplative series thoughts can all hit you at once and where time seems to come to a crawl.
In that prolonged instant I thought the following:
“He just fell down right in front of me. Like, four feet in front of me and I’m coming in right behind him at a frightful speed. Hmm, I can’t go around him in time. I’m pretty sure if I try to jump over him I’ll probably crack my skull open on the ice and take out a few other people too. That would be bad. Mostly for me. Well, fuck. I’m going to fall.”
A half second of mental silence later and bam, I tripped over Mike’s arm and in a ragdoll pirouette fell to the ice.
It was okay though. My tailbone broke my fall.
Also, I re-learned a lesson. Ice is hard.
Still no time for whining. We laughed, got up, brushed ourselves off, and got back to skating. Eventually we had to get off the ice a bit early as the lip of one of my skates was biting into my ankle. Some bandages and alcohol and I was good to go.
We eventually retired for hot pizza and cold beer at a place with cushy seats for our sore bums. After food and light hearted prattle about not much at all we parted ways.
Still, I was tired from the rink and still rather cold. All the walking, skating, and falling had taken all the energy out of me and I needed something rather warm, caloric, and tasty to eat.
These cheese bikkies (a term for biscuits) were just what I needed.
The recipe comes from my friend Peg Tomlinson, who is a genius and possibly modern day God of the kitchen. These homemade cheese crackers are probably the most epic crackers you will ever have. This is no exaggeration. In fact, it's probably one of the best recipes I've ever shared with you all. They're warm, just a hint spicy, and have plenty of sharp cheddary flavor. They're also crazy easy to whiz together and cheap to make. I promise that these will become a regular recipe in your baking rotation.
Just be careful eating them if you're on the ice...
Makes about 40-60 bikkies
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
200g or 7 oz mature cheddar cheese grated
250g or 8 1/2 oz unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C or 350 Fahrenheit. Put the flours, salt and chili flakes into a food processor and whiz them until well mixed. Add Parmesan and cheddar and blend until cheeses are thoroughly mixed. Add butter and process until the mixture resembles course breadcrumbs.
2. Drizzle in the lemon juice and let the machine run until the mixture forms a ball around the blade.
3. Halve the dough, and knead each into a ball; then roll each ball into a log about 1 ½ in diameter.
4. Chill in fridge for ½ hour to make it easier to cut the dough. Cut the log into rounds approx ¼ inch thick (cut both or freeze one half in foil). Put slices onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
Voila! Enjoy one whilst still warm.