I love hot chocolate. Not too sweet, and by that I don’t mean dark hot chocolate, I don’t like it to taste too strongly of chocolate, either. I like it milky, almost malty, Nesquik maybe. Not too much of any flavour though really. It is a childish drink, isn’t it? There is a feeling of embarrassment ordering hot chocolate. Outside of wintery Days Out or holiday feelings, there is the sense, disseminated among most people (how?) that it is an inappropriate choice. Excessive. Hot chocolate flies in the face of the bitterness we learn to accept in coffee, in over-brewed tea of adult emotional distress, or the subtlety we should detect in specialist blends. A mug of hot chocolate is the sleepy sweetness of unguarded pleasure before reels and reels of self-restraint are ingested in the lead up to, and for the duration of, adulthood, filtering every glance at the menu. Drinking hot chocolate feels disobedient. Today I had one instead of a scotch egg. I would have loved to have both. A cold sausage dipped in mustard or a slice of pork pie and a hot chocolate is the kind of thing I eat at home when I don’t get dressed. I love the salt and the sweet together. The café didn’t have any scotch eggs and I wasn’t hungry enough for both, and not at home, either.
My friend Lily and I used to go to the shopping centre in Ipswich and order Hot Chocolate Deluxe with a mountain of cream and a chocolate flake on top. It looked like a 99 ice cream. It was not the sort of café my mum took me to. In fact, I was first taken there by a babysitter called Anna. She lived on a small rural council estate in a village near my house and took herself to college after school and did her A-levels and got As. She did English and taught me about feminism for the first time, before I knew what it meant. I idolised her and asked for purple Dr Marten boots for my birthday because she had them. She spoke seriously about the painful endurance test of breaking-in Dr Martens. I could never wear them like she did. I never even broke them in: they lived in the cupboard under my sink for a while. In truth, I sold them several years after my mum bought them for my birthday, leather still smooth. Also,it seemed to me that I had very large feet and I didn’t know how to wear my feet, especially made to seem bigger by purple Dr Martens. My body couldn’t carry them at that time. Recently I learned to wear them comfortably, fifteen years later. Anyway, the hot chocolate at the shopping centre was so sweet it did something weird in the back of my throat that made me cough. Usually we felt sick after having it, but we always had it when we went there on trips buy clothes at MK-One for school discos, because the first few sips were so good.