Ah, what a lovely Sunday morning. What a fine thing it is to have slept late, lingering in bed with my wife by my side and the cats at our feet.

We slide out of bed and tumble downstairs. Kris feeds the birds, and we watch through the windows as the finches and jays and chickadees compete for the various seeds. Kris brews a mug of tea, then a second. We sit at the dining room table, looking at Walnut, the fat squirrel in the tree, as he forages for nuts and seeds in the feeder. The jays wait impatiently for him to leave.

“Isn’t it funny how he hides his peanuts,” I say. “Look at him climb down the tree and hide them in the lawn. He’s lucky there aren’t any cats around.” While he’s on the ground, the jays fight a peanut battle, squabbling over the tastiest treats.

“Look at that!” exclaims Kris. “It’s a bird of prey. It looks like a falcon.” She runs to grab the bird book, from which we learn that the bird is, indeed, a peregrine falcon.

Uncommon in open areas, especially near water. Nests on cliff ledges or (recently) on buildings or bridges in cities. Solitary. Hunts from perch or from high in the air, stooping on prey at very high speed…Feeds mainly on small or medium-size birds. Sleek and powerful, with very pointed wings and relatively short tail. Prominent dark “moustache” unique; also note uniformly patterned underwing. Voice a series of harsh notes rehk rehk rehk

Why is a peregrine falcon sitting in our walnut tree? The squirrel doesn’t like it and, in a startling display of bravado, makes a sort of lunge at the bird, which is easily twice its size. The falcon is cowed, or willing to humor the squirrel. It sloughs from the tree and curves away on the strength of three or four wingbeats. A marvelous sight.

Not our falcon.

“We have a great house for birds,” Kris says, and I murmur agreement.

“What shall we do today?” she asks, finishing her tea.

“I have no motivation,” I say. “All I want to do today is to lay around the house.”

“That’s fine,” she says, “but promise me you’ll finish raking the leaves.”

“I’ll finish raking the leaves, but not until this afternoon. I want to move slowly. I want a hot bath. But first I want some hot cocoa and toast.”

Nothing is finer on a cold November Sunday than hot cocoa and toast, the preparation of which is almost a religious ritual: retrieve the blender and the toaster, plug them in, heat the milk on the stove, toast the bread ’til it’s golden brown and then slather it with honey, cut the cocoa tablet into chunks and dump these into the blender, pour in the steaming milk, turn the blender on.

Nothing is finer on a cold November Sunday than hot cocoa and toast.

While I wait for the cocoa to froth in the blender, I fetch The New York Times from the end of the sidewalk. “Hello, Nemo. Are you hunting birds?” The air is brisk, the grass is damp; I do not want to rake the leaves. The paper has a fine heft. I peel the two plastic bags that protect it and, as I walk back up to the house, I scan the headlines.

Nothing is finer on a cold November Sunday than hot cocoa and toast and The New York Times. Nothing is —

Holy shit!

On the counter, the blender has become a fountain of hot cocoa. I drop the paper and punch wildly at the buttons. The cocoa-spout continues. Why? There’s the problem: the blender is not gushing from the top, but from around the base. The pitcher on top of the blender has started to come unscrewed, and the hot cocoa is spewing from the bottom, all over the counter, all over the toaster (plugged in and toasting!), all over the floor. Screw the top back to the base! Unplug the toaster! Quick! Where’s a towel? The bathroom!

“I’m not messy!” I call to Kris. I’m not messy is one of my common refrains (others of which include I’m not clumsy and Kris Gates is always right). “I’m not messy” actually translates into “Oops, I made a mess again” because, in reality, I am messy.

Here’s Kris. She’s taking stock of the situation. “Why are you using a nice bathroom towel to mop this up?” she asks. “There’s a whole stack of kitchen towels on top of the fridge.”

“Well,” I explain. “I lost a lot of cocoa. There are probably two cups on the counter.” I direct her attention to the black cocoa-fall trickling down the cabinets.

“Oh my god,” she says. “I’m going upstairs.” And she does.

Why do we have so many things on the counter? I have to move them all, wipe them all with hot water. When I’ve moved everything, I’ve revealed a small pool of hot cocoa.

When I was nearly done with cleanup, I remembered to snap a photo.

Five minutes later, I sit down at the table and spread open The New York Times. I read about Elia Kazan while drinking tepid cocoa with toast.

8 Replies to “Hot Cocoa and Toast”

  1. Lisa says:

    When I lived in France, I learned to love toast dipped in hot cocoa. I know, it sounds strange, but give it a try sometime. Toast a good-quality slice of French bread, and slather it with salty butter. Then, dip it into your hot chocolate. Something about the butter and the chocolate together is fantastic, and somehow it doesn’t matter that your cocoa gets a skiff of butter grease on the top. Strange, I know, but it won me over…

  2. J.D. says:

    Lisa, there is no other way to eat toast but to dunk it in whatever beverage you choose. Most often I prefer cocoa, but cold milk is fine. I’ve been doing this all my life and I hope to never change. It’s delicious. The only difference between my method and yours, however, is that I would never put butter on my toast. Honey, jelly, or jam? You bet. Never butter.

  3. tammy says:

    I agree. We grew up dunking our toast in cocoa. I dint know there was any other way to do it. Now that I’m older I dont really care for it anymore though. It’s just too soggy. However I have been caught holding a chocolate chip cookie under hot water many times. I love my cookies dunked in hot water.

  4. Amy Jo says:

    Buttery toast dunked into hot chocolate sounds wonderful . . . I’m so coffee addicted that my morning beverage rarely varies–fresh brewed coffee, preferably made in French press, when I’m lounging around, or a double latte from Albina Press (good enough to drag me out of bed at 5:30 in the morning). I usually only indulge in hot chocolate in the evening. I might need to rethink this or at least find a way to squeeze hot chocolate in now and then.

    JD–when did you become a Times reader?

  5. J.D. says:

    I’m a big dunker of everything. I believe my father taught me this skill, which might explain why Tammy has it, too.

    Things to dunk:

    • Toast in cocoa (obviously)
    • Jelly- or honey-based sandwiches in milk
    • Meat-based sandwiches in soup
    • Cookies in milk
    • Cake or brownies in milk
    • Bread in gravy or soup

    Once you start, you cannot stop.

    Amy Jo, I subscribed to the Sunday New York Times simply because they added their new “funny pages”. My first issue was the first issue that included Chris Ware’s “Building Stories”. I love the Sunday magazine, the “week in review” section, the book review section, and the arts section. I mostly ignore the rest of it though, like Craig, I do try to pick at it during the rest of the week. Yesterday Kris tried to impose a “there cannot be two issues of the New York Times on the table” rule because I still hadn’t finished with last week’s paper. Both are now strewn across the table.

  6. Stacy says:

    I loooove hot cocoa and toast. I thought I was the only one 🙂

  7. Mom says:

    I used to love to dunk my toast in cocoa, too, J.D., so you might have partly picked that up from me. I lost the appetite for that somewhere along the way, though. When I was a young girl, my dad used to break up white bread into a glass and add sugar and milk and we loved it — we thought it was the greatest treat! That was something I outgrew, too — thank goodness. 🙂

  8. Lisa says:

    Ah, tell Kris that I try to impose a similar NYT rule in our house. I recycle the old one on Saturday (or Sunday if I forget), hopefully before the new one arrives. (Craig keeps the magazine, though. If you ever need a back issue, you know who to ask.) If you don’t stay on top of it, your living room will be covered in old issues–believe me, we’ve been there.

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