I was already a sex-starved married person by the time the phrase “Netflix and Chill” became a winky stand-in phrase for hooking up. For a few innocent, ignorant months, I was happily thinking “hooray, everyone’s on a sex-light, dryish spell watching TV instead of having sex, it’s not just us.” I usually articulated this naive thought to myself while lying panting beside my husband, exerted from the sheer volume of food we’d just consumed while watching Netflix. It’s perhaps a little grotesque that we are literally incapacitated by the snacking, but seriously, who are we trying to impress?
Snacking and watching TV is one of the great pleasures in life. Time was, there was nothing good on TV. For the first two decades of my life, for example, the stand-out viewing options were The X-Files, My So-Called Life and Six Feet Under. All incredible programmes for the time, but we had to wait seven days between instalments, with little else to fill in the gaps bar a bit of Lovejoy or repeats of The Rockford Files. It hardly needs mentioning, of course, that now we have become completely spoiled for choice, with on-demand TV and streaming services. This has wrought an interesting development for people in long-term relationships.
I posit that the Netflix series has become a form of currency between jaded couples such as ourselves. It’s a bartering system not unlike cigarettes in prison
If you’re in a relationship now, it’s pretty much a given that a large part of your time together is spent watching high-quality American programming. Or arguing about what high-quality American programme to embark on next.
I posit that the Netflix series has become a form of currency between jaded couples such as ourselves. It’s a bartering system not unlike cigarettes in prison. Where once couples might have exchanged cutesy back-rub vouchers or the IOUs for domestic chores, now instead we trade Netflix shows.
Ahead of a recent trip away with friends, during which the husband would be left to fend for himself and babysit his own children, I came up with a cunning scheme to bank a bit of goodwill. In a scene reminiscent of one partner giving in to the other’s desire for a threesome, I found myself gifting him an unusual proposal.
“I have a surprise for you,” I began. “I have given this a lot of thought, and have generously decided that, while I’m away, you can watch ahead in the series without me.”
I felt this offer of “watching ahead in the series” was pretty damn big of me. As we all know, going behind the other half’s back and watching ahead is the cardinal sin of contemporary relationships. Recently, I was so consumed by guilt as a result of watching ahead in the last series of Transparent that I actually rewatched it with him to cover my tracks. I felt like a cheating spouse hiding receipts. Luckily my bad behaviour was nullified when I learned that he had gone off unbeknownst to me and watched a series I’d been looking forward to, in its entirety, behind my back. Ironically the series in question was called The Affair, and as punishment I forced him to rewatch the whole series again with me – such was my commitment to this punishment that I continued watching even after I had begun to vehemently dislike the show.
To my mind, this offer to watch ahead was practically the equivalent of sanctioned cheating. Unfortunately, the husband didn’t see it that way. Not all Netflix series are created equal in our little marital stock exchange. The series in question, Ozark, does not have the same value as, say, something like Master Of None, because watching stuff while eating stuff is the bedrock upon which our relationship was founded, so I knew in my heart of hearts he would not see much value in my proposal. Ozark, while very good, is too violent to watch while eating. Yep, that is what our ranking system is based on: the show’s compatibility with stuffing our faces. And the fact is, pizza does not gel with hillbilly beefs and roadkill, both large elements of Ozark.
In contrast, eating while watching Master Of None, Aziz Ansari’s fantastic Netflix series, is basically a requirement. The show is essentially food porn with a side of brilliant comedy, seasoned with a light narrative. However, there was no way I was letting him watch ahead in that intellectual and sensory feast.
Eating while lounging and watching TV is supposedly something to be ashamed of, but I revel in the practice. Sheer pleasure aside, it’s keeping my marriage rock solid. If the husband is too full to cheat on me with anything bar a TV drama then that’s cool with me. The key to gorging while glued to the telly is to make something really easy to eat. Forget cutlery, forget plates (there’s an unfortunate potential for sliding there) – nothing requiring hand-to-eye coordination. I serve bowls of pizza and chocolate biscuit cake. This beer dough is the laziest cheat you’ll ever find, it doesn’t need proving and is a pretty good option if you can’t face the faff of traditional dough.
BEER BREAD PIZZA
SERVES 4 AS DINNER (MAKES 2 PIZZAS)
- 400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 300ml beer
- 4 tbsp harissa
- 8 tbsp tomato puree
- 8 tbsp passata
- 3 x 125g balls buffalo mozzarella cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- About 10 anchovy fillets
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of dried mixed herbs
- Preheat the oven to 230ºC/gas mark 8. Put two rectangular baking trays, at least 2cm deep, in the oven to heat.
- Put the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and mix together. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the beer, a little at a time, mixing everything together with your hand to make a soft dough. If the mixture is a little sticky, add a sprinkling of flour.
- Turn out the dough onto a surface lightly dusted with flour and knead for about three minutes.
- In a bowl, combine the harissa, tomato puree and passata. Tear the cheese into pieces.
- Divide the dough into two pieces and roll out each piece to a thickness of about 1cm and a diameter of 25–30cm. Take the hot baking trays out of the oven and brush with oil. Place the pizza bases on the trays and flatten out the dough, using your hand if necessary.
- Spread the harissa mixture evenly over the pizza bases, scatter over the anchovies and cover with the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Return the trays to the oven for 15–20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the bases have risen slightly and are golden around the edges and the undersides. Leave to cool slightly in the trays, then slide out onto a large board to slice.
ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE BISCUIT CAKE
MAKES 12–16 PIECES
- 150g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
- 100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
- 125g butter
- 75g golden syrup
- 150g digestive biscuits
- 2 Crunchie bars
- 100g mini marshmallows
- 50g white chocolate, broken into pieces
- Line a 20cm round springform cake tin with baking paper. Put the milk chocolate and the plain chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water and heat, stirring, until almost completely melted. Add the butter and golden syrup and stir until everything is melted and fully combined. Remove from the heat.
- Place the digestive biscuits in a polythene bag and gently bash them with a rolling pin. Using the rolling pin, bash the Crunchies in their packets. Don’t bash them too much, as you don’t want to turn them into dust. Add the crushed biscuits and Crunchies to the melted chocolate mixture in the bowl, along with the mini marshmallows, and stir well to combine. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, spreading it evenly and pressing it in to flatten the surface. Leave to set.
- Put the white chocolate into a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water and heat, stirring, until melted. Drizzle the chocolate in thin lines over the top of the cake and leave to set, then unclip and release the springform and cut the cake into 16 thin slices.
Recipes from Sophie’s book Recipes For A Nervous Breakdown, available now.