RECIPE FOR CHANGE • by Laura Besley

Mix all the ingredients together.

What have I done? Why have I just invited the entire team to celebrate Kanelbullens Dag with me tomorrow? Seriously, who’s going to care about cinnamon buns? Ten minutes go by, twenty, and no one replies. Maybe I can get away with this. Can just pretend it didn’t happen.

Powerfully process the dough until it becomes smooth. Let it rise for 30 minutes.

I’ve been in the UK eighteen months and am painfully aware that it still doesn’t feel even vaguely like home. You’d think England and Sweden, both Western Europe, less than three hours on a plane, only 1500 kilometres (sorry, 900 miles) apart would be fairly similar. But no, this is not the case.

Stir the filling together.

Is it foolish to think I can crowbar my way into British society by offering cinnamon buns and decent coffee? Chatting is part of fika too. Fika, God I miss it. I had never considered that it wouldn’t exist here. I mean, who wouldn’t want to drink coffee, eat cake, chat and bounce ideas around?  If anything, that’s the hardest bit; always conscious of my accent, the words correct, but the syllables constantly warped as if they have been left out in the cold. Brits, it seems, need alcohol to talk, but what help is that at 11am on a Wednesday?

Take out the dough and roll it flat, then spread the filling on top.

Ping. A reply. Linda from Accounts is coming. Great… I suppose. I’ve chatted to her a few times; she’s nice. Well, if only one person is coming, at least it’s a nice person. But it does mean I’d better do some baking tonight. I jot down a list of things I’ll need: butter, flour, baking syrup, cardamom, yeast, sugar, cinnamon, eggs. But how much of everything?  

Shape the dough into a long roll and cut it into pieces.

I know other women look at me and think I’m too tall, my limbs are too thick, my hair colour must be out of a bottle (it’s not). And the men. I have no idea what they’re thinking, but I haven’t had one date since I left my home country.

Put the pieces on baking paper and let them rise for 30 minutes.

This big adventure, to live abroad, to live in a big city, isn’t going as planned. If I’m honest with myself, I was hoping to live it up, have an adventurous life, maybe even stay here. I certainly didn’t want the quiet life of my parents, living in a small village outside of Stockholm where everyone knows everyone’s business. And now having been away for some time, I can see the benefits of people knowing you. There’s no anonymity, but you also don’t go entire weekends without speaking to anyone (No, really, I’d rather queue and talk to a surly checkout assistant than use the self-service checkouts).

Pre-heat the oven to 250°C.

Ping. Wendy from HR has emailed to say that she and her team (of two) will be coming.

Whisk an egg and brush it on the buns.

And I probably didn’t endear myself to my colleagues by laughing at them when they complained about the cold. Cold? Light drizzle and 5°C is not cold. Try minus 20. Then we’ll talk again.

Sprinkle pearl sugar on top.

Ping. Ping. Okay, now, six people are coming. Six people and me. Not a total embarrassment. In fact, I find myself feeling a little warm inside, like maybe people like me more than I thought they did. Sweet.

Bake in the oven for approximately five minutes.

Maybe this is my opportunity to start again. To try to connect to these people. To make friends. To belong.

Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments that her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared online (Fictive Dream, Spelk, EllipsisZine) as well as in print (Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, vol.9 No.1) and in various anthologies (Adverbially Challenged Vol. 1 & 2, Another Hong Kong, Story Cities). She tweets @laurabesley.

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