My dinner party

I was thinking about the seven-course meal that I made after my last blog. In terms of my personal cooking endeavours, it really was the stuff of legend. I think it counts as a dinner party as there were six of us. What made it memorable was that everyone had to sit on the floor (not enough chairs) and hang onto their cutlery as that was in short supply too. Washing up seemed boring to do between courses and if ever I am a person that owns in excess of thirty forks, I will seek out an intervention.

  1. It started with a starter (of course.. what else would it start with?). This was a mozzarella, tomato and basil salad, affectionately drizzled with the virgin oil from olives and cracked black pepper of divinity. It was quite low-key in preparation, however, the tomatoes were locally sourced, so extra points for that. Even more extra points for basil that had almost zero food miles as it grew with gusto at my kitchen window. The oil, mozzarella and pepper likely flew further than all the other ingredients put together. Maybe. I like this meal a lot, it reminded me of eating this same thing whilst overlooking the sea, sitting on an outside table in Sorrento. It was all very beautiful.
  2. The soup. It was a roasted butternut squash variety that I gleaned from a Jamie Oliver cookbook that I no longer have (belonged to the ex I was then living with. Sometimes a relationship ends, that is okay. What isn’t okay is that I suddenly lost things (like books) that I had come to rely on (like cookery books) and I don’t want to buy replacements, because, in my head, I still own them! Buy a ‘second’ copy of a book I already own? Preposterous!). The soup was thick and topped with fried sage leaves. I also made parmesan crackers to be dipped in. These were very good. Both of these variants were made the day before. I also made it ‘velvet’. Sometimes I get carried away with terminology that I hear on the television.
  3. The sorbet. This was made at the beginning of the week and was the lemon variant. There isn’t really a good deal more I can add about this. It was sorbet.
  4.  The main. Now even by my standards, this was formidable. It was also made up on the day. Not as in I made it on the day, which I did, but that its inception was that day too. Now likely this is a standard recipe for many, but to me, on that day, it qualified as utterly new. Thus was very exciting. I started with making an egg based pasta. This was not new to me, and something that at the time I did quite a lot. There is something about the mass destruction of at least two rooms that really appeals to me. Sheets of pasta hanging and laying everywhere, flour in abundance, mucho happiness! This was then turned into a feta and spinach (wilted, of course..)  ravioli. But did it stop there? No, it very much did not. I created a most marvellous tomato sauce (reduction quite likely, but the word sauce is definitely more me). From more local tomatoes. I bought a massive tray of them for a miniscule amount of money from my local farm shop. Whenever I visit there, I feel really food inspired as it smells really good. Supermarkets either smell of pumped out bread smell or almost an absence of any smell. Sometimes they smell cold. And from these two (ravioli and tomato sauce) came the next phase. I ‘painted’ the bottom of a large baking tray with ‘hint’ of the tomato sauce before arranging the ravioli in the tray in neatly ordered lines. I then topped this with more sauce and added a crumb topping made with bread (which I did not make, I could pretend that I did, but to lovingly make a loaf of bread to then smash it to ‘rustic dust’ in the food processor was a level that I just did not go to. Clearly, I just wasn’t putting enough effort in), it also had more parmesan and a ‘signature’ herby blend. This is another way of saying that this was mixing up all the herbs that I had available to me at that given time. I also made bread rolls (flavoured with sun-dried tomatoes and olives) to accompany this course and a ‘dressed’ mixed leaf salad. The green variable on the plate is important.
  5. Next was the pre pudding (…). Chocolate mousse served piped into brandy snap tubes. At least this was the plan. I had never made either of these things before. Brandy snaps were a mission, in a tube shape, more so. So, in the end, the mousse was served in a little cup with a brandy snap wafer on the side. I would like to say that there was an artfully cut strawberry on the side of the plate. But there wasn’t. But these were nothing compared the ’twill’ of the next course.
  6. Vanilla ice cream served in a twill basket. There may have been some fruit with this. There also might not have been, but am remembering something else being on the plate and fruit seems to be a likely contender. I had made ice cream before and used a ‘custard’ based method. It was very good. And twill baskets are delicious. I ate several (possibly more than ‘several’)of the ones that did not resemble baskets.
  7. Chocolate truffles. No one ate these as everyone was too full up. But they were also fun to make. We did drink hot caffeinated beverages to finish.

I should do something like this again. I am now hungry.

Map Point. What am I really proud to have achieved?

 

Binge

I have written quite a bit about my relationship with food. The emotional weight sticks heavy. The one aspect that I have only vaguely touched on is binge eating. And until very recently, I have not really acknowledged it as a problem.

I know there have been many days where I have absorbed packets of biscuits, but they were treats, or because I didn’t have time to cook and needed to eat quickly. I was hungry and needed the energy, the sugar rush, I know that once I start eating a packet, it would be hard to stop eating, but this was just something that I sometimes too. A quirk, and certainly not a problem for me.

Last week, after having not really eaten any biscuits for a while, I bought a packet of coconut macaroon type things. I think that there were six in a packet. I ate one with a cup of tea, and although I didn’t really want anymore, they were suddenly all gone. I felt sort of horrified at my lack of control and that has been the first time I have fully acknowledged that this might be an issue. Rather than just one of my many amusing foibles.

So in the spirit of research (am dedicated to my craft!) this morning I purchased a packet of biscuits to actually try and analyse what the kick actually is for me. I think it starts even before the purchase. As soon as I have intended to eat something sugary in quantity, I do start to feel a little bit excited. Then there is the buying bit. This feels like some massive stab of independence, I can buy whatever I like (hear me roar!). Now I am actually eating the biscuits I am not feeling very much at all. The packet is almost empty (they are pink wafer biscuits, they disappear fast!). Slightly sick would be the closest thing I have going on to an emotion right now. It’s simply a process to get to the end.

Two things occur to me. Firstly this feels very similar to my smoking experience. I love the creation of a cigarette, the collection of filters, paper and tobacco. Then I ensure that the tobacco is laid out right before committing to the roll. The for me is definitely the best part, I enjoy the dextrous skill involved. The second thing that occurs to me is that a food binge for me is nothing to do with food. It is about allowing myself permission to do what I want. I don’t feel in a place of particular stress right now, but as with most things, although I know I feel good, I still have my old habits which did not come from being in a place of happy. Food binges are an old coping mechanism. Eating every last biscuit completes the task, and then the anxiety is over. Now I just feel sort of urg. It also occurs to me that the time process involved in this has been quite substantive too.

Am not really sure where to end with this one. Anxiety is harsh.

Map Point. Where am I placing my power?

 

 

Hongry

My daughter makes me things and this has a massive sentimentality. This means I now have scrapbooks of pictures that she has drawn for me. I think the current total is four. They are A3. Possibly my favourite was a note she left for me after she had a minor strop ‘To Mum, I am sorry, I am hungry.xx’

‘I am hungry’, ‘hangry’ (angry and hungry) and ‘hongry’ (angry, hungry and too hot) are all definite variables that exist in my house. I am also a redhead, thus burn easily. But feeling hungry I think for me trumps feeling hot. If I feel at a body temperature of reasonableness then life is good, but if I have a full belly of food, I feel awesome. And this is important.

Food is incredible. It is too easy to get into a rut, but since I last had a moment of rut, a friend lent me a simple cookery book and have now upped my salad offerings from good to mighty! I am also attempting to eat down all the existing food in the house in new and exciting variables (tonight whilst cooking pasta, I felt a little reckless so through in a hand of frozen sweetcorn, go me!).

I find shopping for food either completely dull (having a list can be particularly arduous) or amazing. It is mostly amazing if I go shopping slightly hungry because I arrive home with a much better selection of food. These food types may not necessarily go together, but I can then be somewhat more adventurous with my cooking. And there is generally at least one thing that I will buy and then look at in the cupboard for several months before it goes out of date. Some of my food selections have been somewhat unpredictable. Shopping whilst hungry and tired is not a good combination. I know where my limits are!

Map Point. How can I start to look differently at the more challenging things?

 

 

My boxed best friend

Today my apathy turned to anger. I found myself walking through my local supermarket, boiling with unrequited rage. One question burned within me. How have I let my diet get so utterly terrible?

I have the possible excuse of having been poorly over the past few weeks. My skin is not looking happy, my clothes are not feeling happy, I am low on energy and am nowhere near as sharp as I usually am (which is usually pretty sharp!). Prior to all of this, my diet was mostly awesome (with occasional takeaways). Most days I would easily get through a goodly weight of the green and colourful stuff but over the last few weeks, my sugar intake is bordering on something that would likely make my dentist cry (or really happy with the amount of work I would generate). And this, in short, is not good.

Even before I got poorly, my diet was taking something of a tumble (there might even be a link here..). And over the past few days, I have identified precisely what motivated the tumble. I am utterly bored with the food that I am consuming. Although the meals were good, I am eating the same things over and over. So rather than trying the new and exciting and being creative, the cereal box and me are now best friends.

I used to experiment more with food, particularly savoury dishes. I would scratch cook all sorts of things and looked for inspiration from cookery books and restaurant menus. I enjoyed cooking. I have been trying to work out when my culinary expertise became a predictable endeavour and I don’t think that I can, but I think I know what prompted the realisation.

For a long time, I think I have just accepted this as my normal. Sometime in my life things just become so ordinary that I no longer took notice of them. And then when one thing changes, everything else starts to change too. This year has been about the new. I spent a long time writing a proposal for an MA that I have now been accepted onto (so much happy!). I have not done anything particularly academically challenging for a really long time, and to finally know that this is about to change, feels completely beautiful. So now, the diet needs to be just as shiny too!

Map Point. What would I like to make extraordinary in my life?

 

My Scary Scary Cupboard of Spice

The photo attached to this particular blog was the contents of my spice and vinegar cupboard. I had multiple duplicates (a few scarily out of date, as is the tradition of the cupboard of spice for me), as clearly I have utterly no idea what was in there. I get the impression that I buy spices based on a singular recipe then banish them to the cupboard and they seldom ever see the light of day again.

I know that I hoard elsewhere in my life, but food seems to be a weird one. Food is perishable, I don’t have favourite memories attached to a particular can of tomatoes, I take a deep sense of pride in my spotlessly mould free refrigerator, so am struggling so ascertain the rationale behind my deluge of spice.

A friend has a house that has much more food (though am not sure on her spice detail) than mine does. The fridge is generally rammed and to locate food in her cupboard generally involves removing at least three more favourable items. She said that she likes to feel that she has a store of stuff, it makes her feel safe. This doesn’t really relate to my particularly deliciously scented cupboard, but it’s good to consider all variables.

I think that for me the cupboard represents possibility. The possibility that I will make more delicious foods with an amazingly incredible array of spices. It is the cupboard of good intentions and broken promises. It is a cupboard that silently mocks me – for everything that I could possibly do if I were to risk a little bit more.

My Mum often laments about her she doesn’t like more foods and wishes that she did. My daughter has friends who seem to survive on an incredibly limited diet. Maybe some of us simply don’t have the conditioning to accept new tastes, or maybe the choices are too vast.

I have a friend, Laurel, who is a fearless warrior when it comes to food. Whenever I go to her house, I am amazed and more amazed by what she has created. I have experienced cold pressed coffee, homemade vanilla essence, a huge array of vegan paleo food and her fridge is a sea of glass containers filled with unknown delights. This is also the exceptional woman who when I first found myself unable to tolerate dairy when I was a student, brought me round bags of shopping, filled with dairy-free delights. She loves food, is passionate about food and is generous with her talent.

So, back to the cupboard. I dutifully cleaned it all out and returned most of it to the shelves, creating a little space with the removal of sad, unloved and unused, spices. I think it is likely time to go have a chat with Laurel.

Map Point. Which of my friends have the knowledge I want?