I am a colossal man-child, and I am sick of feeling conflicted about it. I love eating Angel Delight for breakfast, and I do so unironically. The same applies to blancmange, especially if it is vanilla flavour.
And I do all of this because it brings me joy. I eat sweet, sugary substances for breakfast, the wind playing in the trees before me, because I love to do so. I feel no hint of guilt about it, but I am aware that people may view me as some form of inadequate if I were to reveal such wholesome pleasures.
It’s the same kind of raised eyebrow – “I thought you were better than that” – expression that I am on the receiving end of when I confess that I actually enjoy supermarket own brand lager. Yes, I will have a pint of that session IPA – the one with the expertly chosen hops – but tomorrow I will be back on the Crown, because life is too short to always have the good stuff going. I just want a drink, yeah?
I own three pairs of jeans, and that does me. None of them are from anything remotely resembling a brand, and that is how I like it. I don’t do it for some kind of virtue signalling; I do it because I only want to keep my bum and legs warm, not invest in a section of tangible corporate real estate.
All of this leaves me feeling like I don’t, somehow, fit in. I don’t obsess over labels and brands and shopping and conformity. I don’t follow trends, but I do observe them as they come and go. I am currently being deeply annoyed by the trend for setting everything in resin and making some form of furniture out of it. Yesterday I watched a really ugly pizza being encased for all time in epoxy.
Other people seem to be locked in to a food loop, whereby they eat the same thing across the week, and are set in to a set of habits. I don’t know whether it is the result of my children being young, and so we haven’t had the long hard graft of enduring meal after meal, week after week, year after year, but that hasn’t come up in our house. We plan a wide variety of food: no repeat meal times.
Yes, the children would both be perfectly happy with the idea of having plain pasta for every meal, with the option of a white flatbread with some cream cheese on it, for some variety, but we are the parents, and it is our way or – actually, it’s just our way: until they’re off to university there is no high way option for either of them. Hell, one of them can’t even crawl yet. Eat that tofu and veg, girls!
Coming up with a set of meals is no issue; they just come to my mind once I have settled on a core ingredient. Then we buy the ingredients necessary, and that is us sorted for the week ahead. Nice.
Only, then the routine gets smashed, and we stand in our kitchen, looking at each other aghast. In the case of the weekend just gone the reason for the routine being smashed was our eldest child’s birthday. We knew it was coming; we’re aware of the date. It’s just that you have to do things, and that means people being involved. That means accommodating a lot of people who proclaim to be able to go with the flow, but turn out to require that we meet their very specific needs at all times.
Deciding on a takeaway pizza for the evening meal was the biggest exercise in negotiations since the Maastricht treaty was ratified in 1992. The birthday girl only cared about having a big Margherita to herself, while everybody else either refused to have an opinion, or couldn’t be drawn on one. In the end the person with the strongest opinions on pizza made a business case for the pizzas she wanted, and the order was done. But only after some pretty hard core technological wrangling was done.
If it had been a normal Sunday, with or without a house full of celebrants, I would have cooked something I had planned, and we would have all sat around eating it with a glass of wine and a chat.
I would have cooked them something packed with flavour, incorporating some whole grains and lots of herbs. At the other end of the spectrum to my love of Angel Delight and blancmange is a love of hearty cookery and deep flavours. It’s something I love to share; especially with people for whom it is an alien concept. I love that people are surprised when simple ingredients can do complex things.
I get far more excited about cooking a hearty pan of something warming and rich than I do about cooking almost anything else. I do love a salad, and I can make a good and interesting one when the weather warms up, but I would far rather cook you a pan of lentils, topped with herby dumplings.
Some people cook because they love to see the happy looks on the faces of the people they have cooked for. Personally, I cook for the selfish reason that I like to eat. Yes, it is good to please other people, but I want to eat. I want to have big flavours and fascinating textures at all times.
On the other hand, I also like to eat pies for breakfast. Big fat greasy pies, oozing with mince. Or a scotch pie, with mouth-lacerating shards of glass for pastry. But rarely a pasty: I find their flakiness too much to cope with at breakfast time; they’re more of a lunch thing to me. Pasty and a sandwich.
Other breakfast favourites at the moment include a big bowl of ramen, topped with a film of chilli oil. I love the heat of the first few mouthfuls, until the oil loses its heat; I love the creaminess it leaves when gulping down the remaining broth at the end. My desk is covered with the splatters of many bowls of delicious tonkotsu broth, and I could not care any less about any of it. So there!
Starting the day with some food which excites you is a great way to get things moving. It puts a spring in to my step for the rest of the day. It doesn’t have to be entirely good for me, because it is the psychological benefit I am looking for here. Unhealthy foods in moderation will make you a far happier and more productive person. I am motivated by food more than by pretty much anything else: I have no shame in eating the things which help me make my day better from the outset.