I am the epitome of the casual blogger. That person who has fits and starts of activity, of interest in the written word, the desire to be creative. Truth be told, and I’m renowned for my honesty, I’m not all that artistic, and have struggled to call myself “creative”. And I have no idea if I have an exciting written “voice”. My tone and style is probably as droning in written form as it is over the phone, a sad unfortunate hangover of a Black Country upbringing.
But I can cook. That much I know. For years, heaven knows until quite recently in fact, I would just shrug a compliment off as “I just follow a recipe”. And this is true to an extent, I do follow recipes. I look down the ingredients list, I read the methods, I begin to explore within my mind how the list of ingredients will work together and what they will become on the plate or in the bowl. And then I remember what I have forgotten to buy in for it, or what in that list I only have a small amount of or what is it in there that I really don’t care very much for the taste of, and I adapt. So this is where my creativity lies. And this is where the fun begins.
Food is a multi-sensory thing. For some people, food is fuel, something to sustain. This is the basic nature of food, and for a huge proportion of the population of the world this is as much as they can hope for, and is something they work towards and strive for every day. However I am in a position of great privilege and I am aware of this. I am fortunate and can look at food in a different way. For me, it would be a sin to just wade through life not making the most of the opportunities I am so lucky to be afforded. Food can be luxurious and a real treat, it can be dependable and familiar and comforting- it has all these possibilities. And for that reason I cannot allow food to just be another thing to tick off my list at the end of the day. 3 meals done today? Tick. I find the thought of that quite depressing. I struggle to understand people who find the prospect of dinner that much of a chore. They must have more of a social life than me, because planning my dinner in my mind is the highlight of my afternoon. Looking forward to lunch is obviously the morning’s mental entertainment.
I also find that the smells of food are linked to so many memories. The smell of barbeque sauce always reminds me of the kitchen of my second year hall of residence at university. I think because I was the one who bought it but it seemed to be a component part of every meal the other bastards I lived with made. There is a smell I can’t define which every so often I am confronted with which reminds me of my primary school. As soon as it hits me, I visualise the canteen. Images and memories I could never conjure unstimulated enter my mind. The layout, the area where children put their coats and bags. I can see my bag. It was made of a plastic material, it was blue with red and yellow accents. I start to remember the food I ate. Always a steamed pudding, custard reassuringly 80’s pink. Other times I smell grilled fish and I am reminded of a restaurant on a holiday, and can almost feel the warmth and salt on my skin. This is the power of food. It can be perfunctory if you so wish, and you may so wish. It’s your choice. But I find that whilst friends come and go, life changes and our fortunes may peak and fade, we still find ourselves with a plate before us in the morning, afternoon and evening. Quite what we choose to serve is a matter for us. It is exactly this continuity in life which grounds us. And its exactly for this reason why some of us have a tin of marrowfat peas in the pantry, a couple of tins of Cream of Tomato soup on standby for rainy days and sick days. Well, I certainly do, lessons learnt from my mother. And don’t we all have a default dinner we revert to when we have had a day from hell? A plate so comforting and familiar that its succour on even the bleakest of days. For me, this is the power food has which nothing else in life does. Its a connection, a link, nostalgia, but also something which constantly changes and has the scope to surprise.
My old blog has been imported over to this one, and if you are a glutton for punishment you would note through the posts that my stomach features heavily. As does my love of most things some people think are a bit naff. I chose my word carefully, because to call something cheesy and suggest its substandard is rather unfair. Cheese is wonderful, how can it be bad if it is cheesy. Pop music, films about love and families and the underdog succeeding, dancing in the kitchen in my slippers whilst listening to Radio 2, walking my dog along trails which seemingly never end where we see almost no one, shopping trips with wine at lunchtime- this is just a beginners list of the things I enjoy, what choices I make, what I look forward to outside of the structures and defined nature of the working day. The colour and flourishes, the texture on the landscape which would otherwise be greyer and flat. This is who I am. A man who buys mugs with gay abandon, despite the fact there is no room in the cupboard for another. A man who owns 4 potato peelers, but can only find one at the moment. A man with 3 West Highland Terrier cookie cutters. I do not shy away from what some may see as the twee, I am accepting of it. I must say, one of the seldom discussed benefits of growing that bit older is the fact that the court of popular opinion’s judgment is of less importance. And I am able to have perspective on some matters which in years gone by would have filled me with torment- mainly that other people aren’t having more fun than me, they are just different. I’m not stopping in with one glass of wine and going to bed at 9:30pm on a Friday night because my life is boring, it’s that I’m tired and there is nowhere I want to go more than my own sofa and then to bed.
So I have resurrected my blog. New name, new site, same old soul behind it. The reasons why I have started writing again aren’t interesting but I hope that some of the posts I write will be. It may be recipes, it may be me bemoaning failing attempts to revive my sourdough starter, it may be me whinging about cooking on a camping stove whilst we have an extension built. Oh yes, a period of one pot cooking in a house full of dust- I smell some award winning material brewing.
Stop by every so often, I make no promises regarding the regularity of my updates, but I hope you enjoy the jumble of thoughts that I call my kitschen.