MEGAN NICOL REED
On food preferences
In her lovely lilting accent she described it as “a crispy breaded dome of ’ot, oozy gruyere”. It was, she said, served “wiz a lettle moutarde, a lettle cornichons”. Now I have never met a cheese I didn’t like, plus I was very, very, hungry, and the restaurant was dark, underground, and (usually) impossible to get into, with beautiful young things draped here, there, everywhere, and some kind of smoky, French jazz on the stereo. All things considered I could have eaten our waitress and her hot dome right there on the spot.
If we are defined by our appetites then I am utterly gluttonous, seriously obsessive, relatively adventurous. My relationship with food speaks to my most central contradictions. The highbrow bogan. I am the one at the table who has an explanation for sous-vide; knows dosa hail from Southern India, roti from the North; and pretends to be all over Nepalese timut pepper (2019 food trend alert). However, I prefer cheap, nasty milk chocolate to the dark stuff and would take a packet of Twisties over a bowl of ceviche, any day. The frugal gourmand. Rubber spatulas and teeny, tiny Tupperware containers are my best friends. I will save half a teaspoon of aioli to be spread on a bread roll for lunch the next day and happily spin out a meal for four from two leftover sausages. Nonetheless, I can put away a litre tub of mint choc chip icecream in one sitting. The routine-focused faddist. After the indulgences of the weekend I look forward to my usual weekday meal of a small bowl of granola or porridge with Greek yoghurt and some kind of seasonal fruit, and a solitary poached egg on thickly buttered, thinly sliced Vogel’s, sprinkled with grated tasty cheese and washed down with a mug of very hot English Breakfast tea with a dash of blue milk. But I grow antsy when the list of restaurant openings jotted down in the back of my diary that I want to try grows unwieldy, when I discover another new Whittaker’s collab on the supermarket shelves I have to sample.
While I am not convinced there is anything particularly telling about whether someone is a Libra or a Sagittarius, whether their favourite colour is yellow or baby pink, ask them what they would choose to eat for their last meal and I believe you open the door to their psyche. I delight in the answers of my children’s friends when they come over and I ask them what they’d like on their sandwich. Butter on one side, but not the other, jam, but not too much, and no crusts, please, said one little girl recently, a child, I realised, whose outer shyness hid a steely core.
I am convinced that food, both through its preparation and in its actual eating, reveals almost everything about a person. Our food choices as unique to each of us as our toileting habits, our sexual desires, yet these are things we (normally) do in private. Most of us could never conceive of getting it on en masse, answering the call of nature in a crowd, but we will cheerfully enough sit alongside each other in some cavernous food court, licking KFC off our greasy mitts, sucking slippery noodles through pursed lips, cleaning mayonnaise from our chins with the tips of our tongues. Such intimate acts, so freely performed in public.
“A lettle more bread,” asked the waitress when she found me about to wipe up the last traces of cheesiness with a finger. “Ahhh, sorry, errr, so embarrassed,” I mumbled. “No need,” she said. “Iz too good, non? You must.” And so I did. I wiped it clean. FOLLOWING ON Groups, says Kristina, are not really for her, and travel is not really for her husband. “I sometimes entertain the thought of a cruise ship trip: the luxury, the pools, the movies, the unique experience, the astonishing fit-out like a movie set. And then my mind wanders to all the others on board doing exactly the same every day and the thought sickens me. It’s not real life, not even a real holiday. It’s not genuine, it’s contrived. Give me a lonely beach bach with a little well-stocked dairy nearby and just the dairy owner to talk to and my sweet man.”
I will save half a teaspoon of aioli to be spread on a bread roll for lunch the next day and happily spin out a meal for four from two leftover sausages.