Where food is concerned, we live in changing times.
Nigellas and Jamies reign supreme. Retro cupcakes and home baked loaves are the norm, and not just a pleasant surprise on birthdays. We are careful about provenance and air miles, and how we might use every last scrap rather than throw food away.
To put our love of good cooking into context, it’s worth noting that Jamie Oliver was recently named the second highest selling author in the UK, with a whopping £126 million of book sales in 2012. He was beaten only by J.K. Rowling.
Bravo so far, for in a world of scarce resources, this is as it should be.
But here’s the thing.
I hate cooking. I hate it, I’m bad at it, and if it weren’t for the times we currently live in, I wouldn’t care. For despite our move back to “home made” and “cooked from scratch”, there is a secret underbelly of women, desperate to cheat. We are the counter-culture. The Ria Parkinson’s of 2013. We are ashamed, but we are here.
A quick poll of friends shows we fall into two camps. There are those who sit down at the weekend with their cookery books and their lists and collate a delicious meal plan for the coming week. Their dishes are balanced and interesting, a mixture of old favourites and new experiments, with maybe a dinner party thrown in at the weekend. There are nutritious and imaginative tea times for the kids, and care is taken over fussy teenagers and demanding husbands. As a result, trips to the supermarket are quick, efficient and cost effective. I am in awe of these people.
By contrast I inhabit a place where, 30 minutes before the kids need to eat, I am to be found peering sadly into my vast fridge, wondering what I can conjure up from grated cheese and the wrinkly end of a cucumber. I conclude (as I do every time) that my “cucumber surprise” is neither delicious nor nutritious (not a surprise), before reaching into the freezer for fish fingers and chips. Next I persuade myself that baked beans and a glass of orange juice count as two of their five a day, and that the (shop bought) cupcake for later is a treat they don’t have all the time.
I clear up, take a swig of gin and tonic, and then it’s supper time for grown ups, only now I have lost the will to live, and husband is fed whatever I can find in aforementioned fridge, which I sell as “being economical”. Cucumber surprise it is then.
I know. I’m embarrassed, but there it is.
It is predictable then that my supermarket shopping is done in chaos. I choose fruit, veg and meat at random, giving no thought to what will accompany what (though were I to give it thought I doubt my choices would alter significantly).
And then I send beleaguered husband to the corner shop, as he has noticed with weary resignation that while we have 13 unripe avocados (I forgot to squeeze), we have run out of loo roll. Again.