Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Food [of/and/for/with] love

Content Notice: As is hopefully obvious from the title, this post is all about food. If you are the kind of person who likes to be careful with food discussions, or you are on Ramadan and would rather not think about it right now, check back again tomorrow for a post that will not be about food!

Yesterday I showed you my sag aloo. Today, I spent an inordinate amount of time making burritos with a slow-cooked Mexican-spiced pork leg, homemade guacamole, vegetables, beans and some stuff from the fridge that needed eating (I'm sure Tesco salsa is fine even 2 days after the expiry! Right?)

I attempted some artistic arrangement here but it wasn't too successful. Oh well.
Since I'm at home on my own for most of the week, with the 'rents off camping, the kitchen is currently mine to work whatever culinary wonders I fancy at any time I like. Deciding to buy a half-price pork leg from the supermarket and then marinate, sear and slow cook it over a period of 8 hours was a slightly extreme response to this sense of freedom but it was well worth it. By the end of the process, I was satisfied, Brother of Feminist was satisfied (although he became more satisfied upon replacing the home-made guacamole with barbecue sauce, which is secretly great because now I have more guacamole!) and I had about half a pig still sitting on the kitchen counter begging to be made into alternative delicious foods. Hurrah!

I am going to be eating this in every meal for the next 3 days (plus some "artistic" onions as a bonus!)
A note: I am lucky enough to have parents who will fund my food habits ‒ within reason ‒ during my period of post-graduation wastrelhood, hence why I am currently able to eat a variety of meat, dairy and vegetables. This is not a luxury which a lot of those reliant on benefits can afford. Because unemployed and poor people have clearly not done enough with their lives to deserve meat, dairy and vegetables. I think it's important I clearly state that privilege, because then we can all meditate on how crap it is that this is a privilege at all. This is cheap meat and vegetables, not caviar and lobster. Burritos for all!

Come to my house and I'll make you one too.
 But enough of those serious and important political issues (for now), let's get back to Millennial Bourgeoisie Cooking Hour. I am a very big fan of cooking, although I am easily deterred when circumstances are difficult. Living in China with only a hot plate and (eventually) a rice cooker to cook on led to occasional flashes of inspiration, but also to a lot of takeaway dumplings and crap burgers. When I do cook properly, it tends to take up a lot of "headspace"; that is, I'll spend a much longer period of time fussing over what needs to be done and thinking about cooking and procrastinating about cooking and worrying about ingredients than I do actually cooking the things, which leaves me less time for getting important things done (like blogs!)

We are often told that the "obesity epidemic" (which includes me, at a tidy 90 kg and 173 cm) is fuelled because people are replacing love with food, and we all need to get our feelings sorted out and start thinking of food as the fuel it is. This is ironic, given how much healthy food currently advertises itself as "love yourself by eating a thing!" and how much we are expected to feel guilty about eating anything that has been within a 10 mile radius of chocolate and/or custard (unless it's dark chocolate and the custard packet has "BE GOOD WITH YOUR BODY THROUGH ME" emblazoned on it in bright complimentary colours). Decoupling food from emotions is something that you must do whilst being impervious to advertisers who are spending literally millions of pounds on making you have the feelings they profit from. Good luck with that!

"You count! But only if you are dieting. Because, see calorie counting! Ha, what a great pun." - actual Waitrose staff quote

I also think it's silly because while yes, it is possible to have healthy and unhealthy relationships with food, the answer to an unhealthy relationship is not "disconnect all feelings from eating and fuel yourself like a robot". Of course food is about feelings! For me, making food for myself is about challenges and success, and making food for other people is about giving care and receiving acceptance. Feeling my friends will only love me if my cheesecake is perfect is not a desperately good reflection on how I think about friendships, but the fact that the cheesecake always is perfect (ha!) means that cooking and serving and eating it is full of important social implications. These are made even better by the fact that, despite having several mars bars and a cup of sugar in it, my cheesecake does not come wrapped in cardboard which screams "you are a bad, bad person, ooh naughty naughty, go on, do it, no don't do it, no do it, you did it, shame on you" every time you look at it. My cheesecake, my skills, my feelings.

I was at a house party on Saturday night, and it struck many of us that our friendship group is now firmly at the stage where we "put on a spread" for each other. This is an exciting step for a crew whose prevoius culinary exploits mostly took place in the cramped underground bunker which served as our college kitchen. The friend who was hosting put on an insanely good "spread", containing dishes with ingredients from many continents (I feel this is a necessary attribute to be a good British cook unless you're REALLY gifted with Yorkshire pudding) although of course she has to qualify it with worries about not having made quite the number of sweet potato quiches that her guests were expecting. As none of us were specifically expecting any sweet potato quiches at all, these fears were unfounded, and the upshot was that we all got more bonding done than if we had simply relied on the ample amount of alcohol that was also consumed. Everyone is fed, everyone socialises, everyone wins. Food is wonderful!

I'm not sure if I have a feminist point to this, unless I want to shoehorn in a reference to cupcake recipes and twee-feminism on Hello Giggles (which I don't actually know all that much about, because I am Very Serious about my feminism and don't know how I feel about nailart, also there don't seem to be any cupcake recipes at all on the front page at the time of writing, so failures all round). I guess if there is any point of this, it is that the nurturing, social side of food and of cooking are wonderful things whatever gender you are, and that In The Kitchen ‒ perhaps even Making A Guy A Sandwich ‒ is sometimes a great place to be, depending on the kitchen and the guy (hint: probably no guy who ever tells you to make him a sandwich will be the right guy to make a sandwich for). Feelings are wonderful things too! Wow, this is all really profound right now.

On a final note, I tried using my Tumblr again earlier, and I discovered it will make 4-image GIFs if you take selfies with it. The only natural conclusion was to do this:


Week 1 of 30-day blogging is over. Tune in every day next week for more of... whatever this is.