I was 26 when I met Tony, back in 1985, and had always lived on my own until then. The idea of shopping for a family and planning meals for days ahead was an alien concept. On our first trip to Safeway together, as I pushed the trolley from aisle to aisle hoping for inspiration and he lagged behind, he said, 'So what are you doing, just picking up bits and pieces, shopping for the week? Or what?' 'I don't know!' But having you drifting around my heels like tumbleweed isn't helping, okay?
I didn't articulate that last sentence. I'd only moved in with him a week earlier and before that we'd spent nine days in total together. This was a learning process for both of us.
I think it's natural to want to impress new loves in our lives: we want to show them (consciously or unconsciously) that we are their best choice, we want to make them happy, we want them to admire us, not be disappointed. I remember making two and three course meals with wine every night – time consuming, expensive and completely impractical when Tony was a full-time professional entertainer at the time, often leaving home at 6pm for a gig in London or Birmingham or on the South Coast.
At the first dinner party we gave as a couple there was more glassware on the table than a banquet at the Palace of Versailles: white wine, red wine, water, digestif… Guests were terrified to reach for the salt and pepper in case they set off a crystal domino run.
27 years later we’re both, inevitably and gratefully, a lot more relaxed. And making a fuss of each other isn’t an obligation, duty or attempt to impress: it’s a treat for the treat-maker and the treat-receiver. This was my treat for Tony last night:
Salmon with Chilli Ginger Sauce (there's orange, garlic and soy sauce in there as well). I think the new 'Masterchef, The Professionals' series on BBC2 is having an effect. I made those ‘shaped’ Dauphinoise potatoes too, baked them in fried egg moulds wrapped in a double sheet of tinfoil.
I haven’t tackled a new dish for some time and I’d forgotten how much time cooking involves… thinly slicing those potatoes and making carrot and courgette ribbons with a knife was a bit of a hack. I’m buying a good mandolin at the weekend.
The recipe is a Hairy Dieters one. And I’m breaking all rules by adding a photo, so please go and buy the book. It’s brilliant: real food, great tastes, easy recipes.
Hungry Writer Prompts
- Write about a supermarket shopping trip.
- Write about something you did to impress someone.
- Write about glass.
- Write about treating yourself.
- Write about breaking a rule.
Now I am with a man I can be myself with. We love to experiment in the kitchen and try new dishes. It's so much fun! But every once in awhile I still have the urge to make a big pot of chicken and dumplings! ;-)
It was quite some time later that Rachel would confess that forcing the food down her throat out of politeness was done only with the greatest effort. Still, at least she pretended! One thing I did notice: that fish recipe was dropped from subsequent editions of Claudia's book. Now I wonder why?