Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"It does put a little cushion between you and the abyss.”

“Do you ever eat Aligot?” I ask my French housemate after reading about this marvellous, hug of a dish which - because it is French, is clearly so much more than bog-standard cheesy mash.

I’m lying on the sofa with the book I just started resting on my stomach. Probably won’t be that committed to it tonight, I concede. Other important matters to put to bed. The ‘Year in Cheeses’ book is found easily on the shelf and consulted. Made with Tomme de Laguiole, served with a Morteau sausage.

“Morteau…does that mean, like, Sausage of Death?” I ask, imagining something Black Pudding-ish. “No,” she shakes her head, “ it’s a region.” There are infinite new foods to eat, and sausages to know the names of. When am I going to learn French? All that, and then the normal things too, like the books to read, fucking e-newsletters to open, films to see while they’re still on at the cinema because let’s face it, you won’t get around to it after that, and all amongst that, quiet to find after days at work. Jesus, how to fit it all in?

“Aligot doesn’t fix anything,” the Aligot advocate writes, “but it does put a little cushion between you and the abyss.”

We’re three weeks into November and I am consumed by food. Consumed with thinking about it, tasting it and reading about it. After a few months of living in this house, i’m starting to get to know my housemates better. We talk about men, the films they’ve watched as they walk in through the door and unravel scarves, we notice the fit of each others jeans, and we talk about food. I, perhaps, slightly more lustily than they. One’s a cheesemonger, another a sommelier - a fact I make a point of sharing when people ask about my living situation, to show how truly I have lucked out, like those smug New Yorkers talking about their rent-controlled apartments in 90s television shows. A bit like that.

I am properly broody for food. A primal early-winter urge to fill oneself and build a nest, gastronomically, in much the way that buying three lambswool jumpers is the equivalent sartorial effort. Hot baths, whiskey in drinks, wrapping up wherever possible. While my body leans into a natural desire to hibernate, my long-dormant hobby for food has been revived. The interest itself didn’t fade, but the edges were dulled by a general weariness, apathy blotting the effort of making proper evening meals for myself, rather something quick and ‘enough’.

But this November could be recorded as a food diary alone. It certainly shows on my bank statement. Sunday 6th, Tried herring roe for the first time. Surprisingly meaty, and curled in on itself in piles over toast. We ate it both before and after the ceilidh at the Herring Fair in Hastings. (In a cooking demonstration the woman says “Herring can live up to 22 years old. Though you wouldn’t want to eat them when they are that big, as they tend to have picked up more pollutants over time.” I ask her how long other fish usually live for, and she doesn’t know, but we agree that 22 years seems surprisingly long.)

Wednesday 9th: I ate a Braeburn whilst listening to the victory speech through headphones, and disbelief allowed sustenance to override normal appley sweetness as I walked to the Doctors in the pouring rain. The flares of my new trousers sucking moisture from all angles. My GP didn’t know it had happened until I told him.

Sunday 20th: Went to the pub with a friend and recalled meals eaten this week. Don’t think i’ve said the word “aioli” so many times in my life as over those two drinks, and I revelled in it. Always remember that scene in Girlfriends where she buys herself fizzy wine and three giant prawns to celebrate a new job. Aioli brings that moment to mind. Aioli is made to go with food that absolutely requires you to lick your fingers after the last piece and before the next.

Monday 21st: Falling into the habit of that end-of-the-day Thousand Yard Stare when faced with the boxes of vegetables outside outside the grocers. To pick one of the root vegetables I would never buy, take it home and drive a knife into it or… stick with what I know? Stick with what I know. But lychees and plums carried home in a plastic bag for pudding.

Wednesday 22nd: Right now, as i'm writing this - i'm drinking one of the bottles of pink moscato I bought from Australia last year. I bought it back with me, anxiously wrapped along with the pottery, only to see it casually for sale in a shop in Manchester. It tastes good, because I don't have to share it with anybody else and wonder whether the transit was worth it. If somebody else was to share it with me, they might say "God, that's sweet", and it is. Tastes like those fizzy apricot Haribos you can find very occasionally in a shop. They too, worth the transit.

My designated fridge shelf is above the shelf where J keeps all of her cheese. The smell hits me each time I open the door. She eats cheese with most of her meals. White, matte bits of goats cheese, like paper clumsily bashed off a wall with a chair leg. Sometimes just chunks of (I don’t know the names) cut straight off the block and eaten at the counter. At the market over the weekend I buy two cheeses. One is a truffle pecorino that is utter crack and I work my way through it in two days. The other is softer, good for melting over a tomato sauce. I take our breadboard, piled with slices of a loaf, the two cheeses in their white wrapping, and caramelised onion chutney from Co-op, into the dining room and spread out at the table. Rain thuds down on the plastic roof over the utility room. Storm Angus dutifully arrived. Really no reason at all to sweat the small stuff, the unopened newsletters, the episodes my colleagues have watched and I have not, when you can make a Sunday afternoon taste like this.

Reading and Listening

4 comments: said...

Yay, great stuff stevie, let's go for something aioli-ish soon!!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and how you also focus on writing proper writerly entries and not just photos.
Keep it up!


Chuck said...

A sommelier and a cheesemonger?! What a dream! Have you read Sweetbitter? Lots of amazing food writing in that. cx

Anonymous said...

'To pick one of the root vegetables I would never buy, take it home and drive a knife into it or… stick with what I know?'

I know this feeling! One day you should take the plunge. Thanks for a lovely piece.