Recipes and short stories to inspire alternative cooking attitudes.
I moved to England a few years back, having lived with my parents in Barcelona for four years. I had cooked regularly for my parents as a way of thanks for enduring my presence in their hard earned house. I was very much of the (unfair, and more than likely wrong) opinion that adults should not reside with their parents, but having been at boarding school since I was ten, then uni, then Australia, I hadn't really LIVED with them, and I loved cooking for them. Having traveled, they have adventurous and willing taste buds, and they were open and honest in their reviews of some truly bizarre concoctions.
Moving to the UK, I lost my audience, and was thrown into the horrible reality of London in a recession. I had been successfully employed in Spain, so to go further back than square one was a really unpleasant experience. I moved into my grandmother's flat, who I was immensely close to. She had passed away quite recently, and so it was painful being around her memory, but also an incentive to make the best of what I had.
This positive attitude did not last, and I was further and harder pushed to remain positive with every breath I took. I did the unemployed circuit more times that I care to admit, for far longer periods of time than I could afford.
Eventually, my savings which had been carefully collected by my family for a future investment like a house or a car, dwindled and died as employment remained impossible and bills remained inevitable. I spiraled into a bad place where I remained for quite some time.
And then a job appeared.
It was with the most ridiculous company I have ever come across. It was a job, however, which was sorely needed for morale and for finances.
It was to last for a year, maybe a little bit over, and it created some of the most infuriating and bizarre situations that I had ever come across in a work related field. Now, bizarre can be entertaining, and it would have been had I not been so emotionally invested in the job. Please bear in mind that being unemployed for that stretch of time meant that this job was a shining beacon of hope, and I was willing to go a million extra miles to remain in employ. What didn't help, was three weeks into being hired, they had an employee meeting to inform us how poorly the company was doing, and wondered if anyone was willing to take voluntary redundancy. To say my heart was forever in my mouth whilst simultaneously residing in the pit of my stomach is an understatement. I was constantly nervous, which was a gross overreaction to the role- receptionist. And not a receptionist in a high powered multi-million turnover company where the phone rang every third of a second. It was a tiny company above a pub in a small town. They cleaned computers. It was not life and death, it was not big money, hell, according to the bosses who were referred to by all, including client,s as Tweedledum & Tweedledee, it was minimal profit. But, as I said, it was a job, and I was determined to take it seriously.
That wore thin, fast.
I lived very close by to the office and so going home, I didn't get a cooling off period. I got home, still screaming internally at the ridiculous antics of the day just passed. I would get home, and the fury had to be out-sourced. That is where cooking came into play.
I was, and still am, living with my other half when this all began. He moved in soon after we got together, and we had known each other for a long time before I moved to England. His family had been in Spain when my family moved there, and he being older than me, remembered me a lot better than me him. Having said that, I may not have remembered him in actuality, but I did feel a familiarity and comfort with him, and it rapidly upgraded to helpless love. Him moving in was the most natural transition I have ever experienced, as was cooking for him. I enjoy cooking for him and I love that he has favorite dishes. I am not arrogant enough to think he didn't have favorites before, but I like to think I put enough of a spin on those dishes to keep the love of them alive.
Love and anger are fantastic incentives to cook. The love keeps you inclined to treat the outcome well, and the anger keeps you inclined to make sure its bloody fantastic because its the ultimate screw you to a bad day. All those bastards with their petty, pathetic problems are no match for the creativity and know how swilling around your ever frustrated mind and body. The ingredients are the tools to kneading out all those knots of irritation. I dont know about you, but I tend to mutter when I want to scream bloody murder at someone, but I cant. So, during this particular job, I found myself walking home, creating monologues in my head of what I would say if I didnt value the job and didn't mind hurting a lot of people's feelings. Internal ranting. My specialty.
It was only a fifteen minute walk from the office to the flat. But there was one added bonus to the location of the office. It was above Sainsburys, a big supermarket with a plethora of goodies to turn into weird and wonderful things. As the monologues grew in muted volume, I would find myself marching down aisles, picking up ingredients for a recipe that had yet to be decided, but so ferocious was my determination to channel this anger into something productive, that I had no fear in whether what I was picking up was of any use, I was not going to allow anything else to bring me down.
I think the problem was I felt useless. The office was a joke. I was by no means above the job, nobody should ever think they are too good to do something, and following the blitz of unemployment in the recent years, I certainly had nothing but gratitude for the work. No, not the work, the paycheck. However, you set yourself a dangerous precedent when you're desperate. I spent countless hours swearing blind to the empty skies that I would never complain about a job again, if i could only be provided with one. It is an empty but sincere promise, and one i tried to keep hold of for the majority of the first months in that office, regardless of the ridiculous circumstances that i found myself in.
The kitchen, however, is empowering. I am in control of what goes in, the temperature, the weights and the time that is put in. I control the outcome, and I can only praise or curse myself for the end result. Moreover, I found i could not do it half arsed. If i tried cooking without any passion behind it, it would come out alright, but I could feel the lack of enthusiasm in the food. It may sound daft, but it was true. Angry dishes brought very palatable results. And, towards the end of my employ at this office, it became a bit of game. I would push frustrating moments to a certain point just to see if I could get a different outcome from a roll of the eyes and a deep sigh from those who just didn't give a toss anymore. There is nothing worse that having a boss, or in my case two, who genuinely couldn't have cared less. About anything but their own personal grievances. In a customer-oriented business, a little enthusiasm, in my humble opinion, is needed. Hell, if the bosses didn't care then why on earth should the employees?
So, armed with this sadistic enthusiasm, I started down a road of angry cooking.
I have twinned the recipes with some explanations as to how they came about, because the context might make sense with how much aggression went with it.