Chocolate

I lived out some long-term food fantasies recently. I found myself freed up mentally for the first time to try these things I’ve always wanted to, after I did a diet that really worked in the first half of the year. I figured I could always phase the diet in again for a few weeks if necessary, once the deeds were done. It would be worth it.

A whole chocolate cake. Chocolate is the thing for me. I’ve always been very restrict-y about it. The furthest I’d go is a ‘freddo’ with my sandwich- a small frog-shaped chunk of chocolate costing 25p. I would never buy a regular chocolate bar and eat it. The guilt wouldn’t be worth it. So a whole chocolate cake was very much the white whale, and was my first port of call after it dawned on me that I could go ahead and have these things. ‘Disgusting’ you might be thinking, but getting this out of my system (so to speak) was a good idea I reckon. Pretty nuts though admittedly, to sit down with a pristine birthday cake and a fork. It’s so far out on a limb I might not have made it back.

In fact I settled on a prepackaged cake that was around 3/4 size your typical supermarket birthday cake. It was a rich good-quality one though, from ‘Tesco’s finest’ range. I sliced it in two and had one half for breakfast and the other for dinner. Halfway through each meal, a quarter-cake down, I had a lovely sensation of having just had a large helping of delicious chocolate cake and if there was no tomorrow could easily manage the same again: and the same again still awaited me- wonderful. The half a cake was a perfect portion, it was absolutely fantastic and I have no real desire to repeat the experience.

A bag full of pick n mix. Not a few bits and bobs, but a big bag full. Tesco do it on the cheap luckily. I put a loaf of bread and some washing powder in my basket for respectability, before going to town on the pick and mix containers with my little pink trowel. I went heavy on the chocolaty items. Washed down with Dr Pepper, it was everything I imagined and more.

A Willy Wonka-style tile of chocolate. All for me. I went for the own-brand supermarket version. It appeals to me more than Dairy Milk or whatever. Something about the sight of tile upon tile of cheap chocolate, it’s as delicious as the chocolate itself. Or maybe I just prefer the taste. The richer stuff can be cloying.

A tray of caramel squares. One of those packages from a local baking operation that you see on sale in petrol garages and supermarkets. Very satisfying.

Dead Calm

There was a pile of recordable VHS tapes in my house growing up. They were stored in the cabinet below the TV at one stage, then later on they were relegated to the end cupboard in the little study room. My dad had an extra one stashed away at the top of his wardrobe I discovered. It was labelled ‘The hand that rocks the cradle’ and, as it happened, genuinely was ‘The hand that rocks the cradle’. I think there was a pattern to the stuff my dad recorded off the TV, because the only other full movies in the general pile were the ocean-set Dead Calm, Basic Instinct, and Someone to Watch Over Me, all of which are also about cheating, with maybe a ‘wicked woman’ to blame, and that being an exciting thing. In other news, I quite like this song:

 

Kitchen Cupboard

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I thought for a bit of fun I’d do a post on the contents of my kitchen cupboard. Pretty pathetic, but I never claimed to be Ernest fucking Hemingway.

There’s some Uncle Ben’s boil in the bag rice at the top left. Uncle Ben is operating at the very top of his game right now. This stuff is amazing, much better than the own-brand alternative. Easily worth the extra pound.

Lots of tuna next to that. Lovely tuna, chicken of the sea. For lunch mostly.

Noodles, penne and linguine packs next. About the only proper meal I cook at the minute involves the noodles. Noodles with prawns and ginger and chilli’s. I used to use a lot of those stir in sauce tubs sitting in front of the pasta. Less so these days. What even is it? They just sit there at room temperature and don’t go off for a year. I’m suspicious of them now.

Below is a box of some ‘light’ popcorn, because I’m a complete woman. I’ve actually struggled with popcorn a bit since the scene in Arachnophobia where the big ignoramus couple sit down in their dressing gowns with a bowl of popcorn to watch Jeopardy, and as the guy dunks his hand in the bowl, with his eyes glued to the tv, a little black spider emerges from below the top layer to deliver it’s lethal bite. It’s just the spider being about the same weight and shape as a bit of popcorn that’s so shudder inducing to me.

Going left there’s some more tuna, then beans and some bargain tinned dinners for when I really can’t be bothered. Chicken Jalfrize and tinned meatballs. Pretty shameful. I have some chickpeas back there too. I got excited about chickpeas a couple of years ago but I’m over it.

On the bottom shelf there’s some bread sitting on top of some own-brand fruit and fiber cereal. The cereal has no fruit in it whatsoever! It’s just bran flakes. I put my hand in and scooped right to the bottom and all. I’m tempted to write a letter of complaint. I’ll have to get Kellogg’s next time, but that shit is seriously expensive. The bread sitting on top is this Northern Ireland’s own thing. It’s extremely doughy, like 200 calories a slice. It’s a real treat but as with the pasta sauce I’m wary.

The box with the green side is sea salt. Huge great shards of it. It’s great. You can almost eat it by itself. Then some vinegar next to that. I originally bought that vinegar to add to the bucket to mop my floor. The whole flat stank of vinegar for several days, so I’ve reverted to classic vinegar use- strictly food.

There are some spices and stuff next, renaissance man that I am. I’d very much recommend the coffee there- Nescafe Azera. It’s rich and creamy ‘barista style’ instant coffee. It’s fantastic. Who cares about coffee machines and what have you. Instant coffee would have blown your mind a few centuries ago. I’m happy enough with it. The white containers are some supplements for my joints- fish oil and ‘glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin’. Absolute bullshit. Do nothing in all likelihood. Rarely remember to take them. I sometimes leave them on the worktop to remind myself but if anyone is coming they go back in the cupboard, so it doesn’t look like a convalescent home.

 

I Know a Good Man When I See One

Yesterday I felt like writing some poetry. I want that experience I’ve sometimes felt when writing, probably on fewer than ten occasions in total, when a satisfying line pops into existence out of nowhere- it seems to be not of your own volition yet there’s no question that it’s exactly what you were after. It hits the spot. Anytime that’s happened it’s been at least an hour or so into writing. It doesn’t happen walking down the street. My thought was that poetry might be a shortcut to that. Or that that’s maybe the essence of poetry? Which is why I was in the mood to try it yesterday.

Sitting there, my first thought was that I’d write a Haiku because I thought there’d be good bang for my buck that way. But I looked Haiku up on wikipedia and became discouraged. You need a cutting word at the end of one line, separating two distinct moods, and it usually incorporates some ideas about the seasons. I didn’t want to have to do that kind of work. My hope was that I would hit on something I felt deeply about and then the poem would arrange itself naturally into a meaningful or attractive form.

So I started to mull over what I could write about. Immediately my walk the other day came to mind. I was walking up the residential backstreets off the main road on the return leg of my journey and I stopped to change what I had playing on my earphones. As I was stood there on the pavement a diminutive old guy, who looked a bit down on his luck, passed me and said ‘There’s a good man, I know a good man when I see one’.

I’m not sure why I’m inclined to get poetic about this rather than say my dinner of boiled potatoes with tinned meatballs. Probably because it was a novel experience and because there’s an unusual interaction between two strangers in it which gives it some charge. A poet shouldn’t need to rely on drama or novelty though, that’s what drama and …novels are for. But regardless, I dashed out my first poem in yonks in 30 seconds. It’s awful of course, being a completely thoughtless effort. What I did learn was that I like the notion of using plain language in a non-banal way and I also enjoy rhythm, so finding a form where rhythm is key would be good. In retrospect, disappointingly, I saw that I had just surrounded the main incident with second-hand ‘writing a poem now!’ ideas. So trying to think outside the box when I start to get moony-eyed is going to be necessary. Finally I got a little mopey right at the end, with a change of direction in the last two lines, in the mistaken belief that doing that would make the poem ‘big’, rather than wank. That’s another hazard to avoid.

Irritating

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Those Dishes Won’t Do Themselves.”

My least favourite household task is changing the duvet cover. I’m vaguely aware that there’s a trick to it and I should google that actually, but as things stand it involves pushing one side in a bit, walking to the other side of the bed, pushing that side in, yanking the underside up to match, then walking back round to the other side and so on. It’s such a messy operation, there’s the threat there that it’s not going to work out, unlike with doing the dishes for instance where you have a great sense of progress. I somehow managed to arrange things on New Years Eve 2013-14 so that I was changing the fucking duvet cover as the year turned. That was maybe a half-conscious, fairly lame attempt to ‘bottom out’ so I’d be motivated to change my life- potentially the beginnings of a duvet cover problem- ‘Man, back then, I’d wake up in the morning and the first thing I’d do is change a duvet cover. It got to the point where I was changing duvet covers five, six times a day. I’d change a duvet cover like other people have a glass of wine. There was a time when I would have sold my own mother for fresh duvet covers to change. If I saw a duvet cover, I’d have to change it. It was that simple’. But the duvet cover thing turned out to be a one-off. 2014 wasn’t great in the end, but I can be thankful for that at least.

Austerity

The word ‘Austerity’ crept up without me noticing and is now everywhere. It’s the government approved term for the economic strategy being followed. David Cameron used it first in a speech in 2009, with his ‘Age of Austerity’. Webster’s made it word of the year in 2010. It seems to be used uncritically by all sides now, strangely. It absolutely is a tad creepy and Orwellian, in the way it can be a bad thing when it needs to be and a good thing when it needs to be. It screws opponents of the economic strategy – the anti-austerity marchers and ‘End Austerity Now’ campaigners. What do they want instead? Indulgence? I can’t remember anything as crafty as that in politics before.

Then in the run up to the election Cameron got the name of the football team he supports wrong. He was talking about the economy or something, about how football support brings in so much revenue, and he’s saying he encourages support for all teams across the country, then adds jovially- ‘But of course I’d rather it was for West Ham’, at which point his face froze for a brief second as he remembered it was Aston Villa he’s been claiming to support for years.

I mean, that’s fucking dreadful. I wonder are people out there as thick as he and his advisers obviously imagine them to be? Whatever the case, both of the above make me think there’s something quite cold and insulting going on. The austerity thing suggests a commitment to and knack for manipulation, and the football thing speaks for itself- the idiots must be humoured.

Jeremy’s ”Fuck You Bush’ poem from Peep Show sums up my mood (awful recording but whatever):

 

A Trip Away to My Happy Place

Fight or Flight

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding, belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

What has sprung to mind is the time towards the end of my accounting course when I returned home from an exam feeling that I had failed it. It was a situation where failure was not an option. As well as needing to pass in order to get employed and not have wasted a year, things were arranged so that my sense of self-worth was riding on success. I badly needed to prove to myself that I could do what other people do and that me having made very little progress in life was not due to laziness. So when I felt I hadn’t managed, and that I was where I was indeed because I was a dumbass or lazy or a lazy dumbass it drove me into a panic. It was a mild panic attack, after driving home, where I became extremely agitated and a little disoriented. I was desperately grasping for comfort of some sort and it was kind of interesting to me what I had to turn to. In terms of the immediate thing that I needed TV wasn’t any kind of prospect. Neither was eating or even drinking. It was Peter Biskind’s book ‘Easy Riders, Raging Bulls’ about the ‘New Hollywood’ of the 1970s, which I’d read before obviously and had a copy of sitting there. Tales of De Niro, Scorsese and company discussing the Taxi Driver script in an eaterie off the main boulevard in Cannes 1973, bumping in to a stoned Nicholson and Angelica Houston on their exit! Scorsese had been wearing the same white suit for weeks don’t you know. Friedkin wasn’t well liked, and The Exorcist was a distant memory at this stage etc etc. I just opened the book randomly and this kind of stuff had an opiate like effect, calming me down immediately. It was exactly what I needed. I ‘went to my happy place’ in a big way and emerged about an hour an a half later right as rain.