Illustration by Lily Orset // @c.lemontine
There is a special time in the evening that I keep all to myself. I put the nice lights on in the kitchen (no big light) and music or a podcast only I want to listen to, I open a bottle of wine I probably didn’t need to buy, and I make dinner.
With this wine – or it could be a gin and tonic, some homemade plum vodka or an eyeballed Manhattan with three cherries – there will be snacks. These are not predetermined, specially purchased snacks, and they’re not for anyone else – just me. Maybe it’s some fridge-lurking pickles I made months ago, which never seem to be eaten at any other time, paired with a few chunks of cheese, or a ‘pub salad’ of crisp and nut ends. It could be cold roast potatoes with mayonnaise, or a ramekin of anchovies with a side of Turkish peppers. Cured meat of any kind, if you’re lucky, cubes of hot buttered toast with Gentleman’s Relish, or just a cold, salty cucumber and radishes with butter. While these things can be put into bowls, I feel that takes them too close into nibble territory, and as such I prefer to group them along the top of my chopping board for handy mid-chop sustenance. Cook’s treats, I tell myself – lucky me. It’s a term that’s usually used to refer to offcuts or unwanted end bits from the thing you’re cooking, and I partake in those, too (hello, frying lardons), but for me, any little niblet eaten during those precious couple of hours can be classified as such, as they are the snacks that only I (the cook) am party to.
This ritual – oven on, hob on, bowls and pans and plates and spoons, up and down and in and out – has almost become more enjoyable than the event it is leading up to. And the enjoyment of it doesn’t alter according to the occasion, either – whether I’m cooking for one person or eight. Indeed, it’s the regularity of it that makes it special – it’s a thrilling, private joy, but I can do it every night. It is, however, especially pertinent ‘now’. When all we are is at home, this time becomes the bridge between the work day and the evening – between sitting at the table and sitting on the sofa. There are two parts of me nowadays, and neither of them are particularly exciting. There’s the daytime me that has to remember to work, to go outside, to think about what might happen next week or next month – and the me that is shut off, switch clicked, blocking it all out for another evening. Between those two monotonies is the time when I cook, drink my delicious, ice-cold wine, and eat my pre-dinner snacks. When the days blur into a long thread of nothingness, these little treats provide much-needed punctuation – a pin prick of optimism where mostly there is little of it.
After all this, when the dinner is eventually ready, the radio is off and most of the wine drunk, I say goodbye to kitchen me for another day. That brief interval, and those cook’s treats, will keep me going until the next time. Arrivederci, my friend – thanks for the fun.
Lucy's piece was originally published in Issue 3 of Potluck. Pick up a copy today!