Sometimes, okay… most of the time, our intentions and the reality of what ends up actually happening are about as far apart as the legs of a particularly bendy stripper.
It’s annoying, because even the word ‘intentions’ has got that pathetic acknowledgment of failure inbuilt into its meaning, and so you know you’re fucked as soon as it comes out your mouth.
It’s on my mind at the moment because the last three weeks have been a spectacular failure on my part to bring together what I’d like to happen with what actually ended up happening. It also explains how I ended up eating about 49 toasted sandwiches in the space of 11 days or so, and inevitably what that’s done to my a) self-esteem, and b) my internal organs – which have by now mostly been replaced by melted cheese.
Let me explain how post-production on a commercial (which is what I do for a living) works. After you’ve shot, you go to what’s called ‘First Light’, which is where you see your footage for the first time and you do a very rough grade of the film, mainly just to get it to match so that it doesn’t jump all over the place in the edit. This takes pace in a very dim room where the first thing that happens is that you get offered coffee and toasted sandwiches, which of course, because it’s 7am on Monday morning and you were at the cricket all the previous day drinking tequila, you gratefully accept. Maybe you have two. You know, just to make sure.
After that you go through to your offline edit, which is in a similar darkened room, but this time there are couches. Which you gratefully lie on a lot. Mostly because you’re still hungover and also now full of toasted sandwiches and caffeine and you need to just be still for a bit so that between those two they can figure out who’s boss. But now of course it’s lunchtime, so there’s more offerings of toasted sandwiches and coffee. Maybe pizza too. Which you technically say yes to, because you were semi-comatose, and that was taken as a thumbs up.
And then you spend three days there.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
And like clockwork, every 20 minutes or so, someone pops their head around the door to offer you more coffee and toasted sandwiches, which of course you always say yes to, because you don’t want to seem rude. This happens so much that after a while you suspect you may have been sucked into a worm-hole where you now exist as a fictional character in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (which if you haven’t read, could be the basis of an incredibly successful drinking game where you take a shot every time someone has “coffee and a sandwich”, which is seemingly every half a page).
Then your clients and your agency arrive, and to celebrate that – everyone has some coffee and a toasted sandwich, and because you don’t want to be left out, you join in. Then you trundle off to your grade, where the dude who’s making all the colours come out prettily, asks if you want ‘the special’ which is apparently a toasted sandwich made with bacon and brie. Which sounds like the last three days, but on steroids, and because by this point (in your head), you’ve elevated eating fried bread and drinking coffee to almost martial-arts-like divine heights, you can’t exactly say no, now that the equivalent of a Bruce Lee-esque fight to the death has been laid down.
Then you go next door to do the online edit, and the burly Chinese guy with the bad-ass ink who’s operating the suite offers you something to eat or drink. And because he quite scary you say yes, otherwise you’re afraid you might get stuffed into a dustbin or something. Even though at this point, your mouth doesn’t work so well, your skin feels like its being rubbed with dead leaves, and generally you just wish someone would scrub you from the inside with a wire brush. A nice lady arrives ten minutes later with a tray of, yes…those things.
Because this is getting repetitive, all I’m going to say is that after that comes a music recording session, a VO recording and a final audio mix, all of which are accompanied by a never-ending, inexorable supply of coffee and toasted sandwiches, all made with more melted cheese than you thought possible to fit between two pieces of butter-grilled bread, and all impossible to resist.
All of this has contributed significantly to the fact that I probably won’t make it to Haley’s Comet’s return (which will be when I’m 84 and was near the top of my bucket list), and was also a huge contributing factor to me just sitting at home this weekend failing to muster up enthusiasm for anything other than season three of Community.
Last night was then the final straw, the moment where I decided ‘enough’, and hauled myself bodily out of the murderous pit of my own design with a handful of plums, some couscous and a chicken. Which sounds like the beginning of a joke, but is not.
Ingredients (for 2)
4 pieces chicken, skin on (use what you prefer, if you’re a leg enthusiast, so be it. Me, wild horses couldn’t drag me away from a good bit of thigh)
5 large ripe plums
1 cinnamon stick
2 shallots, very finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
Half a glass of red wine
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp assorted seeds ( I used the woollies mix of sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
1 cup of couscous
1 handful of dried dates (chopped)
1 handful of rosa tomatoes ( quartered)
1 stick of celery (chopped)
A splash of olive oil
What to do
In a pan, heat a splash of olive oil – season the chicken pieces and fry over a high heat until browned but by no means cooked through, then set aside.
Chop up the plums, removing the stone from each and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter – and just as its beginning to foam, throw in the chopped shallots. When they’ve softened and have turned translucent, add the chopped plums stirring vigorously until they’ve started to break up a bit. Get the heat so that the mix is energetically simmering away, add the cinnamon stick, a splash of water to loosen and the sugar. Stir again for about 2 minutes, turn the heat down and leave on a gentle bubble for about 20 minutes, until the plums have fully disintegrated and its taken on a thickish saucy quality. At this point, add the red wine, stir again and leave for another 10 minutes to bubble away. Then, remove the cinnamon stick, and empty into a blender or use a stick blender to pulse until smooth. Generously coat the chicken in the plum sauce, and set aside for half an hour.
Turn your oven up to 200 degrees Celsius, lay the chicken out on a roasting and get them in the heat until golden and plummy and sticky (about half an hour should do it), sprinkle with the seeds for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Quickly fry the dates, celery and tomatoes in a pan with some olive oil. Decant the couscous into a pot, then cover with just enough freshly boiled water. Stir vigorously with a fork, then put on the lid to let it steam. After about five minutes, loosen with the fork again, then replace the lid for another 5 minutes. The third time you stir, the couscous should be lovely and fluffy. Add the celery, dates and tomatoes and stir them in.
Serve the chicken with the couscous, a crisp glass of Chardonnay and try to get your arteries to be your friend again.