There are a couple of things that are quite difficult in life, like making a beanie out of milk.
Another is trying to pick something up again that you haven’t done in the longest time. Your brain will tell you that you’re still as good at whatever it is as you ever were, but time and negligence make fools of anyone who sincerely believes the little voice whispering all those brave encouragements.
For over a year I have had a kitchen basically in name only. Sure, there was a room in my flat that had a couple of pots and a fridge in it. But to extend the idea of that making it a ‘kitchen’ – aka a room dedicated to the storage and preparation of meals – would be a stretch. For the first few months in this ‘kitchen’, I was using cutlery I had foraged from a picnic basket that had been left at my previous flat by accident and then packed to go to my new place by negligence. I was also drinking tea out of a tin cup left by the builders who had been in the building prior to me moving in. But without these things I would have basically been eating off paper plates for months, mostly because all the cutlery was packed in sealed boxes and to go hunting through all of them to find a spoon for me to use was a prospect that filled me with about as much enthusiasm as wet underpants on a cold day.
Yes. I am also spectacularly lazy, but tell me something I don’t know.
So for a year I kinda fell back on a sort default position of ‘making do’, which is essentially a combination of eating out, occasionally bringing home goodish takeaways and filling the gaps with the sort of cooking that literally requires nothing more complicated than a medium pot and a knife just sharp enough to make a dent in a questionable tomato.
It also meant long evenings lovingly caressing the spines of my cookbooks and staring at pictures of sauces and roasts and inventive variations on Spanish prawn dishes like I was a love-torn psychopath in an 80s music video, and then trying to remember if I could still make a béarnaise.
But finally this has changed. Walls were ripped out, cupboards rebuilt from scratch, junky pieces of equipment thrown out and a place that was not only intended for this magical thing called ‘cooking’, but properly fitted to actually do it, emerged.
You know those clips of newborn foals, all trembly and wobbly but walking – usually within a couple of seconds after being plopped out of their mom? That’s basically what I felt like. I knew I could do this thing, but it felt like it’d been so long since I’d actually cooked with any form of intent or purpose that all my confidence had just vanished.
But a remarkable thing happens when suddenly you have an enthusiasm for the room in which something is traditionally meant to happen: you rediscover your enthusiasm for the thing you were always meant to be doing in that room, and that kinda blows all the trepidation out the water – because even if you suck, then at least you’re spending time in a place that makes you genuinely happy – so none of that shit matters any more.
It sounds like a such a stupidly obvious thing to say – but I’ve felt it in such a potent way in the last week or so, that it felt like it bore saying. Just having a kitchen that I loved being in was enough to push me to start dipping my toes back in the cooking water.
It’s starting small – a little lemon and Parmesan chicken lunch here, a spicy tempura prawn and coleslaw there, but the wheels have started turning, and I’m grateful that they’re doing so. It’s like I’m one of those frogs that bury themselves in mud for years and years, only to emerge when the rain comes.
And I just felt the first few drops of water coming down.