I don’t know about you, but one of the things that I have found the hardest about living away from home is cooking for myself. It’s not that I can’t cook. I can. My Mum is an avid fan of Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, Nigella’s Kitchen, Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers, Masterchef and the like. Name any food related TV programme and, chances are, I’ve seen it. One million times.
Now, I’m not trying to equate my cooking skills with those of Jamie Oliver and Nigella (although it is my lifetime ambition to be half as fabulous as her when I’m her age). I’m just saying that I’m not clueless about food, I love food and take an interest in cooking and I am capable of knocking up a simple meal. However, I hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be to buy and cook food for one person. Maybe it’s just me being dim, or OCD.
Take packets of ham, for example. Relatively cheap, easy to shove into a sandwich, pasta, salad, whatever you fancy. But if you buy a big pack of ham (because the smaller packs are usually more expensive), it’s more to use up. Which means cling-filming the packet and putting it back in the fridge. Cue nausea. Because, you see, other people put their food in the fridge uncovered. And this very thought has always filled me with dread. When I next pull my opened packet of ham out of the fridge with trembling hands, beads of cold sweat on my forehead, I anticipate the inevitable. I spread butter onto my bread, add a few slices of ham for a simple ham sandwich. Except when I take a bite it isn’t a simple ham sandwich. It tastes like the unwrapped half of somebody else’s onion that had been shoved on the shelf above my ham. I could weep.
Then there’s the issue of the dreaded Big Food Shop. Obviously I have to buy an even number of loose fruits and vegetables, so, for example, four apples, four carrots, four bananas… I like four. Four is generally a good number, but I’ve also figured out that it’s just the right number so that I can eat the fruit and vegetables in good time before they get mouldy. Common sense is not my strong point, so in first year I was like an excitable puppy, away from home, cooking for myself, having a great time. I remember the first time I ventured to Lidl for my Big Food Shop, which was a total disaster. I remember spending £40 on food, ending up with 4 massive sacks that I couldn’t even carry home and so had to spend a further £10 on a taxi back to campus. Cringe. And because I’d gone so crazy (I repeat, common sense is not my strong point) I’d guess that about 70% of the food had to be given to my flat mates before it went mouldy so that it wouldn’t go to waste. So much for MY Big Food Shop, I may as well have been the personal shopper of the flat.
I’m slowly getting better, you live and you learn. I learnt the hard way. Lidl chewed me up and spat me back out. I still haven’t been back there since.