It seemed like such a good idea. Dinners for students. I’d pay €10 per week and Clever Cuisine would deliver four dinners to Hall every Monday evening. Four different meats, four different servings of ready peeled and chopped vegetables, and four servings of potatoes, also chopped and peeled. They come with a recipe sheet, telling you which foods to put together and what to have on what day.
This would be my salvation. I spend far too much money on food. And I need to get into some kind of cooking routine like a normal person. A packet of chocolate digestives is not a dinner. Especially when you have it with pizza. Scrambled eggs and toast are better, but hardly amount to a “dinner”.
So Clever Cuisine would be the saviours of both my wallet and my digestive system.
I would follow the recipe sheet and just cook the meals in the order they were listed. I’d be like a normal person, with a healthy, adult relationship with food. It would be great.
I started last week. But I decided to start on the Tuesday. Mondays are bad days to start new things. So on Monday I had a takeaway pizza. On Tuesday, I realised that I’d be at the cinema on Wednesday night and I’d be in England on Friday and Saturday night. Oh no! I only had two days to eat four dinners. Day 1 was a chicken burger with diced potatoes and carrots and Day 2 was pork and leek sausages with turnips and whole potatoes.
I decided I’d better have both Day 1 and Day 2 for dinner on Tuesday.
I used to have a lot of pots and pans, but quite a few of them disappeared in the kitchen of my flat-of-14-boys last year. So, I decided to boil the turnips with the carrots, and I decided to throw the diced potatoes into the same pot with the whole potatoes.
Now, I have a brain. I let the whole potatoes boil for five minutes before I threw the diced potatoes in with them. And I let the turnips cook for at least three minutes before putting in the carrots.
But it just didn’t work. The potatoes refused to synchronise. And the turnips maintained a granite-like texture long after the carrots started to get mushy. I have to admit, I don’t think I’ve ever boiled non-frozen vegetables before. And with all my vegetable-related fussing, I let the chicken burger burn. Eventually, I decided I just had to serve whatever I could.
I strained and mashed the potatoes. Except I didn’t really. The diced potatoes mashed fine, but the whole potatoes weren’t even kind of cooked. As I attempted to mash, one potato flew across the kitchen and landed on the carpet in front of my couch. Bollix.
I just heaped everything on the plate. The pile of vegetables and potatoes was ambitiously high.
I sat down. It was vile. The vegetables and the potatoes were like a stone soup. The chicken burger was black. I basically had the sausages for dinner. The mountain of food that was left was too big to throw out. I considered making an actual soup, but that would be too much effort. Maybe a casserole? 24 hours later, Vegetable Mountain was just too big and too shame-inducing. I threw it away.
I had Day 3 on Thursday and Day 4 on Sunday. There were no incidents.
This week, as with every week since I was about nine, I swore that I’d have a new start.
On Monday, I had a pizza again, with cheese and garlic chips. But it was Monday, so that was excusable.
On Tuesday, I was at the pub and the cinema. So, on Wednesday, I had Day 1. This week, Day 1 was chicken goujons with potato wedges and carrots. I decided not to have the carrots. Who has carrots with wedges? That would just be nuts. The “recipe” for the day suggests using a deep fat fryer. I don’t have a deep fat fryer, so I just half-filled my frying pan with sunflower oil.
I did not burn the house down. Nor did I burn myself. It was fine. I even made a pepper sauce in which to dip the goujons and the wedges.
Last night, I was on duty. And it was a hard night. Yes, I got an excellent hug. And yes, I laughed, but it was just a silly messy night, with two hours of negotiating with drunk teenagers.
I arrived in after midnight. I was feeling sorry for myself and starving. Dinner time!
I looked in the fridge. I did not go to Day 2. Instead, I decided on Day 4, which was a serving of minced beef. The “recipe” suggested I accompany this with potatoes and cauliflower. Really? Cauliflower and minced beef? What kind of neanderthal do they think I am? I had some pasta and some pasta sauce.
The pan of oil that I’d used the day before to make wedges and chicken goujons was still on the cooker. I took my One Direction mug and scooped out a lot of the oil. I would use what was left for the minced beef. I turned on the ring to heat the oil up.
Except I didn’t. After about a minute I smelled the horrible scent of melting plastic. I had turned on the wrong ring on the cooker. The power cable for my toaster (actually the property of Hall) was lying across the ring. It was a molten mess.
I turned on the right ring. And after a minute, the air filled with the smell of potato wedges. The oil had begun to smell like the kitchen in McDonald’s. I tossed in the mince, a few spices and, later, the pasta sauce. In another pot I cooked my brown pasta. (I never buy white pasta. I’m always going to start a diet tomorrow. I never have full-fat milk in the house either. In fact, after over twenty years of “diets”, I kind of prefer skimmed milk to real milk and I definitely prefer Diet Coke to the full-sugar type.)
At 1:05 last night, I sat down in front of the telly, with a plate full of pasta, minced beef and tomato sauce. The entire dish tasted of chips. It was easily my best dinner in two weeks.