November 9, 2018, by Jem

A Fool’s Experience of Self Catering

‘Dangerous’ would be the chief adjective I’d use in describing my harrowing entry into the realm of self catering. My body has rejected two separate meals that I have concocted in the space of a fortnight – a statistic that even I, in all my culinary incompetence, could never have foreseen.

Upon my mother’s insistence, I cooked a handful of dishes before returning to university for my second year. The absence of any grave mistakes in the cooking of these meals (which I have since concluded was the result of motherly monitoring as opposed to any excellence on my part) granted me an amount of confidence that should not exist within the chest of a man who has, at most, three pasta dishes to his name.

With the ill-founded belief that my mastery of Italian cuisine rivalled that of a Michelin chef, I purchased twice the required ingredients for a Spaghetti Bolognese. Instead of four servings, I would be preparing eight as I was certain that the meal would be so delicious that I wouldn’t mind eating it eight days in a row.

The upshot of my hefty and arrogant purchase was that, now, a heck of a lot more was on the line: four onions, a kilo of mince, and two tins of chopped tomatoes were at the core of this ambitious project. It therefore came as a great relief when the cooking of these three ingredients was a delightful blip-free procedure. Sweet thoughts rose to mind as I hummed warm melodies through the steam of my labours; thoughts such as ‘Cooking is a real treat’ and ‘My, isn’t this great?!’

Google informs me that seasoning is a process whereby salt, herbs, and spices are added to food to enhance the flavour. In a word, I went to grind the salt and the lid twisted off. Now, what happened here could not be categorised as seasoning. This is because the full contents of a brand-new bottle of salt did not enhance the flavour of the core ingredients, but rather completely overpowered any morsel of their original taste AND cloaked the ingredients, which I had discovered so much joy in cooking, entirely from my vision.

The second concern I felt, after reflecting that I can no longer taste or see the mince, was that this thing has cost me a fortune; it must be saved. With a racing heart, I set about flooding this traditional Italian meal with vinegar, pepper, basil, chillis, and a bottle of Highland Spring. The price of the meal was rising with each added herb and sauce. It was when I found myself emptying a can of cider into the mixture, that I realised: this was not my mother’s recipe.

Cut to the consumption of this thing – my body did not allow me to engulf more than one spoonful. It seems that my digestive system failed to recognise the Spaghetti Bolognese as a food item, and instead perceived it as a threat to my well-being and possibly even my life. The only thing Michelin about this meal was the price, and I didn’t feel comfortable forking out a shed load of dimes for, what was essentially, sea water with a bit of texture and a risk of fatality.

I learnt nothing from my mistake and made an identical error during the preparation of a large pot of curry. After inundating the chicken and chopped tomatoes with chickpea liquid, I blanketed the hideous pond of food with ‘Extra Hot Chilli Powder’. There are now parts of me in need of repair.

I’m not sure what’s harder to stomach: the meals I have cooked thus far, or the fact that bin bags have become a key component of my cuisine.

Posted in Jem