So, the lockdown hesitantly begins its long, slow stumble towards the finish line and, as we have all grown used to the once-a-month, only-available-slot, 2am grocery delivery, I thought it would be a reasonable idea to take a peek into my food cupboards and consider the ways in which we might all prepare for whatever is to be, as we approach the ‘New Normal’ and struggle to use up the thirteen tins of Pek Chopped Pork and three gross of pan-scourers the supermarket sent as substitutes for fresh veg.
During the lockdown I, myself, discovered that we had in a huge quantity of oats which, since it was not minus twenty eight degrees outside, was not being utilised in the production of porridge. Pluckily, I decided to make flapjack. It couldn’t be easier. My first attempt produced something which could just possibly be used in the building industry – probably as a substitute for concrete lintels, whilst my second attempt produced something that could only be eaten with a spoon. Such being the times in which we live, both were eaten. I have also discovered that, as we slowly run out of anything that even remotely resembles real coffee, I can actually drink tap water – as long as I add a splash of Scotch to disguise the flavour. If, like me, you have discovered thirteen tins of coconut milk in the back of the cupboard, accidentally hoarded for no conceivable reason, why not make a coconut milk shake? The method is simplicity itself: take a tin of coconut milk and shake it. The flavour is a subtle blend of coconut and lard, and the fat content is sufficient to give your statins a nervous breakdown.
Also at the back of these shelves you will find at least one tin of sardines in tomato sauce (possibly, depending upon your age, pilchards, sild or even brisling – nobody knows what they are nor where they come from) and you will be wondering what to do with them. The answer is surprisingly simple: put them in the bin. Do not open them (particularly if they have one of those titchy little key jobbies that allow you to put a three-inch gash in a two inch finger) they taste like shit and they are full of tiny calcified bones that make retching unavoidable. Also, they have an odour half-life of about three million years and you can smell them on the breath of any consumer for decades – think snogging a sea lion.
The same procedure should be followed for the bag of Okra you are bound to find at the back of the fridge, it having been sent in mistake for green chillies, or miniature hairy cucumbers, or tampons, or anything else that they were out of. Whoever decided that it should be called ‘Lady’s Fingers’ must have mixed in very unsavoury company. Do not be tempted to put them in the compost: they turn into something that resembles green wallpaper paste and smells like a Glastonbury Portaloo. In my experience, okra is destined for the bin cooked or uncooked, so you might as well save some energy and dump it from the off. However, if you absolutely cannot tolerate food waste and insist on eating it, okra can be cooked in one of two ways:
1. Slightly undercooked – crunchy and inedible
2. Slightly overcooked – slimy and inedible. Now you know how a hedgehog feels when it eats a slug. Just imagine a staple diet of something that looks like it has been coughed up. Like a lifetime trapped on Ready, Steady Cook. Traditionally it is cooked in a curry sauce and left in big enough chunks to pick out and leave on the side of the plate.
Now is also the time to go through the freezer and throw out all of those little bags of leftovers that you put in there ‘just in case’. You will never eat them. In twelve months time you will find them whilst searching for potato waffles and have no idea whatsoever of what they are. You will defrost them and attempt to feed them to the cat who will probably decide it would sooner eat beetles. Unloved brussel sprouts do no become more alluring for the freezing. Remember, this stuff was probably leftover because you couldn’t face it first time round. It is quite permissible to experiment with turnip and banana pizza, but it is not permissible to defrost it and serve it to friends.
Finally, it is time to go to the veg rack, in order to discover where that smell is coming from. Do not dispose of things simply because they look a little withered: your children will remember and remind you of your cavalier attitude when they think the time is right to put you in a home. Potatoes remain edible providing the sprouts are not long enough to coil around the cupboard legs; carrots do not have to be entirely orange; nobody eats the kale anyway, so don’t worry, and parsnips always look like that…
Normality is a paved road: it’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it – Vincent Van Gogh