It might just be me who has an iffy relationship with food, although I don’t think so because memory tells me that I’ve had something along the lines of this discussion with ‘er over at Phew!Whataview. Much to the horror of various foodie friends of mine, I don’t much care about food. I enjoy eating out far more for the conversation and company than the food itself, and am liable to say that I had a great meal, and then be utterly unable to recall what I ate. Although that is partly due to the absolute laziness of many restaurants when it comes to their vegetarian option. Goat cheese starter, followed by wild mushroom risotto? I could be pretty much anywhere. Goat cheese starter followed by goat cheese main course, on the other hand, must be Quod, on the High Street, whose menu is now a standing joke with me and my friend S. Periodically, we stop by to check if they’ve bothered to update it, roll our eyes and walk on.
When not eating out my contention is that there are rules around food, with regard to the appropriate presentation, allowable frequency of eating or the right number for the serving of some foodstuffs that means that any other offering is
entirely unthinkable unfortunate. Some of these rules I made up; some are, surely, unalterable rules of the universe?
Toast and other toasty, bready type things – 2 slices at a time, never a single piece; 2 crumpets, 1 teacake (because quite large and in 2 halves), 2 hot cross buns; and so on. I’m always surprised when asked, quite as though there was a choice in the matter, ‘How many slices of toast would you like?’.
Biscuits – also in twos, or multiples of two; although, for Jaffa Cakes, the correct serving is the entire box. Obviously.
Cheese and biscuits – 6 biscuits, or multiples of 6. This is possibly because cheese and biscuits is my default ‘I just got home from work and I’m starving’ snack; or possibly because I’m a cheese snaffling hound. And the biscuits are quite small. Although the amounts of cheese are quite large. Well, regardless, if I ever put together a plate of cheese and biscuits for you, there will be 6 biscuits. And no butter, I always forget that people actually eat butter.
Maltesers – are eaten by the handful until the box is empty; but then, it’s only allowable to buy a box of Maltesers 2 or 3 times a year.
Almond croissants – AKA, the Holy Grail of Breakfast Foods, because until I walked past Pret a Manger every day in Manhattan, almond croissants were a rare delicacy in my Connecticut life. As soon as they became readily available, a rule had to come into being: no more than one a month. This rule is being reinstated now that I’ve rediscovered the almond croissants at Maison Blanc.
Fruit – oh, who cares? But apples have to be sliced up to minimise the sheer boredom inherent in eating them and that nasty way they have of coating your teeth in apple juice; and, in fact, are best faced when mostly hidden in a cheese, crisp and apple sandwich; satsumas and clementines should, ideally, be presented already peeled and with the pith removed, otherwise my hands smell of orange for ages afterwards and I hate that. (In fact, I dislike the smell of citrus in general, particularly the fake citrus smell of cleaning products. And it’s quite difficult finding non-citrus cleaning products, I can tell you. Even the fucking furniture polish stinks of lemon these days. What’s that all about?) Oranges are a total non-starter, being way too much hassle for zero reward; mangoes come ready sliced and attached to the top of an upside-down cake.
There is then the hot and cold food rule: basically, never the twain shall meet, and all should be served, and can only be eaten, at the proper temperature. Warm things in salad? Tepid tea? I don’t think so. And you may call it vichyssoise, but I call it cold soup and I’d rather eat at Quod.
Mostly, ditto with the wet and dry foods rule, which makes beans on toast a surprisingly difficult thing to accomplish well. Toast and beans must be hot, beans must be on toast, but not to the extent that the sauce makes the toast soggy, and then have you noticed how quickly beans cool down and run the risk of infringing the hot and cold rule?
All of which, as I discovered, gets terribly complicated when you have to explain it to someone else. In fact, I only discovered some of the rules myself after I got married, because until that point I’d been obeying them instinctively. You would think it goes without saying that soggy toast is an abomination in the eyes of all the gods.