Category Archives: Food

The Second Prophecy

Shall I have many adventures?

Answer : –

 “Enough to make you regret it”

For the past eight months every Tuesday through Friday has been the same. At 9:45am I say goodbye to Den – who is inevitably pottering about, carrying a paintbrush and muttering to himself. I walk through town to the restaurant. I unlock the gate, then the door – the alarm starts to sound, I run up the stairs and type in the code. I switch on the lights, turn on the heating and so the day begins. With the downtown radio turned on, I take the money from the office, replacing it in the till. I empty the bathroom bins. I hoover the restaurant floor. By 10:30am I have hoovered and mopped the floors, it’s coffee time. The ritual of making coffee, especially the first of the day, is a sacred one. I grind the beans which I compact into the press. Heating milk is an art form; the jug must be balanced – sturdy and small. The secret to good froth is all in the noise, it should sound soft and hollow, a whisper – the nozzle of the steamer starts at the bottom of the jug, moving to the top as the milk heats, rising in volume as the froth builds. As the milk settles, I turn the hot water on, letting it filter through the ground beans; dark liquid with a crème fills the bottom of the cup. Adding the milk completes the process. I make six coffees for the chefs; the seventh is a latte for me. I don’t believe in semi-skimmed milk, coffee is a luxury – indulge with full fat. Then I cut the butters, fill ramekins, polish glasses and set tables depending on the bookings – it’s almost noon. I change the menu board outside, switch the radio on to the 7 year old playlist. I hate that playlist. I change the sign and we are open. Most lunches are quiet, sometimes Mr D comes in – he’s older than God and brings in his wife. She’s in a nursing home just up the road. They come in at 12:20; they have pan fried lemon sole – his with mash, hers with Sautee. Green beans in olive oil, lemon zest, shallots, thyme. One glass of Sauvignon blanc, one of Rioja. He’ll have an americano-no-milk while she has an apple crumble with vanilla-pod ice-cream.

I’ve had this niggling the past few weeks – uncomfortable half-thoughts ricocheting through my mind of travel, places, adventure. The oracle says I will have enough adventures to regret them, if that’s a warning I can quite safely say that regret is always preferable to repetitive mundaneness. The real danger of boredom is that it gives way to self-indulgent specualtions, and I have found myself in overdrive – obsessing whether I know myself at all. Which is as melodramatic as it is annoying. The real problem is that my life is fractured at the best of times, part of me left in Africa, the other part uneasy with what identity I’ve created. London made things worse. I went there and somehow got mixed up the fringes of the arrogant, opulent and slowly decaying society that my frayed colonial ties afforded. There is something about the clawing upper middle class in England, it was as appealing as it was tragic. I liked the cosmopolitanism, the sohpistication, the clothes… so far away from Zimbabwe.

 I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognised apprehension that here, at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city – Evelyn Waugh

Today I don’t miss London, today I really miss being ten; playing by the naarjie trees in a sliver batwing dress from the Narnia cupboard with no concern beyond … what did we worry about then?

My worry today is living with the regret of having too few adventures. Which makes me realise that starting my masters in law in September is a colossal mistake. I’m going travelling.


The First Prophecy

What will be the result of my enterprise?

Answer :

 “All your foresight will be of no avail”

It was quiet last night in the Restaurant, so I talked to Michal while I ate chilli prawn risotto (at this rate I will look like Shelob and never be able to run the marathon). He told me that fifteen years ago when he was starting out as a commis (not communist) chef in Warsaw, a group of forty people turned up and demanded the restaurant was emptied of its guests. The group, it turned out, where members of the Russian Mafia and their prostitute friends. Michal said they were all slightly nervous; they were told there would be consequences if the food wasn’t up to scratch – but in the end it didn’t really matter because Russian Mafia members only like to eat potatoes, albeit with caviar as a garnish. I asked him if he had been worried they would kill him, “No” and my question annoyed him – he wasn’t frightened, why would he be? If you are honest and passionate about what you do there will be no cause for complaint. I quite like the fable of the Russian Mafia – so long as you are honest and passionate no one should want to knee-cap you. Just know how to cook potatoes.

The revelation that agonising about the future is futile is hardly ground-breaking, nevertheless it’s still true and worth remembering. There was no need for Michal to fear being stabbed by some enraged Mafioso whose sautéed potatoes weren’t quite garlicky enough – he knew they would be perfect. And perhaps that’s my problem, I lack conviction. I attribute most of my flakey and unappealing characteristics to the fact that a large proportion of my life has been conducted in my head. The fact that I’ve done so many remarkable things in my fictional life means the real one is often left short. I have this constant fear that by persuing one interest I am closing the door to all the others.  This is something I will endeavour to rectify.  Losing the safety-net of education is a terrifying thing.

Worrying, as the Oracle so wisely states, is of no avail and so taking this on board I realise I am exempt from a day of internship applications (jobs are totally future-orientated); instead I will spend the day watching the Leveson enquiry and googling celebrity workouts.

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