Friday, September 25, 2009

Annoyed by my dinner

My husband's taken two kids out for the evening, and I'm home with the baby. If I'd remembered in time, I'd have bought something nice for my dinner. But I forgot. I gaze into the fridge. The three turnips, two carrots and stick of celery that were there this morning became soup with friends at lunchtime. I have no onions; they went into the soup. So I'm left with an inch-long stump of cucumber and a bit of ginger. We've run out of bread and crushed tomatoes and frozen peas, and I'm grazing on the last of the olives as I fret about dinner.

Be simple, I think. There's nothing to eat anyhow, and it's pouring with rain, and the baby wants to go to bed so I can hardly go shopping or get take away. So I make a bowl of spaghetti with olive oil and parmesan and tell myself that this is a classic dish. It's too wet to pick lettuce, so I forego even a salad.

As I'm eating my spaghetti, I'm feeling ravenous for protein. I think of all the great burgers I have eaten... and tell myself firmly that this is a simple meal, much better for the world. And then I remember that the olive oil is my favourite oil from Crete, on sale this week at one sixth the price of the local olive oils and I couldn't pass it up. The spaghetti is Italian, as is the parmesan. I'm sitting there eating food from across the world, and I'm feeling ungrateful. And annoyed at myself for feeling ungrateful, even as I reflect that a good local spud with a pool of melting butter; a good local steak oozing blood onto my plate, is probably far better for the earth than tony Italian imports.

Annoyed at my dinner and how little I want it. Annoyed that I was disorganized, and had no better option. Annoyed at my hunger, and how much it dominates my mood. Annoyed at my family, who will be well fed at their party. Annoyed at food miles and vegetarianism and every other restriction on eating that I want to live by but just find too hard much of the time. And annoyed that I'm annoyed.

I'd like to think I'm growing in maturity - and then this, this frustration at a single meal, the way a meal shapes my self-image, my worldview, my evening, makes me want to shriek with exasperation. We're such physical beings, so affected by weather and food and exercise and illness. A late meal, and I'm shouting at the kids. Not enough protein, and I slump in fatigue, overwhelmed by the demands of a young family. Too little exercise, and I get the blues. Repeatedly broken sleep, and I weep into my muesli. But get those things right, and I'm cheerfully confident, full of energy and ideas.

How would it shape my thinking if I didn't have access to good food? What sort of crank would I become? My slow growth in the ways of gentleness and kindness, my attempts at patience, my ability to think and muse and wonder - are they nothing more than the product of sourdough rye and buttery avocadoes at lunchtime?

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