Excerpt from My (not yet bought) dinner table
It may be less about the table and more about the feeling of sitting. Alone or squeezed next to a friend, taking moments to just be.
I think it is to exist and to feel lungs rising and falling, of hands holding cutlery, of lips being licked, of eyes smiling at one another, of days feeling complete as the sky darkens, and the lights flicker on. Time spent and time taken, working over a ten-minute dinner or hours of labour and care.
I will write and breathe too much. I will overanalyse every forkful I curate. Reposition my phone’s camera by millimetres to get that absolutely perfect post. It will be an attempt at perfection, but it will likely fall short consumed by the swell of comfort and familiarity.
I think it may become more about the food I have eaten over my life, the food that reminds me of days at the beach and long nights in libraries, the food that I have given and shared, foods that hardly equate to meals and the food that I can’t help but linger over.
I will lick spoons and stir – I will invite you to sit with me as a child with my family who are no longer here and share wine with friends I no longer drink with. I will force food down your throat, and my memories into your head. I will be in and amongst place settings and parties I should not be at.
I think about mouths pressed against one another, pushing out words that don’t need to be said, taking in morsels that are there to be savoured. But my mouth is still, my eyes are still hungry, and my belly is already filled.
Excerpt from Lobsters and Exotic Fruits
There is a painting by French painter Antoine Vollon called Mound of Butter. It sits in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC (although currently not on display). It measures a mere sixty- one by fifty centimetres. It is what I would like to call dream butter, it’s utterly indulgent to even imagine having this much butter in your home. Getting a knife and slowly peeling away at Vollon’s brushstrokes – carving new ravines into its almost primrose yellow exterior. Ski slopes of yellow, being swiped away, the olive-green background peeking through the butter as shadows and craters. It is hard not to see a small gold foil wrapped square of supermarket own brand salted butter hiding behind it withering at the sight of the mountain of sunshine – its own yellow hues paling in comparison to the markings of Vollon’s work. Gold paper peeling back, trying to catch the light, the machine-made cube – smooth and rigid. Not indulgent and not even worthy of a second glance. Placed at the back of the fridge. Forgotten.
Now, I don’t think it is possible to eat this amount of butter, let alone use it before it spoils and becomes coated in dust and a film of sticky hot breath, but it is a marvel to look at. To picture it on the side in your kitchen, a great towering centre piece to a dinner table, fingers pushing in burying themselves into its soft surface. Only to then place buttery fingers on knives, fingerprints pressed upon polished handles, slipping slightly as the blade pushes down on the mound. Burnt toast sitting expectantly waiting to be lavishly coated in soft yellow peaks, to find that as the knife crunches down on its exterior – the toast has gone cold. Flecks of blackened bread coating the just too cold butter, as those buttery fingers struggle to keep grip of knives and toast and plates. Too much luxuriating in the marvel of Vollon’s painting, too much luxuriating in manipulating and disfiguring the piles of silky churned milk. Cold toast and unspreadable butter, a frustrated clatter of a knife hitting a plate.
Rewrapping the painting in its own gold paper and returning to the fridge to find the lowly block of half-eaten salted butter. Peeling a sliver off the short edge of the jagged block, a piece of butter resting on your tongue melting against the warmth of saliva and breath and enjoyment.
Excerpt from Hold my hands and say grace
I am sat on my bed, thinking about what I had for dinner last night. Thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner tonight. Thinking about what I had for dinner last week. Thinking about a dinner I am going to for a friend’s birthday on Saturday. I open my phone to stop myself from thinking, my brain consumed by mindless scrolling on Instagram, Twitter, my camera roll. I can’t stop thinking. I scroll and scroll and scroll, my stomach urging me to cook. I look at delivery apps, I look at recipes saved on my phone. I look at pictures of dinners I have eaten time and time again. I indulge myself, look at restaurants I haven’t been to because of their triple dollar price bracket on Google. I look at my own Instagram archive, the food I have presented to the world, the food I think of as picture ready. I am sitting and staring at my own camera roll, smugly looking over some of the dishes I have made rivalling those I have paid for. I search dinner, my phone recommends dinner – London, I have been here eighteen months and I have thousands of low- resolution photos of dinners I don’t even remember eating. I am thinking about the dinners I can remember but it’s the ones I can’t I realise that I want more of. I can’t remember who I ate burgers with in mid-November when I first moved to London, their face is just out of the frame. I am reminded of dinners because of my phone, but not of the friends I was with.
My phone has also included a series of photos from a bus journey I took at sunset in this collection. I am over the Thames, I am not eating but the sun lights up the sky, colours melting like sorbet. They were taken at six thirty in the evening, there must have been strikes and I must have been heading to or from a dinner, I don’t know. I try and think of where I had been and where I was going, I select the see in albums option my iPhone provides, something possibly to contextualise why this is dinner – London, but no there are just screenshots of articles and photos of another day. My phone is making me think of food even when food is not available. When I think of dinner, I think of my friends and of last-minute cooking, not of bus journeys and time being stuck on the never-ending cycle of London public transport. The clock on my phone ticks over, it is nine thirty in the evening and I haven’t eaten, I have been consumed by my phone and been sat here thinking about food for hours. I need to cook, but maybe I will let my phone guide me, maybe I’ll sit on a bus until the sky turns to sorbet again and I will be hungry.