Foodie

I read somewhere recently that you remember things with your brain, your heart or your stomach. It didn’t take much deliberation to realise I’m very clearly a stomach person. My dad was, although I’m relatively sure his impecabble memory was a super power regardless of what he ate, he just really liked food (despite his kitchen skills being limited to being beans on toast). My mum on the other hand, enjoys the cooking just as much as the eating and I like to think that I’m the same.

Being part of a family who put so much emphasis on food and drink, on the way it brings people together and the comfort it provides, is something I have never really thought much about. It’s second nature to me, a part of life that has always been there and something I have carried through to my independence and adulthood. I suppose it has shaped me more than I realised. I wouldn’t have such a desire to bring my friends together around the dinner table if I hadn’t had countless nights lying awake in bed listening to the clink of glasses and my dad’s unexpected laughter drifting up the stairs, if I hadn’t come home from babysitting to the tail-ends of dinner parties with tipsy adults demanding I join them and my mum cutting me a slice of her pavlova as I tentatively sat at the end of the table. I probably wouldn’t put much effort into discovering new restaurants if I didn’t have memories of driving for hours down sandy lanes in rural Italy to enjoy perfectly fried courgette flowers and incredible pasta pomodoro. I wouldn’t associate golden hour with a disposable barbecue and a beer on the beach and I wouldn’t know that one of the best ways to save money on holiday is to make a picnic lunch with whatever you can nab at the hotel breakfast.

I know that ultimately, food is just something we need to survive but to me, there is so much more to it. My granny’s carrot cake is the reason for countless tea-time conversations, my mum’s crumble helped give me the strength to return to uni after dad died and I feel a little bit inspired everytime I see my grandad’s cheese soufflé rise in the oven. It bonds us and gives us an opportunity to celebrate in a way that is perhaps more reflective and perceptive than a standard party (although that does depend on how much wine is on offer). I value the morning after debrief brunches just as much as the night before and the pleasure of being cooked for or cooking for others is one I don’t think I’ll ever tire of.

During lockdown, I took great pleasure in leafing through all of my mum’s family recipes and putting them in a book of my own. Food became even more important when it felt like there was so little else that was normal and predictable. If you followed the recipe, a banana bread would still rise, a simmering rich tomato sauce would still thicken and a well cooked chicken thigh would still fall off the bone. Cooking became very therapeutic for me, if I woke up feeling helpless I’d bake, following the structure of measurements and timing helped to give me focus, it gave me something to show for my day. Endless hours were spent folding down the pages of cook books and trying new recipes was a way to feel both creative and productive. Meal planning and feeding my family gave me a sense of purpose, it was a way to try and provide a little bit of comfort.

I will always remember meals, from the graduation lunch at Harvey Nichols in Leeds, annual fish and chips at Eastbourne beach, a terrible pizza at a motorway hotel in France, the world’s best pancakes at bottomless brunch in Fulham, boozy meals with family that always end around a piano, Christmas roasts, picnics, birthday cakes and takeaways, the list goes on. It isn’t just the food though, it’s the people and the place and the moment in time. It’s the conversations and laughter that float around the table, where and why you gathered together, what you did next, the greetings and the goodbyes that happen either side.

I suppose that in it’s simplicity, it may be a love of food, but it satisfies so much more than just my stomach.

Instagram: @IndiaGarrett

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If you fancy a bit more food related content (from people far more interesting than myself) then give Out To Lunch with Jay Raynor a listen. The food critic takes big names out for lunch, conversation flows accompanied by the atmospheric sounds of some brilliant restaurants. Stanley Tucci wrote beautifully for The Atlantic about how food punctuates his family’s days in lockdown and revealed a few of his favourite recipes. If you don’t listen already, there is a huge backlog of Table Manners episodes where Jessie Ware and her mum invite people over a meal and find out about the role food has played in their life.

Holiday Dusk

The light is soft, it’s created a kind of glow over everything that you seem to notice only on holidays. The hours between afternoon and evening are the most gentle, the most peaceful, when there is a sense of calm after a full day combined with a steady excitement for the time that stretches before you, like the endless stroll along the beach.

The day was spent with sand between your toes and a sheen on your skin that was a mix of sweat, suncream and salt water. You’ve showered, but you can still feel the beach on your arms and the pink tinge has remained on your face. It doesn’t look like burn though, it looks like life, like you’ve been kissed by the day. There are some new freckles, spots of experience on your skin that appear and disappear with the seasons as though to mark the passing of time, the changes in yourself. Your hair is still damp, falling down your back and creating cooler air for you to breathe, your jewellery is glinting in the golden glow and you begin the routine of the evening, the simple pleasures that make time feel abundantly special and explicitly plain all at once.

On the balcony they’re waiting, head in a book, rosé open and a glass waiting for you. A bag of crisps from a European brand you haven’t heard of but grabbed at the little shop on the way home has been part consumed and a bowl of pistachios sits with the cracked shells mixed up amongst the soft green saltiness. Sit down, book closes, eyes up, smile, sip, happy. So happy. You think it’s funny, the amount of time you can spend with a person and still have things to say, how you can live through the same day and still have things to share about it, thoughts you kept to yourself that now slip out as you work your way through the bottle. Dry and crisp and clear, as your mind slowly becomes less so and the sound of laughter fills the air. Your eyes take on that familiar sparkle, it’s the flirting, the cheekiness of the unknown evening.

Outside there’s a soft breeze, a chill but the heat of the day still lingers in the air so you’re not cold, maybe that’s the wine though. You walk down the cobbled sandy street, hand in hand, arms swinging like they’re wings, like you’re trying to take off. You feel light enough to take off. You stop at the restaurant, one you ate at two nights ago, or was it three? The softness of the days mean they blurr together in the warmest of ways. Same table, same waiter, same menu, same wine. You pick up the glass by the stem, eye the menu, you don’t know what to have but it doesn’t matter, in this mood it seems impossible for anything not to taste like heaven. Olives stuffed with secrets arrive, bread that you can hear as much as you can taste when you bite it. The evening goes on and the sun sets, creating a brief dusk over the sea before it says goodbye.

It’s colder as you leave so you take their jacket off the back of their chair without asking but they don’t say anything, the don’t mind, they never do. The walk back is slower, arm in arm with steps that are more gentle, attempting to let the night linger for as long as possible, to try and pause the moment, to hold off on sleep. The sun and the wine amplify your exhaustion but it’s ok, you don’t mind the feeling of it in your bones when there is nothing else to do. It’s dark now, a quick look at the stars before you duck into your summer cave.

The day is done, but tomorrow will be exactly the same, how lovely.

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Instagram: @IndiaGarrett

Twitter: @IndiaGarrett