Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New in Freelance Food: Home-made tinned spaghetti. I seem to be obsessed with bland, crappy instant foods of late, because today I had a craving for tinned spaghetti. Unfortunately I did not have any, so I had to make my own from scratch. It is fancier than the tinned stuff.

Chop 1 onion finely and add to a heavy-bottomed pan along with a dessertspoon each of minced garlic and chilli. Fry this until soft. Add a bit of red capsicum that you found in your crisper drawer, diced. Cook this for a couple of minutes, then add a generous dessertspoon of tomato paste and a slosh of cooking sherry.

Get enough spaghetti to be the diameter of a five-cent coin when held in a bunch. Break into thirds and add to the pan, along with 500ml of vegetable stock. (I used Vegeta stock powder and I made the stock a little weak so that the final dish wouldn't be too salty.) Allow pasta to cook in stock, stirring the pan occasionally to prevent it from sticking. When the stock is almost absorbed, add a slosh of milk and mix well in. Continue to cook.

Grate a generous handful (or two) of cheese and, when the liquid is almost absorbed again, add to the pan and stir through until it has melted. Add shitloads of cracked pepper. I like cheesy tinned spaghetti, but I suppose you could omit this step, and the milk step, if you like the plain tomato sauce.

Turn heat off and transfer spaghetti to a bowl. It has a nice lively flavour, thanks to the chilli. I ate it straight up, but I guess you could eat it on toast for that authentic tinned spaghetti experience.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What I ate when I was finishing off my MA thesis. Today I have been feeling sick – I think it's a touch of the old food poisoning – and I realised my repertoire of home-cooked meals is calibrated around me being well. I couldn't think what to make when I was sick.

Right now I feel vaguely like eating banana custard, but I'm unsure if the feeling in my stomach is 'fullness' or 'illness'. I probably shouldn't make custard.

In the end I made a minestrone, which ticked the 'soup' and the 'healthsome vegetables' boxes. But my housemate Simon put his own healthsome vegetables into Mi Goreng noodles for dinner tonight. He said it was the first time he had chopped something up since he moved in a month ago.

This sent me into a little reverie in which I remembered what I used to eat when working absurdly long hours at my uni office towards the end of my MA candidature. I used to like the quietness on the sixth floor at night and on weekends.

On a shelf in my room I had a bowl, a fork, a spoon, a mug deliberately chosen for its ugliness in order not to be stolen, and various tinned and packaged foods. The postgrad common room had a microwave, but here's how I used to make Mi Goreng noodles.

First I would take the bowl, the packet and the fork to the little kitchenette next to the stairwell. The light in there was a bilious yellow that felt, somehow, retro. Sometimes there would be scummy crockery and food scraps clogging up the drain. I always blamed this on members of "the goddamn History Department", or on Tal The Israeli Cocksucker, a postgrad whom I did not like. I would put the noodle cake in the bowl and fill it up with boiling water from the urn.

I would leave it soaking and do something else for perhaps five to ten minutes. Then I would use the fork to hold the noodles in the bowl while I drained the water. Then I would mix the seasoning on top of the noodles. Then I would eat them. This would be my lunch and dinner on many occasions.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Amusing oneself at the expense of being a crazy cat lady. In case you aren't aware, I'm single and I've got a cat. As a feminist I'm well aware that attempts to shame and stigmatise women for their cat ownership date back to the days of witches and their 'familiars', but still, most of the time I feel a strong social pressure not to openly worry about my cat, or express the view that he is funny and adorable, in order to avoid being thought of as a crazy cat lady.

But sometimes I just like to amuse myself, for instance with stupid cat songs. Then there's the following 'conversation', which actually took place yesterday. I fancy that it could be a scene from a potential Skippy-like TV series in which a crazy cat lady solves crises and catches villains with the help of her cat.

GRAHAM comes jingling and thudding down the hallway and skids to a halt just inside MEL's room.

GRAHAM (urgently)

MEL (at her desk, turns to look at the cat)
What's wrong, Graham?


Is it Timmy?

Mrrrrowwww! Miaoww!

What?! Timmy fell down the well?

Mrra! Mrra!

You'd better take me there… and fast!

MEL gets out of her chair and heads for the door. GRAHAM bolts out of the room and back down the hallway, scrunching the living-room rug as he skedaddles to turn into the kitchen. He finally comes to a stop next to his food bowl.


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