Sunday, 26 June 2011

What's for lunch?

The lure of the kitchen
I’m always deeply impressed when I hear about other writers and how they go about writing.  When I read about their routines, they all seem so committed to their characters and to their story.  I imagine them tapping busily away at their key boards, wrapped up in their own worlds and reluctant to stop writing for mundane matters.  I would love to be able to lose myself in creativity, but it never seems to work like that for me.  I don’t yearn to get to work, or drift around thinking about my characters.  No, the question uppermost in my mind from the moment I wake up is: What am I going to eat today?

The sedentary life of a writer is bad enough for the figure as it is, but if you spend your whole day thinking about food it’s even worse.  Not for me an absent-minded rummage in the fridge for something to keep me going for the next 5,000 words.  My first act of the day, after putting on the kettle for some tea and feeding the cat, is to plan my menu.

Pretty, but better minus the chocolate
I don’t like milk (except in cheese sauce) so I never have cereal, and am not a toast person either, so breakfast is a non-event.  At moment I have a grapefruit, which makes me feel very virtuous but which means I’m starving by the time have coffee and all too often the pleasure of that increased by 10.00.  The first half of the morning is therefore dominated by the search for someone who is available to be lured out for coffee, preferably to somewhere where it can be accompanied a pain au chocolat or a plum and almond tart, or if at home by one of Sainsbury’s quadruple chocolate biscuits. Because I can’t be expected to write on a grapefruit, can I?

The coffee issue resolved, I am faced with the massive problem of what to have for lunch.  I so wish I was a woman who loves salad, or is content with a pot of yoghurt.  I wouldn’t even mind being someone who was happy enough with a sandwich, but no!  There’s something so unsatisfying about a sandwich somehow (although not if made with unsalted butter, very rare roast beef and salt with the crusts cut off, obviously, but I can’t have that every day) and I don’t like the way the bread sticks around my teeth.  Hhmmnn, have always thought of myself as easy to please on the food front, but clearly I am unbelievably picky and I haven’t even started on carrots …

Cafe Royal in Edinburgh
Anyway, come 12.30, I’m shifting restlessly on my chair, finding it hard to concentrate and in need of something tasty.  Sadly, tasty in my book usually involves cooked cheese and/or fried onions.  Throw in bacon and potatoes, and you’re talking my kind of lunch.  Leftovers from supper the night before are one of my favourite lunches, but I’m so greedy that rarely have any and it’s never too much trouble to cook something from scratch …. If you’ve got an idea for a filling, healthy, satisfying lunch that doesn’t involve lettuce or bread or pulses, please let me know! 

Of course, the ultimate treat is to go out to lunch.  I had a perfect lunch in the Café Royal in Edinburgh recently, on a miserable June day that felt more like March.  We ate slow roast rib of beef with perfect mashed potatoes and perfectly cooked green vegetables, and then my companion, as they say in the restaurant reviews had a perfect raspberry cranachan.  Yum, yum, yum.  Last Wednesday I met another friend in Leeds and we went to Harvey Nichols – very Ladies Who Lunch.  Nice place to sit and chat, but food a little too complicated, I thought.  Still, how civilised.  Selfishly, most of my friends work and aren’t available for lunch out every day – although perhaps that’s just as well for my bank balance.

The fact is that I’m never going to be able to diet.  If I won the lottery, I would have a cook who would produce a perfect little tasty, non-fattening something for lunch every day and who wouldn’t automatically cook enough for four, and that would help, but then I probably wouldn’t like not having my kitchen to myself. 

Brandy snap baskets
Cooking is one of the great pleasures in life. The other day I made my Cornish great-grandmother’s pasties to take to the beach and it was the best pastry I’ve made in a long time, even though I says it as shouldn’t.  And my contribution to a supper out this weekend was brandy snap baskets and chocolate dipped strawberries: aren’t they beautiful?

Now, I’ve been writing for at least 15 minutes, so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just slope down to the kitchen and see what I can find in the fridge …


  1. I know I've already posted comments on your FB page, but... just thought... risotto! I have a nice recipe for one based on pearl barley, so email me if you want that (or any of the other ones I talked about).

    If I'm stuck on a plot point, I find that cooking really helps - gives me thinking time. (And those brandy snap baskets look gorgeous!)

  2. I love risotto, Kate, although the way I make it is not exactly slimming - it's that extra slice of butter and those handfuls of parmesan that make it so delicious ... and so fattening. Sigh. But thanks for this and your FB suggestions as well. Am now inspired to try something new.

    I like the argument that cooking is thinking time, too, although in practice I don't think about anything except the food when I'm cooking. Same for walking. I tell myself my brain is working subliminally, but I'm not convinced that's true!