Sugar and Spice
Life springs lessons upon you in precipitate fashion. You might want to treat this as a disclaimer.
Here’s what I learnt today- never, ever to read a food blog while the alarms are going off in my stomach. And particularly not one like this, where intoxicating memories of childhood and the remembrances of forgotten flavours hit you with gale-force. Do not even attempt to think of Meryl Streep, because it might lead to unsolicited recollections of Julie and Julia and much exotic food.
A slightly disturbing day at work had led to a fierce craving for ice cream- and when an unusually recalcitrant Airborne refused to be dislodged from his chair even for the worthy prize of a delectable cone of butterscotch, I sighed and settled down at my desk for posterity. I am a staunch believer in the theory of not gorging on chocolate or ice cream alone. For some reason, the pleasure of a large scoop of rum-fig-and-almond or an enormous chunk of dark chocolate is derived in entirety only from knowing that you have a partner-in-crime, sinning with you as you unabashedly let the epicure in you take over. Think of all the “midnight feasts” in Enid Blyton’s school stories, where girls clustered around biscuits, chocolate and pineapples, accompanied by gingerbeer. (I strongly urge you to read the comments at the link I’ve referred to- if you’ve grown old and grumpy and don’t believe in childhood any longer, all you need is an evocative picture of a midnight jaunt with cousins all around, gorging on ice cream and cold leftovers.)
Over the past year, as I’ve been living a bachelor-girl’s life, my eating habits haven’t exactly been exemplary. Midnight snacks were quite the norm because of my strange work hours, and after finishing dinner hastily (because it was generally a mish-mash of the ingredients available at home thrown together), I’d settle down to a long, luxurious dessert. Digestive biscuits spread with luscious chocolate cream, slices of a birthday cake cut two days earlier, cold juice or soda or gingerbeer, tiramisu-flavored ice cream, unhealthily generous squares of rum-raisin, crispy or nut-filled chocolate- one of these nightmarish delicacies was sure to be found on one of the shelves of the fridge, and with a good book in hand, it was about the closest to heaven I got. I am still blamed for having disenchanted one of my roommates and scarred her for life with an overdose of chocolate- but how can you despise it if you are the slightest bit human?
As a vegetarian, I have never had the opportunity to really know what the Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s feasts were all about. All the business about the ham-and-eggs, the bacon and the tinned salmon that Blyton‘s children took away when they went camping or on picnics did make me extremely curious, but never enough to want to break my rules of vegetarianism- after a point, it becomes more than just a religious affiliation. There have been occasional moments of weakness when I broke my no-to-eggs rule with a particularly tempting chocolate muffin or a tantalising pastry; there was a time when I didn’t know what mayonnaise contained and munched away at sandwiches from which it oozed generously. Rules are to be winked at sometimes, aren’t they? On days when I’m comfortably resistant to temptation, though, I can gang up against a friend when he is accused of foeticide for his breakfast of sunny-side-up eggs liberally sprinkled with pepper. Double standards? But of course!
You succumb despite knowing that the thick layers of icing you’re stuffing yourself with are accumulating in unsightly lumps where you wouldn’t want them to- that they won’t be burnt off in a hurry and that sexy new dress may not fit you much longer. You’ve heard of diabetes and cholesterol and seen people huff up steps with the agility of a sloth. And yet, you cannot help but reach out for that final bit of cake or lick the last bit of oil from the potato chips off your fingers.
Sometimes, you just have to live to eat. To dig out the comfort of the heartening memories food evokes and of the warm fragrance wafting from the bowl of popcorn on your lap. Go, raid the fridge.