• Rachel

The Bare (un)Necessities

Content warning: Explicit mention of calories and eating-disordered behaviours are discussed in this post.

Herbs and spice are very nice,

And sesame has become a 'yes' for me!

But oil and spread? I’ll have it dry instead.

Condiments are complicated, but are gradually being re-instated.

And milk? Well, milk is just very complicated and probably not worth me trying to explain.

Well, I won’t be winning any poetry awards anytime soon. Mainly because I’d probably never enter a poetry competition.

For most people, the actions of putting oil in a pan before frying an onion, or buttering a slice of toast before crunching on it, would probably be done without much thought or question. As I observe my family's culinary habits, for them this is most certainly true. Alas, I am here to confess that I have fried many an onion in the absence of oil, and crunched many a slice of toast without spread. Yes, pans have been destroyed, and mouths (well, one mouth) has been parched.

And as someone who is keenly interested in cultures and traveling, I am ashamed to admit that I have also made many a tagine without dried fruit, many a Thai curry without coconut, many a pasta dish without covering in Parmesan, many a bowl of ramen without sesame, and many a Mexican feast without guacamole. I know, that last one hurts me, too.

As the woman upstairs is carefully running numerous cost-benefit analyses, it is decided that the cost (calories) of buttering my toast considerably outweighs the benefit (tastier and more palatable). It's also decided that the cost of adding 10g of sultanas to my tagine (30.2 calories) outweighs the benefit (juicy, plump bursts of sweet flavour amongst the piquant tomato-based sauce). What is decided as cost-worthy, though, is herbs and spices. Lots of them.

Because what do chilli, cinnamon, garlic, coriander, ginger and paprika pack in without those scary units of energy we call 'kcal'? Flavour. You see, when you feel compelled to omit basically all scary sugars and fats just in case you are the one person in the entire universe whose body instantly converts those calories to pounds of end up needing to get creative with the spice rack if anything you plate up is going to resemble palatability.

Rachel has actually always been creative cook, one to enjoy experimenting with spices and flavours, blend and make up recipes. She has always been pretty good at it, too, if I don't say so myself. Alas, though as is often the way - the woman upstairs took liberties, and hijacked what was once purely a joy, and made it more of a chore.

But as per my ode above, we have recently become open (to) sesame. Instead of the 'unnecessary sesame' track that has been playing on the radio upstairs for a while, we've slowly moved into a more catchy number that acknowledges that you can't really have a good bowl of ramen without them. We've also recently re-entered the painfully millennial avocado-toast-o-sphere. I am the only person I know who buys an avocado, freezes it in portions, and consumes it in intervals over several weeks. But it's good to have a flex, I guess. What hobby did you take up in lockdown?

It's a strange situation, though. Because, as much as we like to think otherwise, these calculations, negotiations and additions are painfully inconsistent. A latte is absolutely not allowed. But the same amount of (if not, more) milk, spread across innumerable cups of English Breakfast Tea - completely okay. Maltesers at 11 calories a piece - count as food. Sugar-free mints at 13 calories a piece - don't count. She convinces me that the rules make perfect sense, I just need to listen to her and not question it. Save your 'whys'. Just do as she says, just trust her. Is it just me, or is this sounding awfully autocratic?

May I be so bold, woman upstairs, as to suggest that not only is sesame necessary...but spread, cheese, coconut milk, peanut butter, and even flipping raisins are also some of the bare necessities? There's a reason olive oil is in the 'Food Cupboard Essentials' section of the supermarket. And no, I'm not talking about Waitrose's definition of essential. Though, I could definitely get on board with the inclusion of profiteroles in the above.

May there be many more bougie avocado in my life that doesn't require being frozen to stop it turning bad. And heaven forbid I ever insult the Latina population again by calling any dish served without guacamole 'Mexican'.


"Look for the bare necessities

The simple bare necessities

Forget about your worries and your strife

I mean the bare necessities

Are Mother Nature's recipes

That bring the bare necessities of life."

- Terry Gilkyson, for The Jungle Book (1967)

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