When we woke, we both wanted roast chicken. It was Monday morning. Sunday, the best day for a roast, was nearly a week away. Roast chicken. It had to be roast chicken, or sticky blackened cod. Mmm, sticky blackened cod.
We got out of bed, leaving thoughts of sticky blackened cod behind. Breakfast was porridge and juice. Lunch was sandwiches, eaten at our respective desks. Dinner was a rotiserie chicken with salad and new potatoes.
After dinner there was washing up, picking the last of the chicken off its bones, clearing old stuff from the fridge. Thirteen different bacterial animals were in there, living off various forgotten dips and condiments. There was some hummus we were both afraid to touch or breathe in… but it was also so pretty and so interesting that we didn’t want to stop looking at it. I wanted to keep it, let the fridge become a garden, a zoo, a museum, a coral reef.
She disagreed with me and, like most small nations, the disagreements in our house tended to be the same contentious issues which cropped up again and again. Standards of kitchen hygiene was one, board games was another. We had so many disagreements about board games, until one evening when the only way she could express her annoyance was to throw my coat from the window, a childish, ridiculous gesture that made us realise we should stop, laminate the scrabble board and hang it from the wall as a reminder that we should never play again.
I dreamt of fridge animals emerging from the hummus to bite me on the fingers, and woke hungry for sticky blackened cod, the sticky blackened cod I remembered eating at a certain restaurant. Over breakfast, we planned the rest of our meals for the week, pleased to have such structure in our lives. She wrote a shopping list, I wrote paragraphs about roast chicken, out-of-date food, board games…
Reading over my shoulder, she asked, “Is there going to be a plot to this? Or is it just going to be about food?” So I went back through what I had written so far, adding some fictionalised details and making our lives sound much more dramatic than they actually were.
Later, as we ate rice and a vegetarian chilli flavoured with chipotle, I decided a fun story would be to imagine that we dined out and had afternoon tea every day for a week, the two of us turning up at the same hotel day after day and the waitress’ eyes’ almost literally popping out of her head as we kept appearing, her wondering how and why two people like us could have afternoon tea in that hotel every day, us keeping our secrets and eating chicken sandwiches that had had their edges rolled in chopped nuts.
The next morning I relayed a quasisexual dream in which versions of ourselves made of bread romped together in a man-size fondue.
She made a face. “In hindsight, maybe the afternoon tea plot wasn’t so bad.” But I couldn’t be bothered to bring that idea to fruition, the moment had passed. And now, as well as sticky blackened cod, I wanted fondue. I asked if we could have rarebit for tea, because it seemed close enough to fondue without being too much hassle, but we already had something else planned.
At my desk at work I would periodically send myself off into a dwam, staring at my screen and moving my mouse, or clickety-clacking on my keyboard, but all the while just thinking about fondue or chipotle or sticky blackened cod, always something I remembered eating and wanted to eat again.
On a post-it note I excitedly scribbled down an outline for an exciting new technology I would never be clever enough to make reality. It involved being able to save memories of tastes in the same way as taking photographs or recording sound. In this imagined future, a memorable meal could be revisited any time at the click of a… by applying a… it would be in a file of… well obviously I hadn’t quite perfected the interface yet. And thinking back to the sticky blackened cod I had been craving for days, remembering how vivid it seemed when I thought about it, I began to wonder if we were in the future already.
When I got home, something was simmering in a pot on the hob. I looked at what I had written so far.
“So what’ve we got?” she asked, eating a fig, reading. “Us wanting roast chicken, the bit about bacteria, afternoon tea, your surreal fondue dream which, frankly, I’m a little worried about. Then the science fiction bit at the end.” She finished her fig, sighed, squinted. “Some kind of ending to tie it all together?”
I spent some time trying to think of one, but then it didn’t seem like an ending was the right thing to do. Planning meals and cooking meals and eating meals, thinking about meals and remembering meals and dreaming about meals, they were all things we were going to carry on doing until we one day sadly passed away. I didn’t want to use that particular ending, so instead the only logical thing seemed to be to bring the story full circle.
“There you go,” I handed over the finished paragraphs. “Done. Just over nine hundred words. Can you remind me that we need to get ingredients to do a roast chicken this Sunday. And maybe some time soon we can go back to the place that does the sticky blackened cod?”