Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The end of the green

A saline assault of the senses on my first day back in the Office: a celery and stilton soup that almost burned the tongue. I have noticed this before of their cheesier soups, but now I think I know why it happens: they don’t realise (i.e. take five less spoonfuls of stock powder) that stilton, particularly the shit they buy, has a fierce saltiness of its own. I can’t decide which is more worrying: that nobody thought to taste the gloop before whacking it out, or that someone did taste it and deemed it sellable. Either way, combined with my dry “cheddar” sarnie with strong notes of cheap vegetable oil and yeasty preservatives there was no hiding from the fact that I was no longer in the fuzzy comfort of my own home.

It didn’t help either that every single newspaper I glanced at to try and take my mind off the nasty taste of modern life was offering twenty or more ways to create the new 2007 you. Coping with booze and food featured large, of course, with one rag offering a few special “advice from the experts” boxes to help us along. But the relevance of this for civil servant Geoff, 44, from Newcastle -- who had recently vowed to try to address his six-pint a day habit with the help of Leigh Clarke of the North East Council on Addictions – is highly questionable.

In the left-hand column there was Geoff describing how surprised he was that his newfound alcohol diary rang up an impressive 86 units on his first week, followed by his pride and satisfaction that he managed to get it down to 55 the following week: “If I get it down to 40, I'll be happy,” he added. But this is hardly going to cut the mustard for Leigh who, in the adjacent column, spends most of the small space available telling us yet again that the safe weekly limit for men is 21 units, and that anything more than 3 or 4 units in one sitting [i.e. a pint and a half of Stella] constitutes a “binge”. So Geoff is a chronic binge drinker who I can only guess, according to national health guidelines, is already dead.

I left the Office arrived home the same me, or at least that’s what I am telling myself. In fact, for the first time in several months tonight my brain will not be enjoying the thoughtful detachment provided by increasingly large doses of tetrahydrocannabinol, knowing full well as I do that I have been using this increasingly as a dangerous replacement for drink in the last few months. Strangely, the papers contained not a single mention of how one might go about coping with such a loss.

And if food&cooking is to be my escape then I shall need to come up with a slower meal than tonight’s leftovers of prime rare ribeye and a great little salad made by tossing small florets of al dente broccoli, a few fine beans, some leek, rocket, dill and tarragon in a mustardy dressing. It only took five minutes to prepare.

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