Saturday, January 13, 2007

Think before you quit

I wasn’t thinking straight. The world was shimmering ever so slightly in the darkening mid-afternoon light, my hands like protheses over which I hand no control, and the car I was driving with nonchalant abandon floating centimetres above the road in defiance of physics. How could I have been thinking straight? I was running on fuck-all, dry, empty, lean, vulnerable, cagey and as pale as tripe. I hadn’t had a cigarette in two and a half years, a drink in ten months, or a blast of THC in nine days. I was a fucking liability, and shouldn’t have even been contemplating an attempt to employ my ill-coordinated senses in preparing an evening meal.

Ostensibly, I was marking an end to the festive cholesterol with a trip for some fish and chicken. Chicken? By the time I had got myself through the Shop doors, hovered towards the meat counter, and pointed wearily to an oven-ready carcase it was too late. One fresh fat winter mackerel and ten quid later, my fate was sealed.

I got back to the safety of my void-like home and rushed the ingredients into the fridge before I had a chance to get out the knife. And after spending some time pretending to consider the meal I would make, when in fact all I could think about was the fact that by the time I came to eat it I would be feeling exactly the same as I was now, decided it would make good use of my disembodied hands to throw together as quickly as I could some sort of one-dish baked mackerel affair.

It is obvious when you should stop cooking when you find yourself chopping roughly and unevenly your vegetables without a care in the word. It takes no more time to prep them properly, to normalize their cooking times and render them appealing on the plate. But like wrecking your own bedroom in the search for the sock that you know must exist, the sight of your cowboy cutting sends you up and produces dregs of inspiration such as throwing a few sliced parsnips into the fray and scattering the whole fucking lot with cumin and fennel seeds. As for the fish, it seemed ridiculous not to snip off its tail and leave it looking just slightly deformed, for I would be so fucking straight by the time it came down to eating it that I’m sure I would hardly notice.

It was all over within five minutes, the dish in the oven leaving time once again to fidget and twitch and snap at anyone crossing my path. And after an attempt at making presentable the pile of veg by tossing it in some, err, al dente sliced spring greens, I remembered why I don’t like mackerel cooked on the bone. It is too oily and claggy and bursting with fishy fat, made more sickly thanks to the sweet cumin and parsnip slices, nothing in the meal holding together and cruelly hammering home my feeling of fractional existence.

But nothing that fish could do could have prepared me for the chicken.

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