Despite the fact that we have swapped civvies for suits and lectures for a nine till five, my flatmates and I are still very much students at heart. The walls are bland, the furniture doesn’t match and the kitchen is, quite simply, a disgrace. Even the conversation still has that University lilt. “Mate,” my flatmate said the other night, “I am going to drink so many pints” (he did), “and then I’m going to get with such a fit bird” (he didn’t) but you see my point I’m sure. However the clincher that well and truly lands us back into that student camp is, of course, the subject of cooking.
“Remember you aren’t a student anymore so please try and eat healthily,” these were the last despairing words my mum said to me as she dropped me off at my new flat. I assured her I would, and as I waved her goodbye I genuinely meant it. And this brings us neatly into the fiasco that was Wednesday night when I set about trying to keep that promise. Everything was set up perfectly, my flatmates were out, the music was on and I even had the bible that is “Nosh for students- Simple meals in thirty minutes or less.” It seemed almost too straight forward. Oh how young and naive I was.
Step One: Chop up the onions- Clearly people had been exaggerating how hard this cooking business was, it was almost too easy. Sure the onion pieces were slightly more lopsided than the picture in the book and there was a splash or two of blood from when I had nicked my finger but overall it was the bright start I was looking for and confidence was sky high as I approached step two.
Step Two: Boil the water- Without wishing to brag I absolutely nailed this bit. Duel wielding both a kettle and a saucepan the transfer of water from one to the other was simply flawless and should turning on a cooker ever become an Olympic sport then GB have a potential champion in their ranks.
Step Three- Collect the albumen of three large eggs- Looking back I think it was here when the first tendrils of alarm began to register. I would never be able to tell you what it was, a tingling in the back of my neck, a slight shiver down my spine, either way the unnecessarily complex wording of this phrase raised my hackles and told me that this was not going to be as straightforward as I had first thought.
Step Four- Butterfly the Chicken- It was here that the transition from minor discomfort to outright annoyance took place. The author had clearly been in a particularly vindictive mood when they wrote good old step four. If you are going to throw a curve ball like this and genuinely replace the verb ‘cut’ with an animal, at least give me a sporting chance and use an animal that wields claws. It’s called common courtesy.
Step Five- Simmer the Farfalle- By this point my cockiness had evaporated as quickly as the boiling water. I was exhausted, hot and in all my life had never been so reliant on a dictionary, and coming from someone who had stumbled through Latin and Greek at Uni that is saying something. What the author thought they were accomplishing using this culinary jargon I will never know, but I cannot believe their editor didn’t take them aside and point out that for a student cookbook a simple ‘Bung in the pasta’ would have been far more productive.
As much as I would like to walk you through the rest of the night I am afraid that for the sake of my sanity and the pre-watershed status of this blog I simply cannot reflect on it anymore, but let’s just say it took a dark turn, with the final result being an unrecognisable mess that swiftly cemented itself to the bottom of the saucepan. Needless to say I didn’t eat it. In fact I didn’t dare open it. Not since Pandora’s Box has something that horrific been sealed away, and unlike Pandora, I had to wash my box up. The whole night had been a blur of heat, pain and misery and I was so tired I felt like having a good cry. But then again that might have just been the onions.