I write about food but as I get more and more jaded with food trends (local and seasonal, eat the whole pig, oh you’re making gourmet burgers, how unusual, everyone but probably not their dog are making them, and you say that you make your own bread, well that is wholesome yes yes yes, stab me now), I am becoming increasingly aware that I am not necessarily a great cook. Or host come to think of it.
Every weekend I trawl through the Sunday supplements and feed on bird’s eye views of impossible salads (impossible because I can’t be bothered to make them), I leer at close ups of the insides of pies marvelling at the architecture and crave the lightness of cakes, wafted with icing sugar that haven’t felt the back of my wooden spoon.
Yet looking at food, talking about and even reviewing it, does not a good cook make. I have roasted pheasants dry for New Year, melted cheese on a radiator when a fondue heater failed and made chocolate mousses that had all the lightness of a truffle thrown hard at the pavement. My Victoria sandwiches are so shy they barely peak over the side of the tin and I recently made 2 kilograms of liquid marmalade which had been on the boil for about 2 hours.
It is with such honesty and boredom for the perfect photo of the perfect dish, and a sneaky stifled yawn at British food trends (yawn), that I wish to share with you the story of The Great Lobster Massacre.
- Invite some friends round. Lovely ones from up the road, who you have only just recently met. Make sure one of them is a vegetarian.
- Order some lobsters from another friend, pick them up on the way back from work and put them, still in their polystyrene box, in the freezer. Fail to even think about inviting friend to partake of lobsters he has just provided.
- Ignore the stacks of cookbooks from ‘experts’ that line your study wall, in particular, the new Nathan Outlaw in blue entitled British Seafood, foreword by Rick Stein. What do they know?
- Text a friend who once cooked you some nice lobster. Receive reply: hot until done = red = yum.
- Explain to very patient husband and polite dinner guest that lobsters are best cut in half (alive but quietened by the freezer) and put straight in the oven, temperature and time, um, negligible.
- Realise too late that the polystyrene box containing the lobsters has actually insulated them against the cold in the freezer. Tails are flapping and claws still moving.
- Give big sharp knife to husband while guest insists on watching and look away into the oven door (nothing in there) while jumpy lobsters are ‘dispatched’.
- Overcook aforementioned lobsters so that tails are slightly chewy. Provide no sauces, no garlic butter, no oils, no lubrication to the already dried flesh.
- Drop large (ugly) baking tray of once delicious chips, made from local potatoes in front of lobster-massacre-spectating guest. Ensure that chips have been cooked about an hour before guests are due to arrive so that once re-heated they are chewy and soft and a little cold and very un-chip-like.
- And finally: make sure it’s a Friday so you are too tired to give CPR to the lobsters, consult an actual cookbook, consider the timing of your vegetables or even maximising the pleasure of your guests.