Banoffee pie is one of those desserts that can be executed so bloody awful that it puts you off a slice for life. Plasticky squirty cream, Dry pre-made shortcrust pastry bases, and my personal worst nightmare, the deconstructed versions that tend to crop up at “cool” gastropubs. Done right? It’s a gloriously indulgent, American style pud that makes your teeth ache but still has you raiding the fridge for another slice before bed.
In the midst of the global COVID-19 madness, something odd seems to be happening. Ask many of us six months ago what we do in our spare time when at home and the answer would be Netflix and chill or lying on the sofa scrolling through our phones. Then, in what still seems like some kind of awful dream the UK was put into lockdown and many of us stepped away from our usual permanent state of comatose fixation in our devices. Instead, We have picked up mixing bowls, started growing sourdough starters, slow-cooked cheap cuts of meat and took utter pride in sharing photos of our seasonal veg boxes.
An odd sort of wartime spirit has fought through and food seems to be at the helm of it. It got me thinking about the comfort that food brings, both subconsciously and consciously. The circumstances outside our doors are so uncontrollable right now but that fresh tomato soup on your stove will be comforting and delicious regardless, the big wedge of farmhouse white bread and raspberry jam will remind you of being in your Nan’s kitchen as a child and bring you a moment of solace and, yes, that banana bread WILL make you feel bloody amazing when it comes out of the oven because you baked something and it is absolute perfection to you, regardless of any flaws.
So, I want to share some recipes, and the stories behind them, that bring those tiny moments of bliss to me and hopefully to you. I hope this brings you a little moment of nostalgia in this crazy world and gets you cooking recipes that mean something, even if only to you.
Do you know what movies taught me about being a woman? They taught me that we can sort ourselves into one or two boxes. Box A – Single, you have a kooky group of girlfriends who you will see almost every night and go to fun parties and cool clubs with. Any nights alone are sat eating cold noodles, watching tv and contemplating how utterly pathetic you are. Box B – Single, you have basically zero back story but you are about to meet the absolute love of your life (It’s Hugh Grant, by the way, it always is) and he will make you complete. Up until that moment, you will be sad, lonely and eating cold noodles.
We all remember the Sex and the City episode don’t we? Carrie is made to remove her silver jeweled Manolo’s at a party so that she doesn’t tread in any nasty street germs that could infect the children waltzing about in this Upper East Side perfectly styled townhouse (So obvious they have kids, duh). The episode rolls on and Carrie is torn between wondering whether she should have the 1950s housewife life with the husband that works late with his twenty-something secretary, two children in coordinating outfits and a dog, most likely a golden retriever. Or, does she go against the strain? Should she feel guilty for spending $465 on a pair of shoes and not a week’s worth of Peppa Pig novelty toys? I’m assuming Peppa Pig was about in 2003. It does seem like she’s always been somewhere, lurking in the shadows, ready at any moment to hypnotize toddlers and drive parents to the brink of insanity.
Picture the scene. I’m thirteen, studying for one of my singing grades and my tutor picks ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You” as one of my exam pieces. I spend almost every waking hour listening to Olivia Newton-John perform it in the 1978 movie. Whilst studying for my exam, the guy in my class that I think is pretty lovely tells me that I look like a boy and have a bowl cut (I did). I now not only love Sandra Dee, I think I am her. I watch that scene of her singing by the pool and I wallow over my childhood crush. A heartbroken and pitiful teen. Thank god fourteen years later I’m far more Rizzo than Sandy…
Faced with the ‘Lunch on the go’ counter at an M&S service station I stare long and hard at those carefully packed sandwiches. Thick white bread, Huge chunks of chicken and bacon smothered in mayonnaise. Then the little tiny bars of sea salt chocolate. All the calories my little heart can dream of. I’m tired, I have horrific stomach pains, I want the bread and chocolate.
What do I buy? Some sort of quinoa salad box. I don’t even like quinoa that much, personally, I think it tastes a bit like gravel. It’s just something, just like kale, that we eat because someone had the audacity to publish that it is a superfood. Why did i choose the sad-looking grains? Because I got the guilt. “I am a small and dainty woman. I eat nothing but air and leaves and tiny, tiny portions.” If the sales assistant sees me buying a sandwich and chocolate they will think I am a disgusting and greedy human being. My thighs feel bigger just thinking about buying what I really want.
I may be a 90’s baby (just!) but you’re a fool if you think I’m not a sucker for an 80’s hit and a perm shoved into a Day-Glo scrunchie. This week, the outrageously camp and hilariously funny musical romantic-comedy, Club Tropicana is at the Wales Millenium Centre starring X Factor winner Joe McElderry and ex-Sugababe Amelle Berrabah. Joe McElderry plays Holiday Rep Gary who delivers each line unabashedly, hand on hip, with a cheeky wink and a fierce sashay.
You know the film. Katherine Heigl shamelessly piling bridesmaid dresses back into her wardrobe after the cynical Wedding column journalist stumbles upon them. Each dress is more of a monstrosity than the last but it’s ok! Don’t panic! She finally gets to be a Bride in the end. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah.
I have been a bridesmaid seven times. Five of those have occurred as a woman in my twenties. It’s not quite twenty-seven times but it certainly feels that way sometimes. I have heard “Always the bridesmaid…” precisely one billion times, in a close second is “When do you think it’s your turn?”. Well, I have taken some time to consider these statements and I would like to address them once and for all:
I just really love pretty dresses and free food.
A few days ago in my usual pre-bedtime Instagram browse, I saw a story that blogger Callie Thorpe had posted – It showed a ”plus-size” mannequin in the Nike store wearing a sports bra and some fitted leggings. Nike continuously amazes me with its latest ads and campaigns. Their ”Dream Crazier” ad last year brought me to tears. The press had twisted and turned Serena Williams outburst at an umpire and headlines everywhere were painted with the words ”unstable” ”hormonal” ”erratic”. I am a huge sports fan, almost every game I watch a male player shout at the ref or an opposition player, but that’s passion right? No headline here.
I currently have a ‘must watch’ list of around five or six romantic films on my Netflix account. It doesn’t really matter what they are all about, boy meets girl, boy does something to hurt girl, boy makes a grand romantic gesture and gets the girl in the end. There are good, bad and ugly renditions of this age-old genre but I’ve seen them all. Mainly the ugly.
There is nothing that makes my little heart soar more than seeing Edward Lewis, at the end of Pretty Woman pulling up to Vivian’s home in his Lincoln Stretch Limousine, conquering his fear of heights to climb up the fire escape, all with a bunch of roses in hand, to kiss her and utter the immortal line:
Edward: So what happened after he climbed up the tower and rescued her?
Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman plays out. The tears run down my face. I spend the next thirty minutes yearning for a real life romantic moment with diamond necklaces and red opera gowns.
What happens after the credits roll though? What happens after those immortal words? What happens after they go back down that fire escape?