For seventeen days in a row I’ve eaten beans on toast as my main meal of the day. The deposit on my new flat, rent that is, quite frankly, extortionate, a splattering of unexpected bills, as well as putting money aside for the $10k savings target I’ve got, meant money was tight this month. So tight, in fact, that by Friday night I was down to my last £4.
I dragged my feet sadly, despondently, to the supermarket on Saturday afternoon, knowing my coins wouldn’t get me very far. In a burst of optimism I checked at the cash point so see if I’d been paid early, knowing I wouldn’t have been. BUT AND LO AND FUCKING BEHOLD I had. I could hardly believe it! I’d been so poor for so long! I swiftly withdrew a crisp £20, before the cash point could decide it had made a mistake. After such a frugal few weeks, it was like having all the money in the world.
I entered the sliding doors and went right to the jacket potatoes because: moneybags knows how to treat herself. I put it in a see-through bag, and walked up and down the aisles of Sainsbury’s with it in my hand, thinking, now, what else do I want?
I paced up and down, up and down, marvelling at the choice before me. It occurred to me: wow. I CAN BUY ANYTHING I WANT. ANYTHING. The financial freedom made me dizzy. Did I want a gourmet pizza? Fresh bread? A Terry’s chocolate orange?
Twenty minutes passed. Twenty full minutes of looking at the flavoured hummus and fancy stuffed peppers, the tubs of extravagant ice cream and shelves of sugared treats. I CAN BUY ANYTHING I WANT. I picked things up and I put things down again. I didn’t know where to begin.
And then I realised that if I was going to spend my money, it wouldn’t be in a stuffy local supermarket. I was going to Borough Fucking Market, for the good stuff. I had a cup of tea cooling on the kitchen counter top at home, but I didn’t care. Borough Market is the place food dreams are made of.
I put the potato back.
I practically ran the fifteen minutes there, bee-lining for breadsticks the length and width of my arm, stuffed with green olives and cheddar. I got a fudge brownie too, for luck, and walked around chewing on a crispy-yet-soft-yet-cheesey-yet-doughy delight, washing it all down with a fresh apple and elderflower juice in a plastic cup. My eyes were wide, my belly full of churning excitement. WHERE TO BEGIN?
I walked in and out of those market stalls three times before I made my first purchase: a soft goat’s cheese covered in shallots and thyme, from a handsome Frenchman in a stripy apron who winked at me when I paid him. I headed back to the bakery stall to get a chunky baguette ancienne, and then saw some duck eggs on display and, having never had duck eggs before, suddenly resolved to boil them and peel their shell, to split them in half and shower them in sea salt before popping them in my mouth in one.
I got four bulging figs that I intended to roast with a drizzle of honey, and a plump beefsteak tomato I’d slice thinly and eat with my fingers. I couldn’t resist a ripe avocado, knowing they won’t be in season for many weeks longer, mentally directing myself to eat it with a spoon while I prepared everything else. A pomegranate as big as my head caught my attention and went into my basket, and I went to the patisserie to secure four mini cakes: a dark chocolate and sweet raspberry tart, a cracked black pepper cookie, a blueberry frangipani and a lemon curd meringue. I text Calum before I went home to say, GET YOUR ASS TO MY HOUSE NOW. FOOD PORN AWAITS.
We call it “doing a bijou”: arranging a platter of bits to nibble on. A bit of this and a bit of that. We chopped and sliced and arranged and organised, setting down for a picnic on the floor of my living room, two small glasses of prosecco by our sides, giddy as a pair of teenagers on a first date, popping into our mouths tiny bites of my afternoon’s treasure.
We oooohed, and we ahhhhed, and we foodgasmed and we laughed. My housemate’s friend said to us, after one particular burst of excitement over the exact flavour of the tomato, “Christ, you two are really having fun with that, aren’t you?”
In between mouthfuls of sweet and tart and hot and cold we laughed again as we said in unison, “Yes. Yes we are.” And we continued to laugh and feast and marvel and exclaim until we’d finished every last morsel, licking our fingers clean.