Remember this post, where it really sank in for me that I now considered salad a special, to-be-savoured and looked forward to meal? It's funny how it has reappeared in recent moments of celebration. Once upon a time, my idea of "celebration food" usually involved one or all of the following: pastry, cake, chocolate, chips, cheese, ice cream, anything sweet, salty, creamy or crumbly. Not that I don't still bring those out for special occasions, you understand (!), but it's funny how my idea of using food to celebrate has changed so much over the past six years.
Last month, I went away for nearly a week to finish my book. It was a wonderful time. I house sat for my friend the GP, in her lovely house in East Dulwich. It was great to have an expanse of time ahead of me that was mine to fill as I pleased; no schedules, no plans, just as much writing as possible and the determination to reach the goal of typing "the end" on the first full draft.
|I love cherries.|
|breakfast: day 2|
|lunch/afternoon food: day 2|
It was a blissful, albeit intense and mentally draining, stretch of time where the elemental facets of my existence (eating, writing, listening to music, doing yoga) felt like indulgences. I had only my own whims and appetite to consider. I assembled my favourite foods; hummus, dolmades, olives, fresh fruit, fresh pitta bread, and made platters that I grazed over most of the day while I wrote. For dinners I would usually break about 9pm when my stomach was rumbling and make omelettes with artichokes and bunches of fresh garlicky chives from the garden. My friend left me a pumpkin, which I roasted with chilli and handfuls of fresh sage (also from the garden) and then tossed through pasta or used in a salad.
Inevitable writing blocks were tempered with thicky syruppy amaretto on ice in a hot, deep bath, with the best of Nina Simone on repeat.
Exercise was a good unblocker too. I ran two mornings I was there. And in an attempt to drag some words out of myself I attempted to master headstand, the king of all yoga poses. It didn't work (headstand, that is!).
I stayed up writing most nights until 2am, until I had nothing left. Each day I had "plot targets", in other words, I had to reach a stage in the plot each day. I made the target every day!
On the last day, I remember having a brief lunch at about 2pm. I didn't look up again until about 7pm when I realised I needed coffee if I was going to finish the book that night. I wrote and wrote and wrote, barely aware of anything except that I was trembling with anticipation the closer I got to the end! I finally wrote the last line at 10.19pm. After taking a moment for it sink in, I rang Tom to break the news and spoke to him for nearly an hour, probably insanely high and ecstatic that I had reached my goal! It was a chance to prove to myself that I could exercise the same discipline I applied to my running and fitnes goals when it came to my writing. There really is no reason why I cannot do what I want to do. I say "I don't have time", but that's rubbish. I made time, and it happened. There is still more to do, of course, but I am so much closer than I was before.
Finally, after getting off the phone and sending about a million texts to anyone I thought might want to know, I realised I was starving. And it was nearly midnight!
So I made myself this salad, and poured myself a glass of wine.
- Watercress (or mixture of watercress, rocket, spinach, whatever salad leaves you like), enough to fill your bowl
- Fresh mint (not essential but very nice), as much as you like
- 4-5 thick slices haloumi, grilled
- Good quality fruit balsamic vinegar (I used pear)
Grill the haloumi, sprinkling the mint leaves over the top as you do.
Assemble watercress in your bowl, top with pieces of grilled haloumi and mint, drizzle over balsamic. If you've never tried a fruit balsamic, might I suggest you seek one out? They are delicious! I love pear and fig, but I've heard blueberry is very good!
Every mouthful tasted exquisite. It was one of the most memorable meals of my life.
And now, having written this, I realise, especially when I look over the most memorable meals of my life (an Italian place in New York; the food at my wedding to Tom; this salad I've just described), that while the food was amazing and of great quality, it is the moments I remember, and that make the memories of every bite so much more potent and special. I've eaten countless quesadillas in my time, but the ones I remember best are the ones served in the garden of that pub in Chalk Farm at our wedding. I have eaten Italian food more times than I'd care to admit, but I'd never had someone take out a thick fold of 100 dollar bills and casually peel them off to pay for the meal like that night in NYC. And as for salads, I eat them daily. But this one was the best one I'd ever eaten.....because I'd finished my book.
What are your memorable meals?