Earlier this year I entered the Young British Foodie ‘Fresh Voices in Writing’ competition, otherwise known as the YBFs. These awards are industry judged by respected figures within the food world, representing a great opportunity for recognition of high quality work. Sadly, my valiant effort fell short of the exceptionally high standard of entry, the crown landing on the well-earned head of Livvy Potts, whose blog’s honesty is a pleasure to read.
Now that the event has passed and the red carpet packed away for another year, I want to share the my entry. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Childhood Memories of Food.
Insipid juices formed a kidney shaped pool at the edge of the plate, a meat-tinted paddling pool of my youth with a backdrop of Mrs Thatcher paraded on the BBC.
This blotchy, lightly marbled liquid was adorned with a veneer of fat which formed into small, circular, bubble-like boundaries of varying sizes, each one delicately resting against the exterior of it’s neighbour. The larger ones rebounded against each other gently, as a vessel lazily bobs against the bank of a river on the natural swell when tethered.
A flotilla of smaller bubbles, varying in size down to the diameter of a pinhead or less, occupied the blank space between their larger brethren. I stared at their symmetry, their natural beauty which somehow seemed infinitely more attractive than the food which accompanied them. A gentle nudge from one side of the plate sent my friends running across the plate in swirling, hurried unison, fleeing the actions of this aggressor. As they came to rest, they compressed into the merest oval as they squished into each other, before bouncing back to their perfect circular forms.
While they sat there, innocently awaiting their fate at the hands of my father, some cheap washing up liquid and a scouring pad, my favourite game was to toy with them, to harmonise these disparate sized entities into one, homogenous pool. My delicate technique involved the tines of a fork to break the boundary of one circle into the boundary of it’s neighbour.
Breaching their perimeters with a decisive stroke of my fork, these perfect circles briefly became wild, untamed lines before conjoining in union, their brief moment of unfettered freedom barely perceptible to the eye. I keenly prodded my stainless steel cutlery into them, cutting through the delicate perimeter of each bubble with the tine of my battle-worn fork. Their untethered masses would swiftly combine into a conurbation of a circle, growing larger, greater and more powerful than those that went before.
I knew it was there. I could see the glorious, wild freedom that I was unleashing, the anarchic, yet unifying destruction of a perfect circle, enacted merely to create an even more perfect, bolder and stronger circle that could overcome all the turbulent obstacles that life could throw at it.
One by one, working from the most voluminous down to the tiniest, I ruptured their perimeters, bringing them into co-existence with their all consuming leader. What existed as an armada of globules, now became a large, singular, amorphous blob, it’s delicate outline straining against the curved constraints of my plate’s rim. Only minuscule particles of fat remained, the discrete members of this populace whose area was smaller than the blunted prongs of my fork. These little fugitives refused to assent to my orders, I was unable to ensnare them as they rushed around the tip of my cutlery every time I sought to herd them into their leader. They were untameable.
“Have you finished? No pudding ’til you’ve finished”. Our world shattered.
Only a couple of lonely, desolate potatoes remained, providing a faux-Alpine backdrop to my gravy lake. Ensconced in a time-earned defensive crust, as if bearing arms against their impending demise, whilst I pursued my fantastical sojourn with the gravy. With reluctance and compassion, I ventured forward and mashed a powdery, frigid, boiled potato into my unemulsified friends in their pool, feeling sadness and remorse at the destruction of my carefully constructed eco-system.
Yet there was joy, for my liquid friends had sacrificed their existence in the hope that another could live, quenching the undying thirst that only a cold, stale, boiled potato can know. Their selfless acts of heroism in the face of a unilateral and unequivocal pudding-based ultimatum will not go unforgotten. They knew they had no hope, that their existence was short-lived, that they could never defend themselves against such a mighty foe as custard, that they would, and always will, exist in a transient universe, unwanted, uncared for, but at least they were loved, if only briefly, by a little boy in a strange world of food.