At the age of 20 I hosted my first dinner party. I invited my university friends over and channeling my mother I made too much food for the two people who would be coming. I had spent the day sweating, cursing, and wrapping my finger in a plaster after I cut it on a can. Until then I didn’t know how hard it was to cook with only nine digits.
University wasn’t good to me, but these friends were. Sadly I have lost touch with them now but I remember my deep desire to impresses them, to make them like me via my cooking. But, but, but why wasn’t cooking fun? They came, they ate, they loved the food. There were leftovers which they gratefully took. One friend decided it was fine to use the spoon she had been eating with to also serve herself, instead of using the serving spoon which was right there. I vomited a little in my own mouth.
Since then I haven’t hosted a dinner party. I did a postgraduate degree and cooked for no one, not even myself. Toast and chocolate and apples replaced actual meals. The idea of cooking wasn’t appealing. It was unfeminist, needed patience, and generally a waste of time. Why cook when I could buy? Why buy actual meals when I could have ice cream and toast and a grapefruit?
Then, about a year ago something changed. I got sick of wasting money on expensive lunches and dinners. Queuing for food with other harassed looking commuters was quickly becoming my personal version of hell. Instagram certainly played a part: everyone was taking beautiful photos of their food and I wanted to join in with the fun. The whole notion of ‘wellness’ certainly had an impact though to this day I haven’t knowingly consumed bee pollen. But mainly I stopped being a child.
I started with making myself delicious breakfasts – my favourite meal of the day. I would look on Instagram or search online for inventive and easy recipes. Soon I had a selection of not just easy breakfasts but easy and delicious meals. The Spoon’s tahini porridge with a honey and sesame brulee topping was a firm favourite as was Anna Jones’ avocado and lemon zest spaghetti and Athena Calderone’s roasted cauliflower dish. I started experimenting and was overjoyed when the resutls turned out delicious and edible.
Here I was cooking for no one but myself, and occasionally my family and actually enjoying it. Of course some habits die hard – I still love to eat half a tub of ice cream in a go and ‘sandwiches’ made entirely of pesto spread on bread and nothing else – but I now know these are not main meals. Cooking has shifted from being an unfeminist act to a more feminist one – by cooking for myself I am claiming back some autonomy and financial responsibility. Also, it’s becoming more and more fun and I really do love taking photos and then tucking in.
Maybe the next step is to host a dinner party again?!