The Basics of Burgers

Recently I have been feeling really gross. Everything is disgusting. Everything smells bad and makes me gag. You know what smell makes me the most sick? It’s WASHING POWDER, folks. Yes, the stuff I use to make my clothes clean. I cannot STAND it. I take one whiff and I am done for. The very thought is making me heave.

why do you look like you’ve been slapped in the face? my husband asks, innocently, munching the instant noodles he has just cooked, oblivious to the fact that he has let out an instant-noodle stink bomb which has slowly spread its foul tentacles throughout the entire house.

because you’ve slapped me in the face with that abhorrent smell!

I have not been eating much, suffice to say, and as such I have been making myself more sick, and yes, more hungry. It really is a vicious cycle!

Which is why, yesterday, I let my husband drag me to a restaurant/’diner’ in Manchester called the ‘New Yorker Diner’.

It is set in an area which is practically the definition of Manchester. It’s on the same street as the Britannia hotel, which, despite its name and its grand exterior, has only been labelled a 3-star hotel. A horde of nightclubs and gay bars are situated on every corner, and if you walk five minutes in a straight line you will be passing under the majestic arch of Manchester’s Chinatown (does every city in the world have a Chinatown?!). Parking is scarce, or really expensive (I am staring at you, NCP. I have a massive beef with you. £7/hour in MANCHESTER?! Dirty piece of crap), and there are dubious goings on in the narrow streets behind the fancy main roads. Dolled up girls and dapper dudes, and sometimes dolled up dudes and dapper girls line the streets when the sun begins to set on a Saturday evening, laughing and drinking in readiness for a classic British night out with the lads and the girls and the both. Sometimes groups of women in a loudly stated ‘Hen’ huddle waddle and totter along, carrying massive blow-up male genitalia and declaring their nightly intentions with vivid pink sashes emblazoned across their fronts. Mottled-looking folk with extra large jackets trot nervously down dark alleyways and exchange goods behind filthy, overflowing bins. Groups of girls in hijab laugh and joke amongst themselves along the streets, as the night gets darker, and despite the strong smell of alcohol and weed and the dubiousness of the surroundings, one feels safe on the busy streets of Manchester. Everybody is out, everybody is intermingling.

The New Yorker Diner itself is designed to look like a cross between an underground bunker and an industrial site. You have to go down metal steps to be seated in an underground room, with naked retro bulbs dangling from wires which wrap around metal beams and line brick walls. Neon signs flash in the windows which are half covered on top by the ceiling, and you can watch people’s feetsies walk by. Very hipster indeed, but does look faux-grimy too, which, perhaps, is New Yorky? I wouldn’t know.

Anyway. I tell you I was retching all the way through the streets, passed the rubbish bins and plumes of weed smoke, holding my breath as I entered the restaurant. What if I couldn’t stand the smell? What would I do?

I took a tentative sniff and my goodness, I felt fine!

And when my burger arrived, handmade in a brioche bun with all the regular fixin’s; melty REAL cheese, sliced pickles, lettuce and tomato, and some beautiful sauce that was a little spicy and a lot I don’t know what, with a side of fries tossed in some kind of spice mix, and I took the first bite, I was transported, folks.

Transported and sublimed. I inhaled that burger, and those fries. Well, not the whole thing, I had the other half for breakfast the next day, but my GOODNESS.

I don’t know if it was because by that point I was half starved from being sick, so any food would taste like heaven exploded in my mouth, but man oh MAN I have been thinking of that meal ever since.

That SAUCE, what was it?? They call it ‘Brooklyn sauce’ but there is no indication of what might be in it. It is yellow, and very tasty, and so divine. It definitely isn’t mustard. Please, if you know, share your knowledge!

The basics of a good burger, I find, is to have a solid but tasty bun. The burger must be real meat, seasoned adequately and griddled to juicy perfection. The sauce must be hot, the lettuce fresh, the the tomato turgid. The pickles should be sliced generously, not too skinny that they flop flaccidly, and not too thick that they hinder the bite. And the cheese should be generous, yet not overpower the rest of the ingredients.

Also, New Yorker Diner? 10/10. No questions. You have to be comfy in a fast-foody-looking setting, though, because you order at the till and get one of those buzzy things that tells you when your food is cooked, and boy oh boy is it COOKED. Sizzling hot and melty and just divine. I am already planning my next sojourn there.

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NOT my photo – but this is the burger I had.

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Croissant

Exquisite, dainty layers.

A golden road, winding round and round, tucking into itself in a nest of warm dough.

Still, glistening, as the sun melts upon its surface.

Rising, gently, to the occasion.

Crisp, yet soft.

And rich enough that you only need one with your morning coffee.

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Inspired by my 1am snack!

Friday

Here is another Friday, and another … failed week. I shall review Friday as opposed to anything else, because once again I have not finished anything of importance.

This week I intended to get up and leave the house by 5:30am in order to get to the gym for some intense spin classes, and incorporate a weight lifting workout, before work. I also intended to keep strictly to my proper healthy diet and not give in to overeating or anything that would wreak havoc on my digestive system. But oh, how alluring are those foods that wreak havoc on digestive systems!

I overslept three mornings out of five due to exhaustion. I tried to make it up on those three mornings by attending lunchtime gym classes. The first was a complete failure. I signed up for a Pilates class at my gym, and I spent an hour waving my legs in the air and yawning out of complete boredom. It did not challenge me at all and I kept thinking of the hour I could have spent doing a strenuous leg day! The second day I overslept, I tried to incorporate leg day during my lunch break, but time was my enemy and I only managed to do half of what I was supposed to. I pat myself on the back, however, because at least I DID something, no?

I truly failed when it came to my diet. At work, people love food. They love to bring in treats and desserts, and it is always someone’s birthday, or someone has returned from a Congress in another country and brought back goodies from said country, or someone brings in platters of cheese and crackers, or bowls of snacks because it’s their one year anniversary at work… the list goes on! And, try as I might to avoid it, I always manage to succumb. Always.

Added to that, I am sitting at my desk all day, and the 45min to an hour gym sessions I force myself to attend are not enough activity. So I am snacking all day with minimal movement, and I got on the scales this morning to see I have gained around 4 kilos since the beginning of October. I looked at my tummy and realised that the garish protrusion is not due to a bloat… who bloats in the morning after having skipped dinner last night?… it is due to fat deposits making themselves at home in my midsection. The worst part is, they are uninvited, ugly and don’t pay rent!

So today I am in a horrible slump. My week has tumbled down a rocky crevice and is lying at the bottom somewhere, in a crumpled heap. It is fine, but it has no energy to drag itself up and its heart hurts.

You see, I was reading Anne of Avonlea through to Anne of Ingleside this week. The years of Anne’s blossoming into adulthood, taking her stunning imagination with her, and also the burgeoning romance she has with Gilbert, and the beautiful family they produce.

Ah, Gilbert. How I always yearned for a Gilbert. Gilbert is handsome, reliable, ambitious but aware of his own limits and those of the world around him. Gilbert is worldly, but also a kindred spirit. Gilbert loves Anne relentlessly, wholly, truly, fully, and has always loved her. Gilbert has no eyes and heart for anybody but Anne, and he revels in her words and thoughts and takes active part in her musings and her worlds. Gilbert says he didn’t notice a ‘very beautiful woman’ because his eyes are only on his wife.

What a lie. No man would not notice a very beautiful woman. Some men notice them too much.

And, you see, when I first got married, I too thought I had a Gilbert. Sometimes I still do think so. But rereading these books again after a good nine years, I realised that Gilbert is as real as a blue moon. As passing as a little baby spider floating on a gossamer thread in the spring wind.

This week, I feel as if it is going to shambles.

I feel misunderstood. I feel ignored. I feel as though barriers have been put up to me, and while it might be partly due to my own attitude, I feel like no real effort is being made to truly understand me. I feel like I am the one trying to do the understanding, and nothing is being done to try to understand or appreciate my thoughts and needs.

I feel neglected.

I feel halved.

I feel sore and missing.

I wrote an ode to Friday, some time back, and today, Friday has done me no wrong, but I don’t feel happy in her warm embrace. She is still comforting, however. She gently reminds me of rest to come, warmth and tea. She reminds me I will be seeing my family soon, and that I have two glorious days in which to take care of myself. She also reminds me bitterly that I will not be able to take much time out for self care during these two days, but adds that some time is better than no time.

Marriage is hard. Sacrifices have to be made, and I want to make them, but my heart hurts when I think that perhaps, maybe, sacrifices don’t want to be made for me?

Oh. I’m feeling blue.

 

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Inspirational Cake

Here is a statement.

Cake is inspirational.

I say this as I lick the last remnants of the strangest and perhaps the most delicious cake I have ever eaten from my lips.

It was small, and arrived in a box. It was coated in a soft, luxurious film of glossy chocolate, and on top lay five single curls of the same, arranged to deceive my eyes. When the sharp knife slid down right into its core, and a small slice was gently pulled out of the whole, a golden brown substance oozed from the middle.

Once on my place, a cup of cinnamon and apple tea steaming beside me, I examined it. It was very brown, and I realised the little moist smudges within the cakey texture were dates. A date cake, then, coated with chocolate and filled with…?

I let my fork sink into the cake, taking a sizeable chunk along with some of the golden cream, and closed my lips over it.

An explosion in my mouth. Sweetness, solid cake, my mouth enriched.

First the dates. Not bad at all. Then the chocolate. Finally, swirling its fingers over my tongue, caressing my tastebuds, a surge of.. salted caramel?!

What an odd combination of flavours, but how well they worked together.

Immediately the exhaustion evaporated, I settled back to really enjoy this slice. Immediately my brain fizzled into action. I no longer felt lethargic. I washed my cake down with the deep warm cinnamon tea, the perfect balance to the overwhelming sweetness of cake.

Cake.

The perfect high note to a day filled with lows.

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Levi Wells Prentice (1851-1935)

Eating Sadness

I woke up ravenous today.

I wanted to eat,

everything in sight.

A mango was not enough for me.

I had to follow it up with a bowl of grapes.

Then I wolfed down an entire punnet of strawberries,

Craving the sugar,

but barely tasting it.

I was hungry, still.

So I went to the kitchen in search of more food.

There was nothing in the cupboards, and the fridge was empty

save for a wilted celery stick.

I scarfed that in a moment.

Then I sat down,

to think about

why the cave inside my stomach

could not be filled.

And as I thought, my throat constricted,

my lungs felt tight,

and I wanted to gasp for breath.

The knot in my chest loosened a little,

when some tears

rolled down my face.

And I realised,

that all this time,

I was not hungry,

I was just sad.

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Comfort

There is honestly nothing like a hot, buttery crumpet, with a scrape of jam on the very top, washed down with a mug of sweet, well brewed tea on a sunny day in spring.

In Morocco they have a similar sort of food, a pancake called ‘Baghrir’, fluffy and filled with holes just like a regular crumpet. They refry these pancakes in olive oil sometimes, but my favourite way to eat them is fried in butter and honey, sweet and succulent, with a small glass of sweet mint tea, steaming and oxidised from pouring from a height. My dad was a baker back in his student days, and when I was particularly small, he used to make them for breakfast every so often. A massive family breakfast. Usually when we breakfast together on a weekend we have a fry-up. Eggs and beans and toast and mushrooms and hash browns and sausages and whatever else you can add to a fry-up. My dad hates baked beans. He doesn’t really like much English food because he is not English, you see, and growing up his palette included much more savoury, aromatic Middle Eastern foods. So on his breakfast days we had moroccan pancakes, Spanish omelettes, cream cheese, honey, olive oil, plenty of olives and round, flat arabic bread. And lots of fruit!

Both kinds were comfort food to me. A plate of buttered crumpets with a moroccan teapot (ibreeq) and lots of small, gleaming little tea glasses, bits of mint floating on top. A nice contrast of cultures, in a way!

Moroccan mint tea is made in a special way. You don’t just pour boiling water on the mint, because you then have tasteless peppermint tea. You put in half a tablespoon of gunpowder tea, or Chinese green tea leaves into the pot and simmer with some hot water for a while. Then you pour it out and add more hot water until the metal teapot is filled to its workable capacity. You boil it until it bubbles, and then add your carefully cut and washed fresh mint. You close the lid and boil for about a minute, then you can sweeten to taste. Moroccans love their tea sweet. Too sweet, sometimes. But oh the taste of that fresh liquid, hot down your throat. I can have five or six glasses in a row. When I was in Morocco they would joke about how many glasses I would have, one after the another, greedy in anticipation.

When I was very small my father used to cool the tea before he gave it to me by pouring it from one small glass into another a few times until the heat dissipated enough for me to drink. When I went to Morocco last summer, I noticed that the Moroccans did that a lot for their little ones. I hadn’t known it was a thing they do.

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This is how to pour Moroccan tea. From as high above as you can manage!

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Ah, the fluffy, buttery hot English crumpet.

 

Daily Cooking

Daily cooking has become a chore now. I used to love cooking but now that my interests have expanded to include devouring Knowledge, I find that the time frame to cook a decent meal has narrowed horrendously.

Also there are financial constraints to adhere to, and also health constraints.

One must eat healthy, else one will develop all the manner of mysterious ailments. By one, of course, I mean myself. I have bad poops, acne, weight gain, hair loss, bloating – the list goes on. And all these things only occur to me when I eat instant noodles or microwave meals.

The minute I eat gluten free oats for breakfast and plenty of vegetables, my body goes back to normal and I feel fabulous.

SO, with these limitations, I have to make sure we have a healthy meal for dinner every day. Because if I left it to my husband, we would be eating – well – probably nothing served with a cup of tea.

Daily cooking for me has consisted of an oven dish filled with chopped up veggies, drizzled with olive oil or coconut oil, sprinkled with some salt, pepper, oregano and sometimes paprika. A crushed garlic or two nestled in there somewhere. And baked until just decent enough to eat.

Today it was half a sweet potato chopped up into thin ‘fries’, some green beans and some lamb mince spiced with salt, pepper, garlic, paprika and maple syrup and patted into burgers and shoved in the oven with the veggies. I had some leaves in the fridge too (don’t ask me what leaves they were, they were green and tasted like they were full of vitamin A) which we had on the side with some lemon squeezed on top sharpish. Two plates, serve the lamb burgers on the side, pile the veggies on another side, put the leaves on the third side, and there was a decent meal for two!

Prep time took ten minutes, cook time (left in the oven while my nose was in a book) was half an hour, and eating time was half an hour too.

Basically, I spent ten minutes in the kitchen preparing dinner. WHAT. Also, it wasn’t crap out of a box. WHAT?!?!?!

Tomorrow it will be gluten free oats with almond milk and blueberries for breakfast, lentil and coriander soup for lunch, boiled brown pasta, grilled chicken breast, chopped up tomatoes with some spices and all mixed up together for dinner. And hopefully that will take around 30 mins prep time all combined (ten minutes for each). And also include plenty of nutrients for my bodayyy.

Here is a photo of today’s leftovers which will go to work for tomorrow’s lunch, I will also add some steamed spinach and green beans tomorrow to add some colour!

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Peanut Butter Burger

Well, my exam went well. As well as it could, under the circumstances. What circumstances?

Oh, you know, the ones where I didn’t study Wordsworth.

Out of all the poets, his were the ones I had to dissect in my exam.

Out of all the authors/poets I have studied on this course, and begrudged slightly, he was the only one who could not redeem himself after extensive study. Well, Wordsworth, I am glad our journey  together is over. I would wish you well, but you’re dead. So rest in peace, and no, I can’t forgive you for being the cause of my literary misery.

I also drove that girl home. You know, the one I met the other day. We didn’t talk about her relatives this time. We talked about our course, our exam, and our summer plans. It was actually really enjoyable. I even got her to laugh, by lapsing into my regular self by accident and doing a silly impression. Then we sat in the car outside her house chatting for fifteen minutes. The socially awkward human inside me kept willing her to get out and go home, so I sort of zoned out a little. ANYWAY. Anyway.

Went with the husband to see X-Men, Apocalypse. Even though I haven’t seen any X-Mens before. He really wanted to go. Even though he was dead tired.

‘Why,’ he said, ‘don’t we celebrate your first day of freedom, eh?’

‘Why,’ he said, ‘are you so uptight and old?’

‘Because,’ I replied, ‘I am worried about you getting up early after this long night and having to drive two hours to work.’

We did it anyway. Then we went and had special burgers. Mine had crunchy peanut butter on a home-made beef patty with fried bananas on top. It was very tasty. The vegetarian in me died, of course. She did not last more than a week.

That was delicious. 10/10. Now I am worried my husband has to drive really early to work tomorrow after this long ass day.

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Kyle Fewell

 

 

What are you like?

Hi, I am shy.

I don’t smile at people.

People think I am ‘indifferent’ or ‘moody’.

I generally am, though.

But when I am not, I don’t smile at anybody anyway. I walk around with a perpetual frown on my face. That is my face when it is resting, and I am thinking about things. Mostly life, mostly what I am going to have for lunch, mostly whether or not my keys are in my pocket.

My ‘moody’ demeanour makes it hard for me to make friends, because its pretty off-putting. Most days I don’t want to make friends, because the general population make me very irritated.

The man who is parking on double yellow making it so I have to wait for the oncoming tide of traffic to wane so I can get past, for example. I gave him a right old glare as I went past. Was it necessary? No. Would it change his attitude toward parking on double yellow? Certainly not.

But it gave me pleasure and so I glared as hard as I could.

I am very good at glaring.

I am also good at being awkward. I say unnecessary things and make unnecessary faces.

Take the other day when I was waiting in the dentist waiting room. The assistant was a girl I knew from college and then uni. We were surprised to see each other.

She smiled so wide at me. That reminded me that I had to smile too.

She was blatantly in uniform, and when she said “Oh I work here now,” I said, without really thinking, because sometimes i faze out when I talk to people, I don’t know why,

“Oh really!?”

Then she tugged at her dark blue scrubs, “Yeah, look at my clothes!”

That was weird. Why did I say that?

I knew she worked there. She even had a name badge.

When the appointment was over, I went to leave.

“Well, thank you so much. See you Wednesday.” I said.

Then she said, “It was lovely to see you, Len.”

I would never have said that.

“It was lovely to see you too.” I told her. And it was.

“How’s married life?” she’d asked me, as I blew my nose loudly in the waiting room.

Ugh. Why do people insist on asking me that? It’s so annoying. I am not defined by my ‘married life’, just because I got married at nineteen.

Now I take to answering people like this;

“Yeah. It’s regular. We wake up and brush our teeth and go to work and school and do life, then go to bed at night. You know, the usual.”

It’s been two years. My life is more than just the ‘married’ aspect of it.

Ask me something interesting, like how is my ocean bream. Or what are my plans for the week. Or what do I think about the current situation. Any situation. I would say I think the bee situation is getting out of hand and they really ought to do something about those rats.

Ask me about my mental stability. I joke. That would be weird.

I will tell you, though, that I secretly think I am insane and might have some kind of disorder, because in my dreams people keep revealing to me that I am autistic.

I mean, that’s ridiculous, but it might have some truth? I am terrible with humans, absolutely terrible.

I never used to be, though. It is really since I left somebody who used to emotionally abuse me and manipulate me. Since I was influenced by him my social life juddered to a rusty old stop and I haven’t been the same since.

I really am such a fool in social situations, and I really don’t want to make any friends, and the friends I do have get on my nerves so badly that I rarely see them, and when I do, I have to force myself to be all nice and say ‘I love you hahaha’ when really I don’t love them. Not a whit.

Oh dear. Who knows. I’m happy, though, the way things are. I think I need to meet people more like me, though. I generally attract folk who aren’t like me at all, which is probably why I struggle to enjoy their company.

Anyway.

What are you like?

Something Precious

It’s not what you think.

It’s not family, love or hope.

It’s not vivid nature, nor personal exuberance.

It’s not the skies flying rapidly by, changing colour with each hour, month, season.

It’s not the sun, revolving around the earth.

It’s not the moon controlling the tides.

It’s not growth, not the blossoming of petals after stark, winter dormancy.

It’s not appreciation of the world in all its forms.

It’s not peace.

Not world connectivity, cultures drawn together, happiness spread.

It’s beans on toast when the skies are grey and the world is cold. It’s steaming beans trickling over warm toast with butter melted on top, and a fried egg, sunny side up, on the corner of the plate. Some mushrooms pile up in another corner. Maybe a little bit of feta too. It’s a mug of delicious hot earl grey with a teaspoon of sugar and a glug of milk, because it’s the weekend and I am indulging.It’s fluffy socks, crossed under the table, as the delicious breakfast is downed slowly, every bite savoured, all washed down with the sweet, flavourful tea. It’s a day stretched out, wonderfully  empty, with no assignments or chores looming ahead. A pile of exciting books by a freshly made bed, crisp sheets, a soft dressing gown. A pretty, glowing lamp in the corner of the living room after a relaxing walk in the cold evening, cheeks red, nose cold. It’s falling asleep to the gentle patter of rain on the window panes, all relaxed and ready for the hectic week ahead.

It’s the little things.

 

 

 

N.B. I can’t wait to move into my own place again so I can experience said precious thing. Living with so many people is starting to take a toll on my sanity.