I drew a total blank in the cold aisle the other day when I found myself momentarily stumped about what on earth I was going to cook for dinner during the week and therefore what I needed to buy to facilitate this. Normally I do it without even thinking - on autopilot to gather the usuals. But much like when you think about something so simple too much (when you internally question how to spell the or P.E even), it suddenly became really complicated. The more I tried to visualise what I would cook, the more I was blinded by all the raw food. The grey chicken looked perpetually well, grey and unappetising. And there wasn't a mental finished piping hot dinner in my head, anywhere.
Lesson one - over thinking is dangerous and counter productive - being 'on the hoof,' last minute, rolling with it, thinking on yer' feet, zig zagging around plans - I'm better like that. It's like overruling your gut reaction, telling it you know better and then making a total mess of everything.
We all remember the first driving lesson. Being totally amazed that people were cavorting whilst still managing to think of mirrors, signalling, manoeuvring, the steering wheel, the clutch pedal ('you mean press the clutch pedal at the same time as changing gear? How,, which way, where's first').
Then of course the small matter of other cars on the road, pedestrians, traffic lights, Highway Code signs with stripes etc. And what these people are having conversations, rows, arguments and also casually supping a coffee and indulging in a dash of road rage too?
No way, not possible, never, I'll never able to do that! You scream inside. But then a few months down the line you're driving around doing normal stuff like chatting, chomping an apple and swigging tea, ignoring stripy signs, WHILST DRIVING, not even thinking about the seemingly endless list that appeared in those first few weeks. Because you stop over thinking it and your mind and body just gets the hell on with it and it just all feels totally second nature. You've surprised yourself but you're doing it, just fine.
I tried to recall this 'you can do it' analogy as I eyed up the mushroom heavy displays peppered with cavolo nero and taleggio. Then a little recipe card jolted me into life as I saw a picture of a sumptuous mushroom pizza - and as if by magic, all the ingredients were handily propped in one fridge along side a bottle of plonk that was bound to taste amazing with said pizza (they're even telling me what to drink! Fantastic!). All I had to do was reach my hand forward and place it in the basket (I think I can still do that). You see, supermarkets (or artisan eateries if you're lucky enough), have cottoned on to the fact that sometimes food brain freeze happens to all of us, in the aisles. So now, they're indulging us more. Basically, dumbing down our own brains and making us more (food) stupid. The one upside is that they're possibly doing a good job of reminding us to eat as Mother Nature intended, in season. Now, in October it's all wild mushrooms, white truffles, plenty of beetroot and tree fruit - apples, pears, quinces - in abundance. And oysters are back in season.
But next time you are shopping, ride over the wave of the predictable big pointy arrow marketing with perfect food styled pictures that supermarkets are so good at (and we all know the end result never looks like that). Have a quick check yourself with what is in season and make up your own wonderful creations either in the aisle (if you can think on your feet) or before you go in to the shop and go in armed with a list.
Ainsley, you're a ledge
Let's have a nod here to Ainsley, and one of the best format shows ev-aah. Ready, Steady, Cook. Set yourself the challenge to think beyond the dapper boxes of the dictatorial, towering metal fridges and gather five ingredients yourself. Simply put them in the bag for life you have remembered to take out of your boot (said no one ever), and go home and whizz up something, anything, that you created totally by yourself. And ok I get that the contestants had a larder, a well stocked enviable larder at that, with stuff that didn't expire in 2013, but that's beside the point.
Of course, there's every possibility it will be 'Ready, Steady, Cook, shit, don't have that herb so it's beans on toast' or, 'Ready, Steady, Cook, that tastes really shit, take away, now' but equally it could could be 'Wow, I just surprised myself and I'm enjoying being my own creator.'
Lesson two - Because you just never know until you try. If you're not brave enough, get your kids to research what is in season (good life lesson), and let them come up with some concoction.
Listen. I'm off for a raw mushroom sandwich with an oyster and venison jus with a slightly sticky herbes de Provence garnish (from the larder!!) and a beetroot smoothie to wash it all down with.
Remember, when you imagine the meal and hunt down the ingredients, the cooking is a transformative alchemy that belongs only to you.
I bet you find some magic.