When I first moved out on my own, meals often consisted of one or two ingredients: dinner would be a giant bowl of steamed broccoli streaked with grated cheese, or a plate of spaghettini tossed in pesto. While this style of eating might initially appear bereft (and have a whiff of the pathetic), it was a purposeful choice: I wanted to break free from the shackles of the meat+potatoes+salad mould (or more accurately, the rice+veg/meat shared dishes mould) and redefine how a meal could be. Of course, later I would read MFK Fisher’s The Gastronomical Me and discover that she underwent a similar reevaluation of dining conventions during her twenties – and in a far more eloquent demeanour than mine. Still, it was a thoroughly enjoyable time in my life, to discover a manner of eating that truly made me happy.
I still enjoy shuffling down dots of rice while plucking at steamed fish and leafy bok choy from the communal plate, or seeing the steak linking arms with the potatoes and salad – nothing reminds more of Home than sitting in front of a rounded meal. However, there is a calming and reassuring simplicity to eating a meal of solitary feature. Gastronomic singularity gives the palate and the mind the opportunity to understand the importance and depth of a food. These days it is difficult to avoid the incessant buzzing of stimulation to our senses, but I think if we pay enough attention, the potato has a lot to say.
A lunch last week: boiled potato, thickly sliced and drizzled with olive oil, dressed with stray hairs of dill, and made gritty with sea salt and cracked pepper. Eaten warm, it was lovely indeed.