Siobhan, Tati and I: Interlude – About food
Both Siobhan and I like good food, maybe a little too much. Married life did become us a little too well when it came to calories. We complement each other in a slightly detrimental way, since I was raised to believe that portions sizes were lacking if there aren’t any leftovers, and the wife likes to clean her plate since she does not like good food go to waste. Not that any food would have had the chance: Tati appreciates a good meal as much as any of us, and indeed would be hugely disappointed in her humans if would ask her to make do with dog food. I am hugely in favor of a species-appropriate diet and it is hugely appropriate for the species canis familiaris to share their meals with humans, since eating kitchen scraps is basically what turned wolves into dogs.
Apart from being tasty and nutritious food has also a few ancillary uses. For one, I find preparing food is a great way to relax. Spending time in the kitchen always helped me to relax after a day at work, especially when the result were (well, most of the time at least) so very well received – as inappropriate as it might be, the thing I probably miss most right now is that moment when Siobhan with an expectant smile raises her empty plate in my direction and asks, “Are there seconds ?” (of course there are). Cooking for the wife is, for me, pretty much the epitome of happily married life.
There was also the matter of breakfast. I usually get up a lot earlier than Siobhan (sleeping in is to some extent a prerogative of freelancers), so at some point I started to serve her breakfast in bed. Siobhan’s habits are not exactly demanding, and the few minutes in spend in the morning to prepare toast are amply rewarded by a smile and a kiss. And Siobhan thoroughly enjoyed that little luxury, too. “Behold the queen of Saba”, she would crow, surveying the vast domain of her bedsheets where, down at her feet, her single loyal subject stretched its paws and wrinkled it’s nose to ascertain if it was worth negotiating for a share of the breakfast (bugger it, it’s porridge again) before the humble servant cleared the table and, on a kiss, transformed back into the not quite as humble husband.
I also noticed, with some faint amusement, that getting served breakfast in bed entitled her to bragging rights among her friends. The way I found out was that Siobhan was calling a friend, and some time into the conversation the words “YOUR HUSBAND DOES WHAT ?” emerged in a volume that did not really require the telephone line to travel the way from the antipodes to our Berlin apartment. I am as vain as the next man, so that it reflected well on me that Siobhan was allowed to feel just a little smug about the excellent room service was just another reason to keep it up.
And, for Siobhan more than for me, food was a way to trigger happy memories. It took us a while to track down a brand of malt vinegar that rather tastes like something a person would use to clean their bathroom fixtures (provided they do not like their bathroom fixtures all that much), but which apparently is rather the same that a certain Fish and Chips shop in London used to drizzle on their meals (while we visited London early in our relationship I cannot quite vouch for that, as the shop had been gone by then). And she was quite thrilled when more and more shops started to carry prepacked british tea sandwiches, with egg and cress and without crust and cut into triangles (I can at least confirm that bread tastes much better when cut into triangles).
Last but not least food became an indicator for our gains in socioeconomic status. We love eating out (once a month, or twice. Well, thrice at most, because then the expensive is becoming frivolous), and our palate evolved with better job opportunities and rising income. First we visited that little Indian place in Feurigstrasse on the basis that two people could get away with less than 30 Euro (both, not each) including dessert and drinks, a price that makes you excuse certain shortcomings like taste, or lack thereof. In time, we worked our way up – when I landed a new job and the Indian place had closed we tried a more expensive place, and rather liked it. And so on.
This was not just about the food, either. As freelancers we had had a reasonable income on paper, but by the time the money actually arrived most of it was already dedicated to some purpose (usually patching some hole in our finances that had opened while we waited for our money – we were good workers, but not good businesspeople). With my fixed income later on our lives became a lot less improvised, and while Siobhan (and to a lesser extent myself) always championed social causes and justice for the world at large we found what we really craved for ourselves was a regular life with all the trappings of a small bourgeois existence.
We knew we had succeeded when, some years later, we arrived at our favourite Italian on a hot summer evening and along with dinner I ordered a bottle of water. When I poured us a glas I suddenly had to laugh, and Siobhan was laughing back because she knew exactly what I was thinking. “I know, I know”, I said, “here I am, spending money on water, when you can have water for free from the tap, right ?”. She nodded, and laughed again. We were really going up in the world.
So, we like food. That was probably the reason, when the time for courtship came, it didn’t even occur to me to invest in flowers or insubstantial chocolates or any of the other things that are usually considered romantic. Instead I headed for the kitchen and cranked up the oven. Clearly, pastry was what was called for here.