- Food & Drink
I cleared my plate like a good girl, which means I'm allowed to get down from the table and go and play with my friends
In the Sunday supplement Me & My Spoon style interviews that brighten weekend breakfasts, actors are often asked what they’d save from their house if it was on fire. When planning the answers for my own magazine profile (along with my BAFTA acceptance speech and the chat I’ll have with the Queen when receiving my damehood), this question always stumps me. There are lots of things I own that I like. Some of them a lot. But which ones would I stride through the soot to save?
On my birthday a few years ago, I was gently pulled awake by the smell of cooking. “How lovely,” I thought. “My housemates have got up early to bake me a cake.” I snuggled back under the blankets, my mind drifting around the dreamier edges of consciousness, congratulating myself on having such amazing friends.
Slowly, section by section, my brain woke up. I began to think how unusual it was for my housemates to get up before me. And for them to bake. Were they following a recipe? Because the cake didn’t smell right. In fact, it smelled burnt.
Suddenly more alert than a pointer on a moor in August, I scrambled out of bed, opened my door and stared at the ghostly curtain of smoke that was hanging in the hall. We lived in a maisonette above a garden flat and, from the look of the wispy clouds creeping in around our front door, our downstairs neighbours were on fire.
I ran upstairs shouting there was a fire and that we needed to get out. In those confused seconds when sleep, nightmares and reality collided, everyone instinctively picked up their possessions and ran. One housemate grabbed the floppy-limbed teddy bear she’d had since she was a baby. The other picked up her phone and pulled her passport from the drawer. Her boyfriend came down the stairs clutching his briefcase. I took nothing.
There are many things I own that I like. Some of them a lot. The print of The Green Lady that used to hang in my granddad’s living room; the gold chain that clinks with charms from my nan’s bracelet; a table with barley twist legs and flaking varnish that my mum would put a chocolate cake on every Saturday. But it turns out I don’t love them – not enough to search for them in the smoke. Give me the memory of them, ash and a strong cup of tea and eventually I’ll reconcile myself to their loss.
Having achieved this saintly lack of attachment to material things, I like to think I’m beyond greed. That the desire to acquire has passed me by. But I have my weaknesses. Secondhand cookbooks, for example. I can’t resist rooting through charity shops for broken-spined, gravy-stained tomes. My last purchase was this and I’ve flicked through it every day since I bought it, my eyebrows raised so high they’ve begun to merge with my fringe.
My other love is bashed up bits of crockery. Heavy plates and bowls that have been scraped by a hundred forks and washed by a thousand hands. I don’t know why, but when I see a thickset saucer lined with cracks, want blossoms inside of me like Japanese knotweed. It can’t be resisted or refused. It’s why I’m not allowed to go to provincial market towns anymore. Too many antique shops. I go wild.
Next time I go to CUTS I'm going to take a wheelie suitcase and put all the crockery into it at the end of the evening
So when I walked into CUTS and saw a bench laid with fat, old-fashioned platters, my morals immediately dissolved and I began to plot ways I could smuggle them out of the warehouse and into my home.
CUTS is a collaboration between pop-up pizza slingers Forza Win and traditional meat mongers The Ginger Pig. Based on an Italian grigliata, it’s a summer season of pork, lamb and beef-heavy meals served in a hipster-friendly pickle factory in Hackney.
The platters are piled with meat cooked over a wood-burning grill. Swift hands and speedy control of the serving spoon ensures you’re well fed. Regular forays to the bar for Americanos ensure you wake up, like me, covered in mystery grazes and bruises. Although a post-CUTS trip to Casita, where the tequila is deliciously served with a shot of pineapple, mint, coriander and chilli, may also be responsible for the gravel I had to pick out of my shins.
CUTS runs until the 22nd September and tickets are £40 for 4 courses and a welcome drink. Email email@example.com for booking info. If you go, remember to bring me back a plate.
I was invited to the press night of CUTS, and organisers Bash and Shed are both friends so this is an entirely nepotistic blog post.
*In case you were wondering what happened at the end of the fire story, once my housemates were all out, I went back into the hallway and banged on our neighbours door. Eventually, our bleary, beery neighbour answered and admitted that he might have come home a bit drunk and he might have put some oven chips on and he might have forgotten all about them. And yes, although the thick plumes of smoke pouring out of his flat suggested it was on fire, it actually wasn’t. Anymore. We all went back to bed. No one made me a cake.