The Things We Know (or Don't) About Food


For breakfast, he makes us boiled eggs; and gives me the egg cup while he utilizes a half-empty Ox cube box, which I find simultaneously chivalrous and ingenious of him. Then he watches while I struggle through the egg (I haven't had a boiled egg in years, I tell him, truthfully and a bit defensively), giving me the occasional and helpful pointer, until I cry out:

"You can't assume that I know everything about eggs!"

(And then add, in a very small voice: "and just because I don't doesn't make me any less of a person.")

Things are fine until we start on the toast:

"This is good marmalade!" he says.
"Mmm. Good, proper, marmalade-y marmalade," I agree. Then I add, because I somehow think this is relevant to the discussion: "It's just from the shop around the corner. We bought it in October."
"I know," he says. "We keep forgetting to use it because it's been in the fridge."
"You have to refrigerate it!" I say. This is an argument of ours; well, I say argument. It's more like a mild but irrevocable cultural rift.
"No, you don't."
"Oh I know," I concede, as if he's somehow dragged it out of me after hours of hard debate, "But it's better if you do."
"It's got preservatives. It'll keep for months out," he tells me, for the thousandth time in our relationship. Then he adds thoughtfully, "hmm, lucky we did put it in the fridge, really, given that we got it in October."
"Hah!" I say, and we reach a quiet sandstill, punctuated by chewing and swallowing and a sort of haughtiness that neither of us quite deserves. I finish my toast. I say:
"Anyway, I like jams better when they've been refrigerated."
"You do?"
"I like the cool taste of refrigerated jam contrasted with the hot crunchy feeling of buttered toast," I tell him; and I mean it, I think.
"Um," he says.
"Well, it's true."
"All I'm saying is that it isn't necessary." He checks the jar of marmalade. "See? It doesn't say 'refrigerate after opening'"
"It's British. Of course it doesn't; nothing ever does." I can't tell if I sound righteous or jealous; briefly, I picture a world in which my kitchen actions are not dictated by the words printed on cans and jars--free, free! Oh, you lucky Brits.
"That's not true."
"Well, apart from milk."
"And hummus!" he says.
"Oh! You're right. And hummus."

And where can we go from here? We crawl into the lounge and watch the day, which hasn't yet decided if it wants to be cloudy-miserable or only partially so. We have been recovering from illness all week, and are giddy with it. Wellness is in reach, but we haven't yet reached it. We listen to Radio 4 and put aside our culinary differences for a bit. There's a special on street food; in South Korea, we learn, street vendors have composed a song to promote their craft, as they fear their kind are endangered by a government that sees a vendor-free country. "We're human too," is one of the lines; the music sounds like a boisterous, march-like carousel tune.

The sun continues to play games with the window; it's shining through now, now it's not, now it is. It's a kind of seasonal hide-and-seek: here's spring, in all its hot glory; now where's it gone?

Last night we heard fireworks going off; they sounded so close, so random, that they could have been gunshots, or thunder, so we opened our window and peered out; across the street we could see green bursts reflected in a dark window.

Cloudy again. The marmalade is still out on the table.