So about this home cooking business. I enjoy it, mostly. But honestly, cooking in this weird time of social isolation and lockdown, the pressure to make each meal an event — a highlight of an otherwise grey day — is considerable. The stakes are higher, don’t you think?
It reminds me of a passage from the wonderful Marion Halligan’s book The Taste of Memory:
What shall we have for dinner? What do you want for dinner? This is an anguished cry and often heard in suburban and even urban households whatever the makeup, gender and partnership. I have a habit of wailing: I don’t mind buying it, and cooking it, just tell me what you want to eat! I’ll do the work, you do the thinking.
I have a whole bookcase full of cookbooks, and yet thinking of what to go and buy remains difficult. It’s the balance as much as anything: nothing too fattening, or fatty, or rich … not red meat again, you could eat fish just once, I’m sick of pasta … It reminds me of an experience I had when I was first married. A long time ago. I had the current notions of wifely responsibilities, which would seem old fashioned now. It was in the starry-eyed honeymoon stage, when a nicely married young woman imagined herself as the perfect wife.
That’s when I had my experience. You could perhaps call it a vision, if something so black deserves a name. It made me think of Macbeth, the part where he goes to the witches and asks them about the future. He’s already bloodily murdered a number of people to get hold of the throne, now he wants to know will he be able to pass it on to his children; will the descendants of Banquo, his dear friends whom he also killed, ever reign over the kingdom that he has lost so much to gain? The witches show him a procession of kings all looking like Banquo, and obviously his offspring, the last one carrying a mirror in which a whole lot more are reflected. He cries, What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom?
That was me, realising that I had a lifetime of meals to prepare. One, two, even three meals a day, all made by me. Lined up and marching out into the invisible future. What, I cried, will the line stretch out, even to the crack of doom?
Marion Halligan, The Taste of Memory, Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2004, 27-28.