|The first thing I ever baked in my current flat|
The thing is, food really does shape my life-most of my memories as a kid are tied around food-the worlds best banana pancakes in Bali when I was 3 that spoiled me for all other banana pancakes forever, ranbutans [sic?] eaten from paper bags in muggy hotel rooms with my parents whilst in Asia then being horribly disappointed by them back in the UK, my dad's ice cream floats (drunk on our front doorstep with all the neighbourhood kids), my Irish nan's roast potatoes that I will never be able to fully replicate and my English nan's date slice (for which I have the recipe, kept safe in a book, written down by 11 year old me and with everything spelt grossly, luxuriously wrong).
I knew I was head over heels for my boyfriend when I didn't even think about food on our first date, then on our second insisted on taking him to an Irish pub so that he could try red lemonade. I wanted him to be able to taste the drink that was the memory of so many childhood trips to Kerry because I knew he was important, even then. I was so delighted when he liked it that I threw my arms around him and kissed him.
For me, food means more than just nutrition-it's logged with emotion, nostalgia and memories. I've never been great at dieting for that very reason (which is a shame given that staying trim is part and parcel of being a screen actor). I grieved when my favourite Chinese take away closed down (I've never really recovered that particular betrayal).
In recent years more layers have been added-I know that at some point I want to have kids, so I know I have to keep my body fit and well, which means not only avoiding the wrong foods, but making sure I eat the right ones too. The past few years have had be eating meat and fish, discovering that my severe anaemia (despite my 17 year old protests) was linked to my vegetarianism and that steak is delicious. I don't just eat veggies because I have to now, I eat them because I love them and feel pretty rough if I don't. I make sure protien happens in every meal and that it's not always cheese. The older I get, the less food I can get away with eating without drastically changing size and shape. Which isn't to say that I don't still have huge pizzas and burgers-of course I do-but they had better be worth the damn calories. Frozen pizza doesn't cut it these days, it has to be the real deal or I feel cheated.
I can't tell you any dates from history but I can tell you what I ate the day we went to my first ever football match (smiley faces with soy sauce and ketchup-we were out of salt), or what me and my housemates talked about the first night we got drunk together and ate free buttery toast from the Christian tent ('Sorry man, we don't want to talk about god, we're mostly here for your food'). I can tell you the first meal Rob and I ever went out for (Thai food, which we barely ate because we were too busy laughing and doing Eddie Izzard impressions), what was served my first day on a proper TV set (veggie chilli and rice and loads of treacle sponge to ward off the cold), what I ate after my first proper break up (quorn hot dogs, one a day for 2 weeks. I lost almost a stone and looked DREADFUL), what I ate my first night in New York (TGI friday popcorn shrimp), what I ate when I found out my great uncle died (a really bad pizza from Pizza Hut), the drink my dad made me when I got mugged (very sugary tea, even though I hated tea, he said it was good for shock), what I ate the first time I was hungover (beans and chips, which I then threw up).
I feed people when they're sad-mashed potatoes, as Nora Ephron once said, are the best thing to treat melancholia. I also feed people when they're happy, celebration recipes stolen from Delia or Ottolenghi. I feed people to express my love for them, making Rob poached eggs on spinach and avocado is often my way of saying 'thank you for being incredible', cooking for my mum when I visit is my way of saying 'thank you for giving me a day job and being great at advice' and my dad's favourite carrot cake spells out how grateful I am for him putting up with all of my madness as a child (the man cut toast into pirate ships for me for god's sake)
So what's the moral of this blog post?
God, I don't know. I must be hungry. I think it's probably that food is a beautiful and special thing and we're lucky we have so much of it or something. Ask me again after lunch.