I love food. I bloody love it.
I love delicately balanced starters, robust main courses and elegant puddings, presented to me lovingly in a restaurant with proper napkins. I love stinky cheese and pate and bread and olives and cold meats laid out to graze on. I love Chinese and Indian and Thai and Japanese food with a hint of the exotic. I love meaty French meals and simple Italian. I love fish and chips.
And I wouldn't consider myself a faddy eater. I consider myself easy to cater for and positively breezy in the food department.
Well I did. Until now.
At the weekend I was away with friends and, over the course of a few conversations, I discovered that I am, in fact, an obsessive compulsive food freak.
Firstly, I don't like nuts. This puts me on the fringe of society. It's not that I'm allergic to nuts. I just fricking hate them. And the thing is that, if I say to a waiter, "are there nuts in that? Because I don't like them," the waiter will say, "no," but mean, "yes. They're minced up small so you won't see them, but they'll sully every mouthful," or, "yes. They're contaminating the chocolatey goodness as we speak," or, my personal favourite, "yes. They are sprinkled all over the top so they are the first thing you'll see when we bring it to you." So now I say, "are there nuts in that? Because I'm allergic to them," and waiters find out whether The Devil's Seed is in the food and tell me honestly. Of course, they might also spit in my food, but them's the breaks.
Secondly, I don't like to share. If I order something, I'VE ordered it. I read the menu, I chose, it's MY food. That includes the chips and any other small, easily-stealable morsels. They are mine too. Hands off! And you could have ordered the same thing, so don't you come crying to me. OK?
But it works both ways. If I've ordered badly, then I will have to watch you eat your nice meal whilst I move mine around the plate. I won't eat of your plate, because it's yours. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. Thank you very much!
There are obvious exceptions to the food staring rule. Tapas, dim sum, anything bought "for the table", anything called a "sharing platter". They're all fine. But if anything involves dipping, then when you re-dip the second mouthful, dunk the opposite end, not the one that you've already had a good chew of please.
This brings me onto food order. A plate of food will inevitably include some things which are your favourites. These are a quandary. My Grandpa George always used to advise that you shouldn't save the best 'til last because you might die before you get to the end. This is slightly more morbid that I'd personally go for, but the gist is right. What if you're full before the end? What if the phone rings and your dinner gets cold? What if a bird flies through the window and steals your plate? It's important to mix the good in with the average.
Some things, of course, have a natural course. You eat a jaffa cake around the edge, then the sponge, then the chocolatey orange circle at the end. A twix involves nibbling the chocolate up both sides, then the biscuit, then rolling the toffee into a snail and eating it in one. A kit-kat HAS to be broken into fingers. It's the law.
Oh, there's so much to think about!
So perhaps they are right. Perhaps I am a bit obsessive compulsive. But I won't know for sure until I've turned the lights on and off 17 times.
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