Jing says I can remember his name like this:”Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way..” or I can just call him Neil. Neil is Chinese, but not his Chinese name, which is Jing. Jing is a bit hung up on what he calls passion. He has studied auditing for five years and can be a really good , well paid audit guy. He does not feel a passion for this. He can put people out of business and call it restructuring, but hold his head high cos someone has to be the bad guy. But he’s also done two years of medical school and has to choose a specialty, and he’s thinking pediatrics but could not stand the thought of being very tired and killing a child by accident. I say, “I think that’s part of the thing, the doctor thing. People will die. Some will be young. It does not mean you killed them, maybe their appendix burst, or cancer spread rapidly, or blood poisoning kicked in with savage swiftness after the menengitis rash came up under the glass.” But he remains unconvinced, it’s a doctor’s job to save lives. So ( we are whispering, we are in the college library, looking up recipes involving boiling bones, there is a circularity here) he is buying some thinking time and added a third skill into the mix, which will be cookery. He likes food. He spent 200 quid at a pop up. He took photographs of a heritge tomato salad he had in a Mark Hix restaurant. I didn’t want to tell him I polished glasses and cutlery in a Mark Hix restaurant for a very long time, because I felt it was all I was fit to do. It’s hard to say that to someone as multi talented as Jing. I go Jing, I wish I had your problems, that I had two things I was really good at and one thing I was getting good at. He seems unconvinced. He tells me the starting salary for the audit jobs are way better than the starting salaries for NHS. You make more money saving money or getting jobs lost, than saving lives. In this fucked up world, that makes all kind of sense.
We stare at the cookery lesson screen and sigh. Stocks are a long way off. Today we have made beautiful salads, and salad is one of my favourite foods, but we’ve gone and 70s the lot of them by heaping globs of home made mayo over all of them and dotting them with carved heritage tomatoes. I hate mayo to near phobic proportions. And yet my first culinarly lesson is a sea of yellowish emulsion, inolving such rapid and frenezied whisking I feel this is task best suited to prositutes or guys who wank a lot.
All my cheffing gear arrived in a box big enough to climb into and send myself parcel post to somewhere warmer and mayo-less. I have knives and whites galore. A recipe book full of sauces and things suspended in gelatine. Cruise ship cookery. The first day I have my stuff, I play with all my knives and cut every edible thing in the house into tiny cubes of not entirely even sizes. Even sizes are important so everything cooks at the same time.
Do I have a passion for food? Nah, not really. But I like colour and fresh ingredients but most of all, I really love knives. Which is unfortunate because I am also slightly subclinically dsypraxic and given to lobbing off bits of my hands with stuff that is too sharp, you only feel the pain when you’ve bled all over the beetroot and realize it’s not beetjuice but your Type O.
My world is changing. But I will julienne my way through bags of fat carrots while I am deciding my next move, or my next move decides it for me.