To be a good cook can suggest all kinds of nice things about you: it can imply creativity, sensitivity, imagination and patience. That said, perhaps it's also possible that not cooking well could indicate some pretty nice things about you too. For example, it could suggest that you're concerned with other matters, such as saving the world, writing books, looking after children, developing your friendships. This, at least, is the line I've long been trying to peddle to justify my abysmal lack of talents in the kitchen.
However, at least all my recipes are quick. Here's an absolutely favourite recipe. I've called this recipe 'The Philosophical Dinner' because for years this is what I cooked whenever I met up with Dr John Armstrong, a friend of mine who is a philosopher. We'd meet to discuss seriously abstract topics: beauty, love, nature, truth. If you've got any philosophers coming over, this is what you should go for:
4 sliced chicken breasts
A bag of penne pasta
A jar of pesto
Fry the chicken breasts, squeezing lemon over them while discussing beauty and truth.
Boil a kettle, pour boiling water into a pan then cook pasta for about 8 minutes.
Drain pasta and pour in half a tub of pesto. Stir and talk more about beauty and truth. Keep frying the chicken so it gets nice and crispy. Enjoy the sizzle of the lemon juice as it hits the pan, but never forget that happiness is an illusion.
'Status Anxiety' by Alain de Botton is published 4 March by Hamish Hamilton (£16.99)Reuse content