Now deep into my thirties, I’m starting to feel that I need to be ticking certain boxes. I’m no longer a kid so there are things I have to be able to do by now. Sleep in the dark, smack golf balls with a driver, wash my own nick-nocks. I’ve increasingly never ticked the box marked ‘cook a roast dinner’ so last week I sharpened my quill and righted that wrong.
I’d been thinking about cooking a roast for a while. Whenever I see some adult or other putting one together, it interests me. There’s something about it which is almost like a dance. Moving from fridge to wooden board to oven to wooden board to bin to fridge to oven. Like pasty-faced ballerinas they stomp around; their aprons are their tutus. Their hands glisten with raw meat, peelings infest their hair. There’s a lot going on. Here a knife slicing through a sprout, there a hand plunging inside a chicken’s anus. Increasingly I’ve thought, “I’d like to be a part of that”.
I’ve been looking at hens more and more the past couple of weeks. Casting my salivating chops in front of birds in all the major supermarkets, drooling on to their backs and visualising them crisping up under the heat of my Hitachi. Eventually I fell in love with one in Asda, purchased her and walked her to my flat. I then bought some carrots on Ocado and once they’d landed I was near enough ready. I replaced my clothes with an apron, took my biggest knife, and walked towards my hen.
I should say at this point, I’m not a bad cook. There’s dozens of dishes I’ve nailed over the past 15 years. Mince. All sorts. Throw me some bread and point me towards a toaster and I’ll do the rest. But a roast is different. There’s something primal about standing in a kitchen, holding an actual hen. It must be how our forefathers felt when they cradled a deer in their arms after spearing it on a hunting weekend. Sure, these days shops tend to sell birds debeaked and shaved, but it’s still possible to fantasise you’ve chased down the poor sod yourself. I smothered my bird with rosemary and ketchup, and threw her into the furnace.
I then set to work on the carrots, boiling the shit out of them, and then pouring them over the chicken, shutting the door, turning all the dials up to nine and welcoming the first of the guests. I chivvied them into the lounge where I had prepared some ambient Sky Sports and nibbles before returning to the kitchen and peering through my Hitachi’s window to see if any potatoes or stuffing had emerged. I then finely diced some Yorkshire puddings and whisked them in with the fats and granules to make a sort of gravy. I wiped my hands on my hips loads and drank some Becks Vier.
My mother’s roasts are divine. If anything, she overcooks them. Fantastic. I genuinely pity anyone who hasn’t tasted my mother’s leeks. With this in mind, I did feel sad as I balanced my roasted ‘food’ on a large board. It didn’t have the appearance of a traditional roast. I poured on salt and mustard and trudged into the lounge. There were six guests now and they all had an opinion. One expressed his by leaving, others made faces as if they were from the war and had just seen something minging. CDG ran the knife through the hen, saying “the juices must run clear” but was interrupted by a cloud of blood bubbling into her fist. I pierced the carrots lavishly and pointed to the torrents of clear liquid that that yielded. More houseguests left, we voted on whether the hen should go back in the oven or have a period in the bin and then we sat down to the carrots.
I was pleased to have ticked the roast dinner box and nibbled away as best I could. Occasionally I snuck into the kitchen for a biscuit or some pâté on bread.