I am not normally one for new year resolutions. I have almost always failed to achieve them or swiftly fallen off the wagon of whatever strain of betterment I was focusing on that year. Sometimes it was weight loss, others it was “healthiness,” which was just a reworded, body positivity-approved variation on the former. Other times I wanted to obtain X job or start X business, and confusingly, courtesy of a recently re-discovered diary, I read that at age 16 I vowed to be nicer to my brother (I think this one came with time and maturity, rather than the flimsy hope offered by the new year).
After the relentless misery of the last two years, it seemed my only resolution for 2022 was to survive it, and to do so with at least a little more joy than I had the year before. Slowly but surely, however, one desired change crept its way in. Less of a resolution and more of a challenge, I decided I wanted to cut down my use of food delivery apps – an amalgamation of an enduring aim to be smarter with my finances and kinder to my body. I deleted Deliveroo and Uber Eats in a haze of frustration Tuesday evening and I’m going to aim to not reassess this decision until the end of the year (hungover Pho at the scroll of a thumb, I shall miss you).
I am deeply absorbed in the food world. Cooking and going out for a meal are two of my greatest joys in life. So why had opting out of food deliveries managed to dig its claws into me so deeply? It doesn’t satiate either of those joys. Instead, it sits somewhere in the middle – not quite the satisfaction of a home-cooked meal, not quite the incomparable camaraderie that comes from going to a restaurant. It enabled me to feed a lockdown-induced fear of the outside world and awaken from increasing laziness. I can still get takeaways, I’ll just have to leave the house to go and pick them up – forcing me to leave the boundary of my front door and breaking that terrible cycle.
I spent the last four days of 2021 in remote Scotland, making do with what we had in the fridge and whipping up leftovers into entirely new dishes. I’m not sure Deliveroo even exists out there – it’s just a man called Steve who doubles up as the local taxi driver. I felt embarrassingly, wonderfully free, and found my relationship with food reigniting. And yet, my first night back in London I ordered Chinese food for dinner, arriving home after the supermarkets had closed and decided there was “nothing in the fridge”. But that was a lie. There was pasta, cheese, bacon and eggs – more than enough to cook a carbonara of sorts. There was rice and vegetables, certainly viable ingredients for a bowl of fried rice. I realised that I had slipped into a habit, one that could only be broken by force. It was time to take myself to a digitally imposed rural Scotland.
To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment, sign up to our free weekly Voices Dispatches newsletter by clicking here
It’s cliched and a little cringy, but I immediately felt like a weight had lifted. I’m not sure that feeling will endure on the first stormy night when I truly can’t bring myself to cook, but I also hope I’ll remember my reasoning. Take today for example – I probably would have given up and ordered a salad for lunch. Instead, I repurposed some leftover rice, almost-too-wilted vegetables and added salami to make a very unorthodox yet wildly delicious fried rice. The simple act of chopping everything up, coaxing the fat out of the salami over low heat and drizzling it all with a fiery chilli oil made for a meditative break to what has been a busy first day back at work. There is no space for stressful thoughts when you’re partaking in the simple concentration of putting food on the table.
Food delivery apps thrive in the increasingly prevalent convenience economy. They can be wildly helpful in the Covid era – particularly for those who are isolating. But it has become impossible for me to ignore the negative cycle I had been drawn into – and how it impacted my relationship with food.
Eating is not meant to be immediate. Food is not meant to be accessible at the click of a button. It is meant to be cooked or shared with friends. It is a vehicle for joy and an excuse for social interaction. Like a bad relationship, I need to rediscover what I need from it before I can welcome it back. Sorry, Deliveroo; it’s not you, it’s me.