I recently invited friends around for brunch. It's my new thing. It makes me feel civilised and sophisticated. Bloody Marys and crusty bread replacing boxes of red wine and Doritos.
It's a better version of me and it's almost foolproof, well as far as cooking for eight can be. It's ideal, because it's early, people arrive on an empty stomach, so things are bound to taste delicious, and that will reflect better on me and my skills. I also tend to trick people by giving them a colourful stiff one - it hardly even looks alcoholic with the striped straw and jazzy glass - but it jollys them up and would make for a better overall score if we ever went down the Come Dine with Me route.
Thing is, I have never cooked. Bar porridge and scrambled eggs, I have always been a tad challenged in that department. I think I'm good with flavours, but timing is a bitch. I don't like following recipes, they feel restrictive and dull. I feel rebellious as soon as I begin - like I want to test the theory, draw outside the lines and see if it still holds up. Sometimes it does, most times I fail spectacularly, but presumably that's part of the thrill?
Cooking can be creative or it can be scientific. I was never really into chemistry so I've mostly gone down the haphazard see-what-sticks (or, ideally, doesn't) route. But brunch is the one presentable meal I can manage. I feel unapologetic, even confident, about presenting it to people. On a good day, I'd go so far as to say I'm a little proud. But there are limitations. I'm a two-trick pony, so the group must change in order for me not to be found out. After those two meals, our friendship may fizzle out unless I come up with another palatable dish.
I don't know why it's important to me. Why I, as one friend put it, can't "give up this domestic goddess charade". What charade? Was it that transparent?
I never set out to be a domestic goddess. What does it even mean? Wikipedia says Hestia was the original domestic goddess: "Goddess of the hearth, home, domesticity, family, and the state", which basically meant she got first dibs on the grub at mealtimes. It doesn't hold that meaning any more, unfortunately, but I still can't seem to shake this desire to be better at the whole domesticity malarkey. Cooking, especially, feels like something I should have a handle on at this stage. Much like the way I think of myself as a yogi - despite not having actually done yoga since Geri Halliwell brought out her video in the 1990s - I enjoy the idea of mastering it.
I imagine myself faffing about in a floral dress licking gravy from a spoon with a sparkling smile before bending to take a freshly-baked tart from the oven. I blame Nigella bloody Lawson with her doe eyes and her love of real butter and her ability to look fabulous while stuffing her face with leftovers… I never look good digging into leftovers. Perhaps I just wasn't built for a life in the kitchen.
I recently heard a rumour that Aer Lingus was starting direct flights to Cuba. I did think it a little unlikely but decided to dismiss common sense in favour of ludicrous and inappropriate screeching. I have wanted to go to this colourful, sun-bleached, cigar-smoking island forever and here it was, a gift thrown into my lap on the last year in Cuba's current state. The impending American 'thaw' will most likely change Cuba over time so that twerking and Starbucks are a thing there too. Joy to the new world, hey? Go now or forever hold your (Reese's) Piece.