The day had left a bitter, anxious taste in my mouth, mingling with the whisky. Despite being let go, I felt sorrier for John than myself. After a few drinks in the cluttered back room I had left him there, still drinking, and begun cycling home. It was a truly miserable night but the heavy rain felt refreshing as I sang along with Brian Wilson, weaving down the wet streets. John’s business was getting bleaker by the day, and we both knew where it was headed. Nobody wanted old cameras anymore, and I felt ashamed to be also falling into that widening digital bracket. A block or so from my flat, making an unintended swerve, my bike began to slide toward the side of the road. ‘No, no, no…’ I willed out loud.
The headphones slipped from my ears and the reality of the impending crash struck me. Turning the handle bars desperately to and fro the skidding bike hit the curb. My torso contorting one way, and the bicycle falling the other, I let out a cry of despair. Laying on the deserted street with my heart pounding, I untangled myself and pushed the bike away. The rain now felt claustrophobic, rather than exhilarating. Managing to sit, I checked my body for damages and began to think of my lost job. Both hands felt numb and the left side of my face like I’d ripped it off. While I tried to un-pop my ears, water seeped down my back.
After heaving my bike perilously to the top floor of my building, I was at last safely home. ‘Hullo?’ I called hopefully from the hall. But nobody was in, I already knew from the double locked door. I got undressed, dried myself off and put on some clean clothes. After cranking up the central heating I attended to my bruised face, gave my hands a rough bandaging and padded to the kitchen to drink some whisky.
Now dry, I retrieved the camera John had pressed on me with the apology, ‘A just don’t have any money to spare, Stan. Maybe you could sell some photies.’ Worried about the crash and any water damage, I checked it over and dried it off. It seemed to work fine, which was a relief; the camera being a handsome old chrome Leica. I’ll test it out later tonight, I thought.
Feeling sore and faint with hunger, I couldn’t face braving the weather again for food. Deciding to make something quick and fridge-based, I began rummaging. As a foundation, fried pasta sounded appealing. After putting on a pot to boil I went to the fridge, glancing affectionately at the camera as I passed. Pulling out a box of cherry tomatoes, a brown package of bacon left over from that morning, some broccoli and a red pepper hiding in the vegetable drawer, I started to convince myself things could be worse. As the flat heated up the windows began to fog over and the rain could only be heard. I turned on the radio to listen to the news and clumsily chopped some garlic with my bandaged hands. Changing my mind I pulled out a CD – Cake, Fashion Nugget – and sang along with the first song. Adding the garlic and some chopped bacon to a deep frying pan, the first ingredients writhed in the oil. Watching this and popping pine nuts into my mouth my hopes were again bolstered.
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Here’s what you need:
- One red pepper
- A red onion
- About 6 rashers of thin, free range back bacon
- A very large handful of pine nuts (plus another handful for your mouth)
- Cherry tomatoes, or baby plum (whichever you prefer)
- About 400g of fusilli pasta
- Most of a medium sized head of broccoli
- Two cloves of garlic
- Ground black pepper
- Olive oil
Put a deep frying pan or shallow pot on the heat and add a slosh of oil.
Then start chopping garlic as small as you can.
When the oil’s heated up, grab a pair of scissors and cut the bacon into the pan.
Chop the broccoli, red pepper and onion fairly small (bearing in mind broccoli shrinks, so chop more than you think you’d need).
Once the bacon looks irresistible add in the garlic, broccoli, peppers and onion (instinctually, I like to add the garlic and onion a few minutes before the rest, but I’m not sure there’s even a reason).
At around this point, or a bit before, put on a pot of pasta.
Stir the contents of the frying pan regularly, although this is more essential when it’s only bacon sizzling.
After a few more minutes add the pine nuts.
When the pasta’s done, drain it, mix in some ground black pepper and leave it till all the veg is nicely cooked. Then add the pasta to the pan until the ingredient-pasta balance looks about right.
Stir the contents around and let them fry for a minute or two.
Throw in the tomatoes and stir gently from now on, so as not to burst them.
Once the tomatoes are piping hot and the pasta’s taken on a new colour, it’s ready to eat.
This meal is one of my favourites – has hardly any ingredients and can be made in about twenty minutes. Fifteen, if you’re well practiced. The nuts and bacon go so well together, adding a salty element; while the broccoli complements the succulence of the red pepper. And then, if that wasn’t good enough, the punches of juice from those little, devilish tomatoes. Who knew something so small could conceal so much flavour!
After the meal I laid out on the living room couch, feeling almost as good as new. Now that I was full and had a delicious taste lingering on my tongue, my injuries took on a raw, satisfied feeling; the sense that I had worked for them, like the ache from labour. As the food mended the pains, I had another helping of whisky. Maybe things would be genuinely okay.