My phone app declares the temperature to be 21 degrees but the thermostat on the wall in the garden reads 24 edging its way up to 25. My computer keys are little hot buttons as I type but I press on nonetheless, like a kid picking away at a scab refusing to heed the advice of an absent parent... I watch lizards creeping out of the river wall, their yellow and black grid-work — a pattern I’d love to replicate for the chairs in my future kitchen.
Today the path is complete, concrete even, where once there was nothing but burnt grass. We have literally built a road to nowhere and we love it.
It feels mildly prophetic, though the plan for it was borne before the lockdown. It seems counterintuitive to have plotted a path across the garden instead of along it so one can stroll from pebbles to wood-chip, yet the stone path is a provocative break in the garden. Should one take the bait and walk down the short path it demands only one thing at its end; that one look out on the river.
The heat of the day extinguishes my appetite so I graze through random things in the kitchen. Some cheesy nachos that I’ve never bought until the lockdown where I’ve discovered that Doritos are a small part of my happy place. Seriously, who knew?
Through the gap in my garden hedge I spy two of my closest neighbours proximity-wise, who have also bent the rules to have a quick catch up ‘at a safe distance from each other’ before the sun grows too hot. I shout across my hellos and we converse briefly, reminding me of the last time we were all together, on DM’s terrace drinking sangria before knocking up a quick plate of must soak-up-the-booze ravioli. I listen to them lament about the situation as we ponder if we will ever hug and kiss people in the manner we did before when this is all over? We agree that the cheek kissing we can live without, but the hugs — that fleeting eternity in another’s arms that demonstrates safety and closeness — it would be shameful to bid that adieu.
Dinner is purely a quest to rid the fridge of the aubergines taking up too much space. A change in air pressure makes a headache hover in my periphery like a cloud threatening rain. To keep things uncomplicated, I make a riff on pasta alla norma; the comforting Sicilian dish with fried aubergines and tomatoes. (It’s a riff as we don’t have any ricotta but I supplement mozzarella instead which makes it a gooey, oozing mess that provides the warming hug we’re barred from giving in real life.)
The aubergine is fried in batches and set aside before frying the garlic, chillis and tomatoes in what remains of the aubergine oil, with some dried oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Warm the aubergine in the tomato sauce just before adding the cooked pasta. Top with fresh basil and parsley. (Some people add some fresh mint too. I like it either way.)
If you have the grated ricotta salata then this is when you add it. Failing that, toss in some mozzarella and wait for it to melt. I keep telling Bear: I’m not Italian, so my offences don’t matter.
Besides, the things that offend the brain oftentimes the things that best captivate the stomach!
This series was first published on Medium