i saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes i saw the sign

It was Tuesday, May 21 when I got the phone call confirming that I had a cookbook deal. I’ve already talked about how, while waiting for that phone call, I watched clip after clip of inspiring Broadway videos and Leslie Knope achieving stuff. But before all that, I was, to keep myself sane, keeping an eye out for good signs. You know, little things that felt like the universe was giving me a thumbs up. Here’s the list I made on the day:

– I saw Bernie, the magical giant-hound-about-town, on the way to work.
– Barack Obama tweeted “Clear eyes, full hearts” and a photo of himself throwing a football. I mean, c’mon. That’s a good sign any day. 
Jo tweeted me to let me know the actress who plays Arya on Game of Thrones was photographed wearing very similar bold pants to mine. I really wanted to get this cookbook okay people, and I was going to see good signs where I wanted to see them. 
-Tim and I beat our personal best time at getting to Customs Brew Bar that morning for a pre-work coffee, despite it feeling like we were going to be late.
-There was a man I’ve never seen, before or since, busking underneath my window, playing Beauty and the Beast on the saxophone. Anything that calls to mind the human hug that is Angela Lansbury has to be a good sign.
-And finally, spoilers ahoy, I felt like the way season four of Parks and Rec finished meant I just had to get this. 
Now I’m not super-superstitious – not as much as I used to be, anyway – plenty of life is just horribly, weirdly random. But still, I can’t help taking note of things like that when they come along.
So I was a bit concerned, because this week marked my very first days of writing my cookbook, the days I pictured spending typing furiously, drinking bottomless black coffee and gazing happily out the window, perhaps while an accordion plays somewhere in the background. I would possibly also be wearing a beret. 
And this week, I got sick. Kitten-weak, coughing constantly, aching head, my nasal passages like high pressure hoses jetting forth mucus, brain fuzzy as the ugg boots I wore to stay warm. You could say it’s not the best sign that this cookbook’s going to be amazing.

But I’ve decided to take it as a good sign. First, I’m hoping that being sick now at the start of Winter will mean I’m cool for the rest of it. Secondly, it neatly did away with any first-day-on-the-job awkwardness. Thirdly, after months of burning away on less than six hours sleep a night to put in the work to make myself as cookbook-worthy as possible, some enforced rest is kinda nice.

But yeah, did I mention kitten-weak? I could hardly lift my head yesterday. However there was a small window where hunger, my sense of taste returning, and my ability to stand up straight intersected, and I made good on it by cooking myself up some tomato soup, with sake, chilli, and cinnamon in its cherry-red depths. That aside, this is really just a can of tomatoes and some water, so as well as the fact that it ain’t no thing to make, it also costs little.

Tomato Soup with Sake, Chilli and Cinnamon.

A recipe by myself.

1 can tomatoes in juice (crushed makes your life easier, but sometimes whole are cheaper, so go with what you know.)
1 heaped teaspoon sambal oelek OR 1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1 tablespoon semolina
1 shotglass of sake
Cinnamon and salt to taste

Open the can of tomatoes and tip it into a pan. Fill up the can with water and tip that into the pan too. Add the sambal oelek or chilli, bring to the boil then simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. If you’re using whole canned tomatoes, mash them up with your wooden spoon as you go. Sprinkle over the semolina, stir it in quickly, and simmer for another five minutes till the soup is thickened. Finally, stir in the sake and a dusting of cinnamon (not even a quarter of a teaspoon – just shake some into your hand and scatter it in from there) plus salt to taste, and serve. 

Serves 1 – although easily multiplied for more.

Tomato soup is what it is – you either like it or don’t. This is special yet nothing special at the same time, making it a rather perfect lunch. There’s something inimitable about sake’s clean yet buttery taste and the way it mingles with the slow-simmered tomatoes. The semolina swells and thickens the soup superbly, and the chilli and cinnamon add necessary, fragrant warmth, generally distracting you entirely from the metallic beginnings of these tomatoes. If you don’t have sake kicking around, use sherry, and if you don’t have that kicking around, this will still be really nice, so fear not. And if you don’t have semolina you could use polenta, or just have your soup a little more watery. However, there is also something to be said for following my recipe as it is, too.

So I ate it for lunch yesterday with a cup of hot lime and honey – the lime simply a different take on the usual lemon drink that I’ve been having nonstop for the last few days. And it was wonderful.

I had my last day at work on Friday. It’s strange not to be going there anymore after so many years. At this stage it just feels like I’m on sick leave, but there is a persistent sense of having left something big behind – it’s a little sad, but it’s also very, very freeing, and growing more definite. And I left on good terms – the best terms in fact, dancing wildly with everyone at a local bar. Indeed, it’s possibly for the best that no-one has to make eye contact with me immediately following my particular brand of jiving to Tainted Love. I can’t help it, when the music plays I dance big, and I dance freely.

And any lingering feelings of “what have I dooooooone” were dissolved quickly on Saturday night at an amazing potluck dinner at our dear friend Jo’s (the same one who told me about Arya’s pants.) Friends that you feel comfortable enough to have a fullness-induced (slightly mulled wine-induced too, to be fair) lie-down in front of are good friends indeed. Seriously, when I get too full I have to lie down, and there’s really not many places outside the home that I can feasibly follow through with it.

So this is me now – not wearing a cool beret (or even an uncool beret), not having written gazillions of pages of my cookbook, and not feeling particularly well.

But I’ve made a tiny bit of progress and if nothing else there’s no sickness, it seems, that the right filter on instagram can’t fix. The journey has begun. And if it begins with me wearing my teenage-throwback Bjork buns and a blanket my mum crocheted for me and using a handtowel as a handkerchief because a mere handkerchief can’t sustain what my nose is throwing down, then so be it! 
Title via: Ace of Base, The Sign. You know life like, is demanding, without understanding? 

Music to write a cookbook to:

I already love Janine and the Mixtape’s song Bullets, but if anything’s going to make me listen to a remix of it, it’s the fact that Haz’Beats from Homebrew is behind it. Dreamy as.

Speaking of remixes, listen now to this Scratch 22 remix of Street Chant’s Salad Daze. Holy cow, is all I’ve got.

Was a little tipsy the other night and pulled my typical move of falling into a YouTube black hole of tears-inducing Broadway videos. And there are few more instantly tears-inducing than the late Laurie Beechman. Ugh, just typing it makes me want to cry. Watch her singing On A Clear DayIf you dare.
Next time: I have the latest Cuisine magazine and am still planning to cook something from that, but whatever it is, hopefully I’ll be well enough to make it something a little more involved than a can of tomatoes and some water. But not too involved, you know me.

11 thoughts on “i saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes i saw the sign

  1. georgi says:

    that limca bottle…. takes me right back to India (this summer) where I drank from bottles exactly like it! where did you get it??

    ps. still so happy that you'll be writing a cookbook !


  2. Sarah says:

    If I haven't said it already either here, on Twitter, on Facebook or any number of social media outlets… CONGRATULATIONS on your cookbook deal! So happy for you! Sometimes I think getting sick is a sign (cleverly tying my comment into the title and theme of your post, you see) that you need to take a little rest and let yourself heal… and then throw yourself into your writing with gusto! So looking forward to reading about your progress, and the book itself when it's out! 🙂


  3. Emma says:

    I hope you made a mewing sound or two when trying to raise a paw into the air.

    I don't think I can handle what your nose is throwing down either. Sheesh! I hope you're feeling a bit better now?

    Sad YouTube tear-inducing black hole:(


  4. Eileen says:

    That soup sounds like the perfect choice when you're feeling sick and miserable–especially with all that hot chili! Of course, this is coming from a person who puts sambal oelek on, um, just aaout everything… 🙂 I do that lemon and honey business when I'm sick too–sometimes with a shot of whiskey for ultimate sleep. The lime combination sounds great too!


  5. Olivia McCaskill says:

    Awww… hope you're feeling better soon! I always get sick when things are changing (leaving uni, starting uni, change of seasons etc). Thankfully I haven't been really dreadfully sick in about a year. Here's hoping I stay that way.

    And YUM. Tomato soup really is fantastic. I love it with croutons and cheese. Everything's better with cheese.

    x Olivia


  6. Hannah says:

    There is no way in the world that your cookbook won't be more amazing than amazingness is when amazigness happens. Because you're that amazing.

    Plus, sickness? Always happens when your body can finally relax after holding on and being crazystressed for a long time. It's why 90% of students get sick as soon as the holidays after exams!

    Also, those bold print pants = magic. But clearly the Arya thing means you need a Needle as well as a ladle for your cookbook.


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