Recipes in the Lobby
Recipes shared in a lobby, a new favourite recipe, eating notes from the week. Plus! a competition!
Hello! My name is Rebecca May Johnson, I am a writer and cook and this is my Substack. This week’s newsletter is a diary entry about a conversation I had about recipes and eating while I’d been forgotten in a lobby, a new favourite recipe made after my friend Angela cooked it for me, and eating notes.
My first book SMALL FIRES, AN EPIC IN THE KITCHEN was published last week! The book has received some wonderful reviews in The Observer, The Sunday Times, the i Paper and The New Statesman.
Pushkin Press have given me 2 posters and 10 bookmarks to give away to people reading Small Fires. They have the beautiful marbled red background of the cover and say: COOKING IS THINKING. Share a photo of your copy on Twitter or Instagram stories tagging @Pushkin_Press or if you are not on social media or would prefer, email the pic to firstname.lastname@example.org by Wednesday 7th September with ‘small fires competition’ in the subject. We’ll choose winners over the weekend and send the prizes out.
I am going on tour in the next few months, if you’re interested in these events tickets are available via the venues, which I will share via social media, or you can look up online. They’ll be lots of fun and I have some wonderful conversation partners lined up - come! More TBA too.. will update next week.
Recipes in the Lobby
In the lobby of the building there is a portrait of the queen on the wall. It is very small, hung in the corner as you come in, and has a narrow, cheap-looking gilt frame. The portrait is a tiny, kitsch relic in this vast marble mausoleum-for-giants room. But even though in the corner, it is the only real detail in the space, and so the portrait must be more significant than its corner allocation would suggest.
I tell the security guard my name but it’s not on the list. I tell him I will text the person who invited me into the building. ‘What are you meeting about?’ He asks. ‘I have a book out next week’, I say. ‘Oh, what’s it about?’ he asks. ‘Food and cooking’, I say. ‘Oh!’, he says, excited. I’ve got some recipes.’ ‘I like to make a stir fry with chicken and bring it to work. I cut up some chicken, fry it, then add garlic and chilli, then some of those mushroom stir fry packets’. I said ‘that sounds so nice, and it can be hard to find food that makes you feel good at work.’ Then he said, ‘yes, I used to get ready meals from Tesco but that wasn’t good for me,’, and rubbed his stomach, ‘my doctor said all you are tasting with that is salt.’ I said ‘yes, they do sometimes add more salt to hide the fact they are not putting in enough other things to make it taste nice.’ I said ‘what you’re cooking sounds great.’ He continued, ‘well I used to work in one of the casinos doing surveillance, and they have chefs making really gourmet food. I used to watch what they were doing.’ Then he said that he makes stir fries with raw prawns sometimes too, and uses the same method as with the chicken and the mushrooms, though he doesn’t bring the prawns to work because he’s not sure about how safe it is to re-heat seafood. I thought yes, if I had a long commute they might go bad if it was warm. I said I hadn’t made a stir fry in a while, and would like to try his method.
He said he doesn’t eat McDonald’s anymore, as if he has been told he shouldn’t. I say I go every few weeks. Then he said, ‘I love Filet-O-Fish’, and I agreed it was great. Then he said, ‘the last time I went was with my granddaughter. I told her it was a secret and not to tell my wife or her mother what we were having for lunch. She had a Happy Meal, you know, with a toy or a puzzle, and I had two Filet-O-Fish burgers. Then when we got home, my wife saw the toy and asked my granddaughter what she’d had and she said a Happy Meal, and asked her what I’d had and she looked at me and said “he had THREE Filet-O-Fish burgers!” And my wife said, “Right, that’s it, no dinner for you!”, and she didn’t let me have any.’ ‘Oh no!’, I said, ‘but you’d actually had two!’ then our conversation was interrupted by another person who wasn’t on the list to get into the building and the security guard had to phone someone inside, and I sat on a bench opposite, and looked again at the portrait of the queen.
recipe and eating notes below
Pieces published this week (free to read):
On Not Cooking in Rome, in The London Magazine (lots of pizza!)
On Appreciating Culinary Beef - and Tomato Sandwiches, in The Guardian
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