Thursday, 5 January 2017

Prompt 5 - Food. When Was The Last Time You Ate A Radish?

Free writing from the prompts found at

Prompt number 5.

Food: What’s for breakfast? Dinner? Lunch? Or maybe you could write a poem about that time you met a friend at a cafe.

Image from

We met at home, we did.
Just one evening to be together
One evening to rest in the gentle
Caress of quiet acceptance.
No plans to eat beyond the immensity
Of a brilliantly regular takeaway.

A perfect immovable feast
From an establishment serving us well
With high quality enjoyment
But low quality cleanliness.
There's no cause to fear:
A one star hygiene rating
Hasn't led to our deaths.

Together we ate and savoured
Each prawn, each nut, each unwashed seaweed.
We laughed.  We shared.  We knew our safety
And then we lay back in a friendship
Finding strength in our shared silence.

The feast was gone
But she stayed on.
A bed was made, a plan was not.
In that realm of uncertainty we knew
That all would be well.

The morning came and together we decided.  She wanted to eat out and decided that she would treat me and take me and whisper sweet nothings in a tea room laced with more romance than tea.  I lie of course.  We wouldn't have any sweet nothings or sweet everythings.  We wouldn't have whispers filled with sour tastes or bitterness either.  And others would be welcome to all the romance floating in the air.  We would eat from a minimalist menu, drink from a maximalist menu, and hold each other in light and the love of sisters without a wish or whim to hold each other's hands.  We, more platonic than Plato himself, would know there was no risk of injury in sacred space.

So we dined.  In light conversation.  In silence.  In the reading of books.  In conversation.  In silence.  In books.  In circles and cycles and sensuality.  I don't lie of course.  Rich sensual stimulation of the sight and sound of the Sutra, of the smells, tastes, textures of the food we were served.

I was greedy.  Isn't it easier to be greedy when another is treating you.  I ordered the most expensive item from the short menu.  I'd do it again too if treating myself in that place.  We're not talking Michelin stars here.  We're not talking nouveau cuisine and fifty pound dishes containing fifty grams of food; three cubes of flavour and some artistically arranged foam.  That's not my style or her style.  We're talking a big bowl of vegan food for seven and a half pounds.

Now I don't do salads.  The last time I prepared a salad at home for myself to eat was ... trying to think ... straining to remember ...  The last time was ... never.  I don't do salads.  When I was growing up a salad consisted of some big lettuce leaves, some carrot, a tomato, and as a luxurious extra possibly a couple of radishes or worse still a piece of celery.  I couldn't imagine anything more unappealing.  Five foods I wouldn't eat arranged disgracefully.  Salad was something to be refused, something to be abhorred, something to prove the madness of a mother who claimed to like salads. The memories stick.  And I don't do salads.  Even today if any of those foods sat there in that form I would turn away.  I'd hold placards saying "No Carrots Here", "Let Us Leave that Lettuce Leaf", "Gelato not Tomato!", "Get Rid of Radishes!", and the famous banner of war, "God hates radishes!"

No salads for me.  Thank you very much.  And yet.  What did I order?  A big bowl.  Of salad.  It's true that there were additions - houmous, a garlic dip, falafel, roasted Mediterranean vegetables.  But the bulk of the bowl was salad.  I had ordered my nemesis, willfully invited my arch-enemy to sit with me at the table.  Like Jesus welcoming Judas.  Except with the prospect of eating.

I knew I was safe.  I'm going to level with you here.  Total honesty.  Cards on the table.  Face up.  All I have is a pair of threes so it's almost sure you'll beat me.  I'm going to lay down that losing hand.  And then I'm going to place a bet anyway.  Here goes.  My first three says that I was looking forward to that salad.  My other three says that I had ordered a salad from the Sutra before.

I do salads.  If they are the Sutra salads.  Or if they're the ones served at church meals I went to, prepared by a vegan with culinary flair.  Or, as it turns out, if it's the one served at a cafe I went to recently with another friend in another town.  The salads of childhood don't deserve to be given the same name as the salads of the Sutra.  They are not the same species.  It's no wonder my mother always had to give up on her diets.  With food like that who would choose to continue?  Who wouldn't reach for the nearest chocolate biscuit in simple desperation?  Had her salads been as rich and vibrant and full of knock-your-head-off taste as the one I ordered I suspect she would have only needed one diet and she might have stuck with it for life.  It is strange to me.  She claimed that salad was the best thing.  But those chocolate biscuits soon needed replacing.

Yeah.  I do salads.  I do.  However, this one had an extra challenge: It contained pieces of radish.

Radish.  RADISH!  It's not my greatest foe.  It's not a food that my taste buds resolutely categorise as satanic.  Sprouts are satanic.  And broccoli was part of the curse laid on mankind when Adam and Eve got themselves kicked out of the garden by a god who got unreasonably cross with them and couldn't find it in his heart to forgive them without bumping off his own son thousands of years later in a famously bloody death.  Eden contained no broccoli.  No sprouts.  And no celery.  My taste buds had told me so.  Too many times.

But radish.  I just avoided radish.  I am radishophobic.  In the true sense of the word.  It is a word.  Don't doubt me on that.  It's just a very new word.  Such a word needs to be added to the dictionary with urgency because I am not alone in being a radishophobe.  I'm a beetrootophobe too but that's another story and I wish I hadn't just thought of it because the beetroot image in my head now is enough to have given me a headache.  Enough of beetroot.  I have fear and loathing in Las Beetroot.

When did I last eat a radish?  Last year I asked several questions like that to a friend.  The friend from the salad from the other town.  She kept producing things for me to eat and I would ask her, "When did I last eat a persimmon?" or whatever food it was.  Sometimes the answer was many years before.  Sometimes the answer was never.  So when did I last eat a radish?  To the best of my knowledge the answer was never and I'd just known instinctively how terrible such a vegetable would taste.  Just the sight of a radish in the fridge when growing up was enough to create anxiety.  It's all wrong.  The colour, outside and inside.  The little micro-textures I can see even now.  A radish is wrong.

I know that if anyone had ever tried to force me to eat such a - god I haven't got words for such a dread item - I would have melted.  No radishes for Clare.  Even today as I sit and type and see radishes in my head, both whole and sliced - the sight in my mind of a radish being sliced is almost paralysing - my heart is racing and I have an urge to shout obscenities.  Even today I know that I would not willingly buy a radish.  I wouldn't choose to eat one if there was one in the house.  Ach, sometimes there's beetroot in the fridge but rarely a radish.  Keep those bloody things away from me!  It may be fair to say that I have some issues with food.

That salad from the Sutra contained little pieces of radish.  Not whole radishes - I'd have pulled them out and let them.  Not full slices of radish.  I'd have pulled them out too.  But slivers of radish.  I considered removing them too but felt a shame.  I don't think my friend would have minded.  She would have understood.  I know she would.  But I felt a shame anyway about wanting to remove tiny slivers of red and white from my otherwise very appealing salad.  (Why would anyone just use a lettuce when they can include rocket too?  Just asking.)

And so I picked out one sliver of radish.  One.  I was very polite and separated it with my knife and fork rather than digging in with my fingers.  I'm a very polite woman.  No serious breaches in etiquette here and I'll even put my knife and fork down correctly after eating.  I might hold them wrong but at least I put them down correctly - in the position that makes it easy for someone to murder me but harder for me to commit murder.  It's true.  Table etiquette is based on the prospect of death.

I then took that sliver of radish from my fork with my fingers.  A minor breach in etiquette.  That's all.  I think.  It was radish.  The equally evil sister of celery.  A thing to be feared, despised, avoided, shunned.  A vegetable to be vanquished.  Who will rid me of this turbulent radish?

And then I placed that sliver in my mouth, watched carefully by my friend.  I was overcoming a phobia and I wouldn't have done it without her watchful eyes.  Inside my mouth there was radish.  For the first time ever.

And it tasted okay.  Not the best.  But not the worst.  I'm not going to go out and buy radishes this week.  I wouldn't write home about it.  Strictly speaking not a lie.  I've just written from home about it.  There was no revelation of bliss but it was good enough to be able to swallow and good enough that I could eat the rest of the salad without great injury to my psyche.

I had eaten radish.  Eaten radish.  And there wasn't a congratulatory medal.  Not even a card praising my bravery in fighting prejudicial radishophobia.  I'd done it.

I'd only bloody gone and done it!

[1734 words]

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