If there’s one thing that food stylists excel at, it’s supermarket bowling. That is to say being able to fight through (and survive) the jammed-to-the hilt, not-fit-for-a-sardine-in-a-tin conditions that one is subjected to when food shopping. Next to the importance of seeking out the most beautifully wonderfully gorgeously perfect bunch of basil- it’s an essential skill of the trade. Without this skill- I would not discount the possibility that one day you should find yourself sat in a circle on a plastic chair stating your name and why you require anger management. Regardless of whether or not your dream vocation is to be able to spot herbal perfection- you may still find some use from this lesson. If, however, you’ve spent time in New York city- food stylist, restranteur, microwave dinner enthusiast or otherwise, I’m sure that you can mutually commiserate with me on the frustrations of overpopulated supermarkets.
I broach the subject of supermarket bowling with an air of caution. This is not for the faint hearted- more hard-hearted, if you will. I do not classify myself as a nasty person- I’m an efficient person and when the supermarket entrance is barred by the sweet little old lady who has paused inconsequentially to remove her woolly hat and gloves – my efficiency levels drop. I dream of Supermarket Sweep- sparkling clean obstruction-free aisles that one can rush freely down tossing the necessary dinner components into a trolley in seconds. I spent my last blog bemoaning the fact that obviously nobody in New York cooks based on the size of their kitchens. But according to the number of people loitering in the supermarket aisles- they all cook. And I wish they bloody didn’t.
An undoctored picture of my local supermarket is enough to lead any normal person to the gates of insanity. There is consistently an unhealthy array of wailing toddlers challenging the nerves of their frantic mothers (and everybody else’s). Dumpy menopausal women crowd the fridges as they optimistically compare the calorie contents on the backs of each and every low fat yoghurt. A clean up team rushes to mop up a spillage (usually something sticky) and two shoppers try to disentangle their trolleys after attempting to pass side by side down one of the narrow aisles. Meanwhile, at the fish counter two men will heatedly debate who had been waiting longer as two young kids playing tag, rush past screaming bloody murder. Combine this scenario with the sweet little old lady who has now stopped dead (no pun intended)- overwhelmed by the choices of olive oil and you have more chaos brewing in this small upper west side supermarket than at Marilyn Manson concert. A situation that can only be resolved by bakram yoga- or supermarket bowling.
Supermarket bowling is a head-down, don’t look back, every-man-for-himself, survival of the fittest approach to getting through crowds; quickly. Imagine it as a game of chicken. Your trolley is your 1959 Mustang, you’re Danny Zuko and you’re not turning off the road for nobody. Stare through the competition – this is your Zen, adopt a look of dangerous instability, shop in pairs, one stands with the trolley as the other ducks and dives through the crowds. In extreme circumstances, consider more aggressive actions. For instance the trolley-to-ankle strike or the release of unfriendly wind- but remember to avoid arguments with other competitors as this will only serve as a time waster and the key here is to getting in and out quickly. As with all things- practice makes perfect. With that in mind- I’m off to find dinner. May the best man win.
Beef and rocket Spaghetti
This is a great last minute dinner. If you can’t find rocket, you can use spinach and if you don’t like spaghetti then use something else.
Serves 1 or 2
1 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and roughly diced
1 lemons, zest
small handful of grated Parmesan cheese
1 large handful of rocket (arugula)
200g/7 oz deli counter cooked beef fillet or London broil, finely sliced
1/ Bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt it well. Add the spaghetti, stirring to avoid sticking. Cook according to packet instructions- usually 10 minutes.
2/ In a large deep frying pan heat the oil; cook the garlic over a medium heat until just about to brown. Add the tomatoes and toss to warm through- about 2 minutes.
3/ Drain the spaghetti- reserving about 100 ml of the cooking liquid. Stir the pasta into the garlic and tomatoes, adding the remaining ingredients and toss together over a gentle heat until evenly combined and warmed through. I find using tongs works best here. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid to loosen, and then serve on warmed plates. Top with cracked black peppercorns.