Making my way home from work on a grey weekday evening one time I tried to escape the doom and gloom of my third London bus journey of the day.

 Staring out into the South-West London drudgery of a litany of foot-soldiers, school-run ambassadors and a cacophony of agitated car drivers swerving swarms of belligerent cyclists, only the occasional roar of an angrily blared vehicle horn was enough to command my attention.  I found comfort in a suspended daydream and being able to transport myself much further along in my journey home when I would inevitably be in the aisle of my local ‘Express’ supermarket admiring all its wonders: that food. A wealth of variety, prepped for my convenience, of ready meals, pasta, pizza and soups all promoted as ways to ease the ritual of sourcing decent fodder on a weekday night.  Food is not food, quite rightly, no.

  “I realised through a sleepy stupor that this was not about to be my finest hour.”

Hunched over in muted anticipation of what I would eventually decide upon, my journey became secondary to thoughts of food.  Food is not food, it is thought. Would I have a steak and ale pie, perhaps with their ‘finest’ hearty mash? Ye Olde English on a plate, you could testify, or would I go rogue and venture forth to try their own daring and somewhat ambitious take on Jamaican jerk chicken in a tin?  Homer voice: mmmmmmmm food.

The stuff of Gods, our very own sustenance and my very own reason for making a cross-river journey every weekend for that roast that only a mother’s loving hands can only ever get truly right. As you can feel, my admiration and feel for food as food is real.  This is not my story. It is what food can be, or do, that can remind you of its overwhelmingly powerful position in our lives.

Fast forward sixty minutes and I stood forlornly amongst a crowd of hungry, multicultural Londoners.  Ravenous commuters who had collectively it seemed, the very same thoughts and feelings and lusts as me for the good eats.  The shelves of this mini branch had been stripped bare of the most appealing of options and I was aghast. It was this stroke of quite unfortunate luck that led me to the purchase of a randomly placed, sloppy looking, reduced label adorned, half-price pizza.  I found said pizza; yellow ‘slashed cost’ sticker luminous and shoehorning me towards its new resting place amongst the crisps and snack section in the next aisle. Mine for the taking it seemed, having been lobbed onto this non-perishables aisle by someone who had changed their mind about this Sicilian saviour.  

To traipse back to the chilled aisle had been an ask too far for them but I did not stop to question how long my quilted circle had been relaxing at room temperature in amongst the crisps and pork scratchings. This 30cm of satisfaction was calling out to be rescued from its abandonment and at that moment I became the rescuer!  ‘Come hither you moist, doughy, cheesy, meaty bit of loveliness! You are mine, all mine.’

I rushed home to prepare my nosh of Naples.  Purchased at a fraction of the cost, this had been a victory and would be all the tastier for it. As the timer on my oven beeped me to attention just twenty minutes later, I gave no fucks about anything that had taken place in my day at that moment.  As teeth met mozzarella and chin was introduced to spicy beef I was lost in glutinous enjoyment.

But of course, all good things will come to an end. Bedtime beckoned and I prepared myself some hours later for my other true love, sleep.  Slumber enveloped me… Fleetingly!

“What the actual hell?” I yelled out in the dark as I was forced to attend by a furiously gurgling stomach and forcibly clenched bum-cheeks holding back an apparently, approaching riptide.  I realised through a sleepy stupor that this was not about to be my finest hour.  Scrambling like a field mouse in the direction of the bathroom, I mounted the ceramic stallion with Linford-esque speed.  Good God help me, I thought, this is far too high a price to pay for reduced goods and solace through eating! I don’t deserve this.  A double-edged sword, there is a pain in this pleasure. Wherein lies the fault and how has this happened? Was it my fault? No, be still a young lady, accept the cleanse, learn from it even.  There will be light at the end of this long, dark night. In the silence of my flat, my back passage became a London tube train and I renounced my love of food. Food is not food… It is not your saviour, it is whoever it chooses you to be.

Elshena Headlam