“What does ‘mixed selection’ mean?”
“You don’t want to know.”
I’m standing in front of the daily black-board menu next to Sean.
"No, really, what does it mean."
"It means - well, let's just say it's a good idea to keep a note of which meal was served on which day of the week."
"You don't want to know."
I find out what ‘mixed selection’ means that evening. At my college, ‘mixed selection’ refers to the entire week’s leftovers, re-heated and served up in the bain-marie. You choose your poison. The trick is to try to remember if the dried-out Beef Wellington (another form of BMP – brown meat in pastry) was first served closer to Saturday or Thursday.
Sean, Laura and I survey the gently steaming array of food on offer.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“I think that’s Tuesday’s rissoles mixed with Thursday’s risotto,” says Sean.
“Why are there chips in with the croissants?” I ask.
“Oh,” says Laura. “I think I’ve worked it out. They’re serving things alphabetically.”
“That doesn’t explain why the lasagne is next to the zucchini slice,” I say.
Sean and Laura reply in unison: “That’s lentil slice.”
We make our choices. My choice is to move out of college with Laura at the end of the year, into a terrace house in Carlton that has a rosemary bush which threatens to take over the backyard every couple of months, and neighbours who regularly seem set things on fire:
“Who lit the fucken bin?”
“Don’t call the fire brigade Belinda, the car’s on fire but I’m puttin water on it!”
“Look Belinda, I’m a fireman, I’m a fireman!”
On the first night in our little house, I fry an up an onion with garlic, a tin of kidney beans and a tin of tomatoes. In case you can’t tell, I really don’t know how to cook yet. Laura is kind enough not to comment. I ladle the weird concoction into two crazed white bowls that my parents have had since the 70s, and we sit down in the tiny kitchen.
The onion is undercooked and crunchy, the whole thing is crying out for salt, and I didn’t rinse the kidney beans well enough.
It’s one meal, made for two people, to be eaten on one night.
I eat my whole bowlful. It’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted.