My brother and I have both inherited Nana’s maniacal giggle that winds down with a sigh and ends in a slight moment of awkward silence as we wipe the tears away from our eyes.
It is a useful trait and one that we employ to break the tension whilst discussing the Dreadful Condition of Things, which is often.
A few weeks ago we had a good chuckle over the fact that he was going out ‘for dinner’ with friends later that evening. He had staked out the menu online and already decided his order: one samoosa at R8 (that’s about 70p). He had also planned ahead; staving off hunger by eating a big bowl of spaghetti garnished with olive oil before he went out.
Oh how we laughed and laughed as we remembered the countless many times we’ve dined out on The Margarita Pizza, The Baked Potato with Cheese, The Soup, or even the Just a Plate of Chips Please.
At least he has an excuse – he is a student. I, on the other hand, am at a total loss as to how I can even begin to explain why my life has ended up in its current parlous state so I’m not even going to try.
Usually when I’m asked out by friends the invitation is delivered with a slight hesitance or awkwardness, or is post scripted with the tag-line ‘it’s really cheap!’. Such an invitation was extended to me recently for mid-week birthday celebrations at Franco Manca; purveyor of the finest Sourdough pizza this side of Napoli.
I arrived in a huff. A quick straw poll amongst those who know me will more than likely confirm that this is usually how I arrive at any place I’m going to. But on this particular day I was in a huff and a puff of Wolfie proportions… ready to blow some pig’s house down.
Earlier that morning that I had lost a large commission, the second that week. Now here I was, obliged to spend money I didn’t have and try to look cheerful about it.
To be honest, I didn’t even look at the menu. My eyes rested on the first item on the list, which at £4.50 was the cheapest – a Pizza base with tomato, garlic and oregano.
The waitress double-checked my order: ‘You do know this one doesn’t come with cheese right?’ I nodded, trying to check the extreme resentment welling up inside me over my state of extreme poverty, and summoning up the will to be cheerful for my friend’s birthday celebrations. I’m not sure I succeeded, but I did try.
It was hard.
Then the food arrived.
After scanning the other pizza’s on the table, adorned as they were with maroon ribbons of aged ham, oozing Mozarrella balls and glistening black olives, I looked down forlornly at my naked tomato pizza.
I tried to jazz it up with a grind of black pepper and a swoosh of olive oil.
Then I tore off a piece of it, closed my eyes and took a bite.
I didn’t need any fancy toppings.
A thin Frisbee of Sourdough with a simple tomato sauce sloshed onto it lifted me up and for just a moment, it carried me far far away from all the worries, insecurities, jealousy and tension.
And that is what good food should do.
I’m not even going to say anything more about it. You should just GO. Even if it’s your last five quid (I’m poor, but I’m not cheap – 50p for the tip)!
4 Market Row