Taking Stock

Last Wednesday, Nadia Lim’s My Food Bag team sent me an email and I learned what I would be cooking from Monday to Thursday.

My self image doesn’t stretch to labelling myself a picky eater. I’m not vegan or vegetarian, I don’t have any known food allergies, and I will happily tell people hosting me that I will eat “anything.” I’ve eaten kangaroo, ostrich and fugu so I must be open to all flavours, right?

Except olives. And pineapple. And is that celery? I guess I can kind of pick around it.

While I was recently in the USA, I went to tapas-style dinner with a number of lovely people, including my BFF Robyn and the awesome author Nisi Shawl. They ordered a couple of plates of baby beets for the table, both enthusiastic about how much they liked beets.

“Karen has strong opinions about beets,” Robyn said, accurately.

“I will TRY the beets,” I said, because I wanted to be as cool as Nisi Shawl. I delicately carved a baby beet in half, put the half in my mouth, and felt my face shift. Robyn cracked up. I swallowed.

“It’s okay,” I said, and it was. I’d eat them if I was hungry. I just didn’t like it.

Anyway, one of the recipes included a couscous with beets. I narrowed my eyes at the screen. We’ll see.

I also learned that I would have to go to the supermarket after all. The appeal of My Food Bag, especially for someone who cooks for one, is that you don’t have to buy a bottle of something expensive but absolutely vital, of which you might use a whole tablespoon before never cooking that dish again. Instead, Nadia Lim gives you teeny little packets with enough ingredients for that recipe.

However, Nadia also expects you to have some stuff at home. I’m a competent cook with a reasonably well-stocked pantry, especially when it comes to tinned tomatoes and packets of 99 cent udon, but I was out of a few things.


I had delicious Barrier Island honey left over from last year, where I went there to help imagine the apocalypse, but Nadia specified runny honey. I might feel comfortable defying Nadia later, but not on my first bag. Runny honey it would be. Next, chicken stock (fine), cornflour (fine), and sweet chilli sauce.

Sweet chilli sauce is a staple in my mother’s kitchen, but I’ve never been a big fan. I must be of an uncommon breed, though, because there was a supermarket shelf devoted to it. I took the first bottle I saw that didn’t say “exotic” anywhere on the label.

pantry 1

That’s my shopping basket. You will note two extraneous products.

The hair oil is because two weeks ago I walked into the mall hairstylist and impulsively got half my hair chopped off. This wasn’t because I am grieving, and grieving women often make drastic changes to their appearance. It was because I was absolutely opposed to going home and washing my hair in our sad and grubby excuse for a shower. The water pressure is best described as “old cat dribbles on your head” and it took forever to rinse the shampoo out. Anyway, I inevitably forget that shorter hair = more product. Thus, hair oil.

The chocolate macaroons are because I was going to a roleplaying session with friends that night, and it’s polite to take snacks. I ended up eating probably half the packet because I was cheated out of the KFC Tower burger I had intended to consume on the way by 1) the passage of time and 2) my need to catch the bus punctually.

The game went well, and we prevented Oberon from attacking a town in distress by bribing him with an iPhone 4 and an Instagram account, but an ability to make chocolate biscuits my dinner and then be unreasonably angry about it is another reason why My Food Bag appeals.

Help me, Nadia Lim.

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