Everyone has stories about their best ever meals and their favourite dishes. It’s rarely about the quality of the food and it’s never a seven-course tasting menu. More often than not, it’s your mum’s soup, a greasy bacon sandwich lovingly made by your partner when you need it the most or that 3am half cold kebab and piping hot chips after a whole night of dancing with your friends.
When I was twenty, I was friends with Camilla. We did everything together – eating, sleeping, partying, getting dressed, sharing clothes, going through our Kanye phase (back when he was REALLY good), watching crap TV, actively avoiding exercise, we liked all the same things. And we drank, a lot. Because when you’re twenty your body can take some serious battering. Five bottles of wine between two? No problem, you will feel slightly dehydrated and mildly ashamed the following day, but it was worth it, right?
When we got drunk, we also liked to eat. Our favourite ‘treat’ used to be cheese and onion flavoured Baked Crisps from the vending machine next to her flat on campus. Once we abandoned a party at her flat to get some crisps, we used up all the change we had and bought BAGS and BAGS of them, threw them into her bedroom window, returned to the party and swiftly proceeded to her room to eat the crisps. Sitting on her bed, opening one bag after another, picking out every crumb, licking our fingers, telling ourselves that they’re actually good for you because they’re baked. Someone walked in on us and said we don’t need to hide, they won’t take our crisps away. We must have looked like right little hungry gremlins. That vending machine has been life-saving, you can’t beat an ice cold Coke on a Saturday morning when your mouth is as dry as the Sahara desert.
But the best ever drunk thing that we ate, was a Tesco Salted Caramel cheesecake, £2.50 for two slices (a true luxury on a student budget). It was one of those slow, hazy drunk afternoons, sometime at the end of September when you come back to university just a little bit early to catch up with your friends and get reacquainted with the student lifestyle. We made our way to Tesco looking for some food. I am sure we picked up some essentials (pasta and cheese) but we also wanted something fancy and indulgent. Caramel Cheesecake for two. For whatever reason, we thought that eating it outside Tesco, sitting on a metal beam (not a bench) was the best thing to do with ourselves. We didn’t have spoons, so we split the packaging in half and balanced squidgy, airy slices in our hands, eating over the plastic lids, savouring every mouthful. How was it so creamy, light and indulgently decadent all at once? What sort of Tesco wizardry was this? I’ve never tasted anything so good in my life. Each slice had tiny chocolate balls on top, think Minstrels but encased in caramel and chocolate, we decided to save them for last. They were worth it. Our faces were covered in caramel and crumbs, we didn’t have any tissues, so we had to do a lot of wiping and finger licking to get every last delicious morsel.
Sadly, a week or so later we came back to Tesco, picked up another pack of this magical cheesecake but we ate it at home, sitting on a pleather sofa, completely sober. And there was no magic. It was a mediocre cheesecake, the creamy part too heavy, the crumb base a bit soggy and the caramel balls, well. They weren’t even that good.
It wasn’t witchcraft or magic. It was five bottles of cheap Merlot and eating something then and there. That coupled with your body being taken over by ravishing hunger meant that I’ve never had a cheesecake THAT good ever again.