A guide to the best food around you

Stage one is acceptance

I have had a strange relationship with food over the years. It’s both tortured me and opened me up to a world of excitement. I’m infatuated but never that far from feeling really fucking guilty when I eat too much.

I’ve been the most self-conscious person at the table. I’ve been afraid to say I’d like a little more, or to just take the last piece of cake. Instead I have missed opportunities that I wanted to take because I felt more like I needed to be polite.

I’ve crafted meals that have taken hours. Meals that have been grand triumphs, that I wished I could make for all my friends so they think more of me. I have also washed a 30p jar of sauce off pasta so that I could eat it plain. I’ve attempted to live off spinach and or cup-a-soup. I have counted calories and been obsessed with fat content that my diet was restricted to a handful of meals. I have preoccupied myself with the idea of ‘balance’ and documented everything I ate only to chastise myself when I had something ‘unnecessary’.

And then I have eaten things in secret, in the dark of my room and hidden the packaging. Things I don’t want people to think I eat, and usually whatever craving has taken me that day. It could have been a cheap Victoria sponge cake, or a pizza that had shavings of kebab on it, or a bunch of KitKats. I have eaten a whole pack of biscuits and then bought a replacement so that no-one would ever know.

I have 100% spent more money on food than clothes, or books, probably also my rent, not quite my mortgage. Food has become somewhere between an ally and a tyrant in my life. But I can’t get past the pleasure of pulling the last bits of meat from a roast chicken carcass and eating them with your fingers. Or going to the gym only to eat a big pile of cheesy dirty fries just after. Or just a hobnob dipped into a cup of tea.

A few years ago I began a mine sweep across London to figure out the best places to eat. Or rather to figure out every place I wanted to try. I never wanted to be caught short in the “what shall we eat” dilemma just wandering the streets and eventually ending up at Nando’s. So I began to collate, and the stakes were harsh. If I went and it didn’t live up to what I wanted, or was just a lot of hype and not much substance (London is a stickler for very mediocre but very instgrammable food), it was thrown from the list.

Now it has expanded into Wales, and will continue to expand as I find new things that are actually worth time. And it’s also one of the only things I want to talk about all of the time.

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