The really useful thing about relationship break-ups is that you get to eat up all the out-of-date stuff in the fridge without fear of food poisoning. It took me a while to work this out. There was I going around moaning, ‘Oh, I want to die’, and it not occurring to me the many positive benefits of being in this morose state of mind. Until I came back from town one night having failed, again, to interrupt my state of mourning to go to Waitrose and, finding one piece of Nando’s chicken still in the brown paper bag on the third shelf down, hit upon an idea. I know, I know. Only men are meant to live like this after someone has ditched them.
The thing is I’ve always had a very well-developed male side. I’ve always been in touch with my ‘inner man’. It doesn’t take much to get me squeezing the toothpaste tube from the middle. In good times I’m as fastidious and fussy as the next woman. But give me an emotional crisis to deal with and I’m eating cold macaroni cheese out of the can faster than a spotty Tory boy after a night at Spearmint Rhinos.
So I stumble across my piece of four-day-old Nando’s lemon chicken — oh yes, this is hardcore; nice people look away now — and I think ‘I wonder…’ And before I know what’s happening I’m eating the shrivelled-up chicken and it tastes sublime. I mean, this is the best chicken I have eaten in my entire life. It is possibly better than anything I have ever eaten, or so it seems in that moment, which is the same thing in practice. You might say it is a bit like opening Pandora’s Box to discover just how good food left to malinger in the fridge tastes. Or in my case it is like reopening it, because this sort of behaviour stirs deep memories.
I remember as a child my Italian grandfather passing on to me a passion for frying up miscellaneous leftovers in olive oil for breakfast. I’m not talking eggs and bacon. I mean peppers and pasta and potatoes and old sauces. The best thing was fried-up spaghetti bolognese, which my grandmother would know only too well to store and not throw away. She’d combine the sticky cold pasta with the sauce, refrigerate to coagulate, and the next day it was breakfast bliss. (If you do try this at home, the key is to put a large slab of butter in the frying pan, along with the olive oil, before pushing the spaghetti mixture nice and flat in the pan so it burns a bit.) Sorry, my mouth is watering. I’m losing my thread.
Ah, yes, I find myself inspired by the excitement of eating old food. Gordon Brown would be proud of me. Incidentally, I wonder if the Prime Minister checked out the health and safety implications of his ‘eat your leftovers’ statement because I’m thinking that if something nasty but not fatal does happen to my stomach I might have grounds for a class action against HM Government on behalf of all vulnerable people for encouraging us to eat out-of-date chicken.
But I digress. Staring listeria monocytogenes in the face is just the beginning of it. There are myriad new avenues to investigate in life once you have decided that it isn’t worth living. Which is ironic, when you think about it. For example, I have always wanted to sky dive. The thing holding me back, until now, was a tiresome sense of self-preservation. As this is no longer a problem I am free to throw myself out of aeroplanes without a second thought for whether both parachutes will jam.
I also long to get into showjumping. I am not a bad rider. But I was always tortured by the fear of my horse putting in a dirty stop and catapulting me through the air to land squarely on my head. Not any more. I saddled up yesterday and managed to get over two foot six. Well, it’s a start. Perhaps I am also now free to pursue my dearest ambition of all which is to become the first woman to win the Grand National. I am confident that there is an owner out there somewhere just waiting to take on a female jockey who would approach Becher’s with an ‘ah well I’ve had a good innings’ sort of attitude.
So, to my fellow heartachees — this is what I’ve learnt from my latest romantic disaster. Hiding under the duvet wailing that you want to end it all is such a waste of wanting to end it all. The world’s at your feet. Go throw yourself out of a plane.