Image Description: A packet of chips stands next to a ketchup bottle on an orange background
I used to love eating out, and since my year abroad I’ve done far too much of it, but what I’ve actually missed in lockdown is cheap fast-food instead.
My local McDonald’s has a drive-thru but it probably isn’t worth buying a car just for that 99p cheeseburger (and I’m not quite desperate enough to chance it in a cardboard cut-out). My parents don’t condone fast-food, and sharing a car with friends hasn’t been possible until now; I’ve been sorely deprived. So while Saturday was the big day for pub grub, with pubs around the nation finally reopening, this occasion was overshadowed by the fact that my friend would soon be picking me up for that much-coveted double cheeseburger (and fries and nuggets, obviously). My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy by the time we finally made it to the order-point and I almost forgot how to speak, the moment was so momentous – the same reaction I had ringing my favourite pub to arrange a table reservation for next week. Things that barely warranted excitement, let alone nerves, before lockdown now suddenly do.
Eating my dinner in Spoons later that evening was an accident. It’s visible from McDonald’s, and even though I love to claim I don’t like Spoons, the curiosity pulled me in. To my surprise, there was no queue and many of the spaced-out tables were free. We chose one in a corner with a protective screen around it and ordered on the app, which I always do anyway (unnecessary human interaction? Not for me, thanks). The staff were all in masks and besides the moment of receiving my order to the table, I didn’t feel any less safe than I have done throughout lockdown. The atmosphere was definitely lacking without any music, but I’m not sure how much atmosphere The Sir Henry Tate has at the best of times. The worst part was simply trying to shake the nagging “I could get a whole bottle for the price of this glass” – four months of supermarket wine has drummed that into me, and these are Spoons prices we’re talking about. Lockdown has definitely made me a food and drinks cheapskate; I can’t believe I ever paid £8 for avocado toast in Oxford when we have avocados and bread at home.
I made the mistake of being adventurous and ordering the new carbonara pizza. Do not let my disappointment be in vain: steer clear. I mean, it looked decent and it wasn’t that bad – it promised a spaghetti carbonara experience, and indeed that’s what I got. But it just didn’t work on a pizza, which probably should’ve been obvious. I was nervous about eating with my hands so I sat there trying to get through the stubborn crust with a rather blunt knife and fork, much to the amusement of my friend, who kindly and usefully pointed out that nobody would want to kiss me after I’d eaten that cheese and garlic monstrosity, as though the virus were not enough to deter anyone. I wish my first re-opening meal out had been a little classier and more palatable, but I have now learnt that for the next global pandemic.
By the end of the night, though, we were up on a hill in Anglezarke drinking shop-bought alcohol again. A suitable ending to a day of fast-food and peculiar pizza. Lockdown habits die hard, it seems.
Image credit: Miguel Andrade