The smell of roasting onions and garlic filled the apartment though I had only placed the chicken and vegetables into the oven minutes before. Find me someone who isn’t comforted by the smell of a Sunday roast and I will call him a liar, I thought as I wiped down the kitchen bench, pleased at my small display of domesticity.
For years I had held back from making meals that were drenched heavily in connotations of family, sequestering them away for the time when I would have someone to share them with. These meals are not meant for the single, the anonymous flat-sharers; their serving size calling for more than one diner. Tender roasts, crunchy pork belly, slow cooked lamb shanks so soft the meat fell from the bone – there was too much effort implied to be enjoyed by only one.
So I satisfied my hunger with simpler offerings. Pasta for one, ramen for one. Risotto for two but the leftovers enjoyed while I hunched over my keyboard the next day. Quick, lazy, often uninspired meals or increasingly often an expensive takeaway with a side of guilt, which gradually dissolved my wit and once hopeful outlook. There’s a reason why these dishes are called soul food. They nourish more than the body, keeping spirits high and ready to face another day.
I would rally for a short time after visiting my parents, who lavished me with the meals I didn’t realise I craved. But a new start in a new country called an end to these treats and slowly I felt myself dimming as year after year I remained unable to share my meals with that special someone.
When I woke up this morning, I knew something was different. I wasn’t certain what it was, perhaps simply a stout resignation, matronly in its resolve but kind in its words. As I walked the aisles of the supermarkets, bubbling with purpose, I felt excited at the idea of my very own Sunday roast.
The timer continued to count down the minutes before the meal was ready while I continued to prepare. I set the dining room table – for one – and put on my old Norah Jones playlist to hum along to as I continued to tidy, tying up the rubbish bag and taking it downstairs to throw away.
The new tenant in the apartment next to mine was already at the bins, sorting out his recycling. We hadn’t formally met yet but had passed a few times in the hallway. He seemed nice, would always say hello with a kind twinkle in his eye. His accent implied he wasn’t from around here, but few of us were.
“Whatever your cooking smells amazing,” he said as he finished sorting the cans and rubbed his hands on his jeans and held one out for me to shake. “I’m Sean by the way.”
“Thank you, it’s roast chicken,” I replied with a smile and grasped his hand. “I’m Katherine. How are you settling in?”
“Just fine, it’s a great apartment and I think I’m starting to find my way around the city. Are you hosting a dinner party then?”
I huffed a short laugh at the assumption before responding. “No, just for me. I had a real craving for a Sunday roast.”
“Ah, my family used to make the most amazing ones. I miss that tradition.”
Uncertain if it was the nostalgia in his tone or a sudden bout of madness, but before I could reconsider I blurted “You’re more than welcome to join me.”
“That would be amazing – as long as I’m not impinging on your time. I’ve got a tub of icecream I can bring as dessert?”
“That would be perfect,” I said with a smile and thought how I would need to reset the table, this time for two.