The kitchen was filled with the aroma of potatoes. The pan had boiled over and frothy glutinous water ran down its sides onto the hob, where it hissed and evaporated, leaving a brown teardrop burn mark. The cubes of potato jostled for space as the orange blue flame rolled underneath, bubbles formed and burst through the surface, they were nearly ready.
Jean sighed as she entered and saw the state of the kitchen. Alex was a sloppy cook, which had been endearing at first but lately had grown tiring, and she was irked at the prospect of cleaning up his mess. In addition to the overflowing potatoes were cardboard sleeves and plastic wrapping abandoned on worktops, and a large purple smear that had dropped onto the floor and then been stepped in. Alex was standing with his back to the overflowing pan and cooking detritus, hastily chopping vegetables. The knife THUMPED against the wooden chopping board with each slice. He cooked with the delicacy of a boxing glove.
“Do you need me to do anything?”
She bartered the usual platitude knowing what his response would be. He called it backseat cooking, she called it damage control.
“No, go and sit down babe, it’s almost done.”
The tone in his voice conveyed more threat than he had intended, but it served its purpose and Jean returned to the living room.
Tonight was not a special occasion, but Alex insisted on cooking an expensive rump of lamb with mashed potatoes, roast broccoli and carrots. Jean’s portion would come dry whereas his would be lavished with redcurrant gravy that had come in a plastic sack, wrapped into a metal container that had contained the chunk of lamb. The fact it was metal meant that he had paid almost a third more than the plastic packaged meat, and almost double what it would have cost him at the local butcher, but he paid happily for the image of prestige.
After thoroughly slicing the carrots and broccoli, Alex threw them into a pan and drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper. These were hastily thrown into the oven. He did not check that the meat was cooking.
“Alexa, set a timer for twenty-five minutes.”
The black tube that housed their voice assistant briefly muted the audio that was playing – Robert Smith’s dulcet tones were not missed – and announced a timer was set for twenty five minutes. Alex washed his hands, went to the fridge and poured himself a glass of white wine. Yes, red wine was traditional with red meat, but it gave him heartburn and there were no snooty waiting staff here to judge his choice. He left the potatoes boiling, also without checking, and went to join Jean in the living room.