Ashpazkhune – The House of the Soup Cook (Part 1)

My shopping bags were beginning to cut into my wrists and I struggled to find space to set them down. It was cold and a damp wind blew through London’s Borough Market.

This is one of those days when I seriously question what I do for a living.

WHY do I spend on average 2.8 hours shopping for food EVERY weekday?

WHY do I spend £6 on a peanut dish sized quantity of Marcona almonds? 

WHY do I allow ten complete strangers into my home to play with my knives, spill wine on my floor and make a tremendous mess that I will spend an hour on top of an already long day cleaning up after?

Why? Because they pay me. Because I left investment banking to pursue my own, more gratifying career. And because I love this. Really.

My blackberry bleeped in my pocket. It was a text message:

“Do you want to have sex. NOW?”

“OK,” I texted back. “But I have a class tonight. I only have about half an hour.”

I dragged my bags to the curb and hailed a taxi. I hoped I’d at least have time to put everything in the fridge before he arrived.

I had only managed to remove my coat when the doorbell rang. I took his coat from him and hung it up beside mine. He smiled and reached his hands around my waist and kissed me. I kicked my bags of lovingly selected produce across the floor.

I’ve never liked the way he kisses me. In the beginning I think the attraction was because he was famous. And smart.

But I love his smell. He smells oily and leathery and his breath tastes of alcohol.

I used to think that he was going to marry me, that we’d become this kind of ‘it couple’ – a food photographer and his young, food-sensual bride. We’d drive across the Caucasus in a beat-up Landrover and live on love and Khachapuri.

Four years later his real wife still lives in Spain and they are still having problems and I still take his calls. 

Plus I won’t be having sex in Iran. It’s probably good to stock up.

“From what I hear about Tehran, you’ll probably be able to take your pick there,” he said. His warm breath was wet in my ear as he pulled me onto the bed.

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