I know what you’re thinking. What the hell does heart break have to do with cheese have to do with chicken salad, right? Well to be honest, I’m not really sure either. But I have a good feeling that in some convoluted way, my aimless blabbering might actually tie the three together. Just you wait and see…
I never used to like cheese. As a child, I didn’t like it – not Kraft singles or squeezy cheese or even the adorable little babybel – and even now as an adult, I would never voluntarily order a cheese course. Granted, if a cheese course came with a set meal I’d pick at it and potentially maybe probably actually like it, but I’d never like you know… pay for an extra cheese course.
But at some point over the course of my little life, I somehow grew to like having cheese with my food. It didn’t “just happen” the way some things happen and you can’t for the life of you pin point when they happened (for example, my utter dislike for ginger which is now a remarkable love affair, and seriously, when did I stop gagging and start loving?!). I actually remember exactly when my relationship with cheese blossomed.
‘Twas one fateful night in 2002.
[Ok, so there's the cheese. Where's the heart break and chicken salad?]
2002 was a rough year for me. I’ll always remember it as the year I had my heart shattered into a million pieces, a tragedy I didn’t think I’d ever recover from (but really, a blessing in disguise because hey, I am now rid of one more asshole). In the depths of my suffering, I didn’t go out and drown my sorrows in dingy, dirty karaoke bars downing cheap bourbon by the bottle. Oh wait, wow that memory seems a little real, maybe I did. But aside from the drunken stupors, all I wanted to be was alone and all my friends (I love them) would make sure that alone was the last thing I’d be.
So they all kind of took turns babysitting me, making sure I’d eat and wash and do things like brush my teeth (because trust me, when your heart is broken, nothing else matters). One night my friend Serena invited me over for dinner, promising to cheer me up with steak which, aside from ice cream, was probably one of the few things I would eat during that time.
As eagerly as my broken-hearted-almost-suicidal self could manage, I headed over to Serena’s, anticipating a nice juicy piece of steak, some light conversation and a few hugs. Serena was busy in the kitchen, tossing some salad and searing some steak and she tells me she’s made this wonderful sauce for the steak, something she’s just learned how to make herself and it was just divine. I got a little bit excited. “What’s in the sauce?”, I asked.
“Oh you won’t believe it, it’s just blue cheese and red wine!”
BLUE CHEESE? Are you fucking kidding me? What is this? Aren’t they meant to be nice to me right now? IS SHE TRYING TO KILL ME?
Because you see, in 2002, I would not have touched blue cheese if it was wrapped in matcha and sprinkled with oh, diamonds. Too exhausted to protest, I feigned excitement but vomited just a little bit on the inside.
As dinner was served, I started to brainstorm the number of ways I’d hide my gagging. I mean, discreet spitting? Surely that only works once or twice. Bathroom break? Maybe once. Excused for a phone call? Once. I am so fucked. I dragged my heels into the dining room anyway, looked at my beautiful steak, hideously destroyed by this nasty blue cheese sauce… and sighed.
It’s you and me, sauce. Just you and me.
[Stay with me, I know we'll get to the chicken salad...]
I cut a tiny little piece to start, one less-contaminated piece of steak, and gingerly placed it in my mouth. I anticipated my body to instantly reject the blue cheese, to throw a wave of nausea over me so uncool that there’d be a real chance I’d vomit all over Serena’s awesome carpet.
But nothing happened. In fact, I didn’t really taste the blue cheese at all. I tried another piece, a little more sauce this time and again, braced for projectile vomit. Nothing. It actually kind of tasted bearable. More than bearable… it was… ok.
I continued to eat my steak and though I could totally taste the blue cheese, it didn’t offend me the way I’d expected. With the stench of blue cheese somewhat muted by red wine, I actually began to find the taste quite pleasant, a completely new concept to me this idea of “I think I like cheese sauce”.
In fact, I finished my meal and polished the plate, played with Serena’s gorgeous beagle (may his cuddly soul rest in peace) and went home feeling for the first time that my heart was beginning to heal. I was excited that I’d overcome my fear of blue cheese and really excited that 2002 may have been the year a relationship ended but it was also the year a better relationship blossomed. Time does heal all wounds, but food, food fixes everything.
[... and we're here! Chicken salad!]
Ok now that was a long story! What’s it got to do with the chicken salad? Nothing really, but this is Canela’s utterly delicious chicken salad with grilled goat’s cheese, french bread & honey glazed red onions on a bed of mixed leaf salad.
Do you see how HUGE that piece of goat’s cheese is? Do you know how excited that makes me?? Do you understand how far I’ve come since 2002?!
This here is possibly the best chicken salad I’ve ever had. No joke. And honestly? It would not be this awesome without the cheese.
ps. an older post – A photo tour of brunch at Canela.
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London, W1F 7RB
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