So it has now been two weeks since I became a working woman. I commute. I get the Friday feeling. I’ve relearnt how to spreadsheet (was extremely proud of myself for remembering the =SUM(a1…) formula for adding up on excel and now feel like a master of spreadsheeting). And when I get home, I do absolutely sod all. I make dinner within half an hour of walking through the door, I adopt a horizontal position on the sofa, I halfheartedly stroke the cat before resolving that she’s too far out of reach for me to waste my precious energy giving her attention, I go to bed at 11pm at the absolutely latest, and I prepare myself for the 6am wakeup. Basically, I’m boring now. And to top off the London Commuter stereotype, I complain about the trains, a lot (but seriously, how can it be so hard to provide a train timetable that actually represents some loose form of reality? More of this later).
In case you’re now mildly interested in what job I’ve taken up that justifies a 6am wakeup and 7pm arrival back home (I know that’s not much to complain about but I did an English degree so I’m used to a post-9am wakeup, a leisurely saunter to a lecture around 2pm and a followup seminar 4 days later), I’m doing an internship working for a restaurant PR company, discussing advertising campaigns with restauranteurs and sending photos to journalists for their reviews – a job that has revealed itself to be both a great decision and a terrible one. So, with my whole 2 weeks (and a month last year but doesn’t count because it was only a month and I was young and sprightly and didn’t have the authority to do things like complain about the trains and get the Friday feeling) of experience, I’ve summarised what I think are the major pros and cons of working in restaurant PR:
- Pro: I get to know about the latest London restaurant openings before anyone else.
- Con: I’m too poor to eat at them.
- Pro: the agency I’m interning with works closely with some of the best known food journalists, magazine editors and chefs in the country (very cool since this is what I may want to get into).
- Con: I’m not talking to them and taking them to lunch (yet), I’m putting their names into a very large spreadsheet (even though this makes me feel like a spreadsheet God, I’d still rather have the lunch). NB it’s also tortuous being so close to a profession I ultimately want to get into but is notoriously difficult to.
- Pro: I spend my days scrolling through Instagram, Twitter, Time Out London etc., essentially being paid to do what I already spent the majority of my time doing absentmindedly at home.
- Con: What do I do when I get home? Now that it’s part of my job, scrolling endlessly through Instagram has lost its appeal (I say this after a 5 minute break to scroll through Instagram so I’m not sure about he validity of this argument).
- Pro: There are freebees all over the office to take home.
- Con: Most of them are out of date. This still hasn’t stopped me taking home 15 packs of taco seasoning that went off 2 weeks ago. Beggars can’t be choosers.
- Pro: I spend the majority, nay, the entirety of my day looking at pictures of amazing food and subsequently know exactly what I’m going to order from every restaurant when I eventually have the money to go.
- Con: I AM ALWAYS HUNGRY. Lost your appetite recently? Spend a few days in PR staring at 200 photographs of smoked brisket and fresh tacos and thousands and thousands of eggs (literally thousands, brunch is irritatingly still very much the dominant meal in the social media scene). You’ll gain it back in no time. I recently discovered that we have communal jars of peanut butter in the cupboards. These will not last long.
The major pro though is, of course, that I’m immersing myself in an industry that opens up a ton of opportunities – whether I want to go into food journalism or work in a kitchen or stick with PR and marketing, I think this is a pretty good place to start. Unexpected pros of the job are also that my cat has been showing much more affection towards me due to my absence (I had to add this in after a 10 minute break from writing whilst she alternated between head butting me and sitting on my hands to get my attention) and that I’m mastering the art of cooking dinner within half an hour of arriving home because I am so hungry by the time I get home that any longer than half an hour and I will eat said cat.
I thought I’d include a couple of my favourite less-than-half-an-hour recipes for anyone else entering the world of work and struggling with work-related hanger. We can get through this, but only with the help of super quick recipes often with the inclusion of eggs (and cheese). The first is a salad (not just leaves I promise) inspired by a recipe by Florence Knight for Sunday Times Food, and the second is kind of a take on a Greek Skordalia – traditionally crushed garlic mixed with something bulky like potatoes, usually served as a dip, though I’ve done it as a base for grilled asparagus, braised peas and a fried egg.
Roasted Apricot and Lentil Salad with Yoghurt Dressing for 2 (or 1 with more for lunch to take to the office because lunch in London is £££)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp runny honey
1 spring of thyme
Juice of half a lemon
1 pack/tin of cooked lentils (I used beluga)
1 eschalon shallot, sliced into half moons
1 pack of rocket
A handful of fresh basil leaves
1 handful of chopped walnuts and pumpkin seeds, toasted in a dry pan
About 70g Greek yoghurt
A glug of extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan. Halve the apricots and remove the stones.
- Put a heavy based frying pan on medium heat and melt the butter. Once melted and beginning to froth, add the honey and thyme and stir to combine. Add the apricot halves, cut side down, and leave on medium/high to caramelise. Don’t be tempted to move or flip them – they need time to caramelise properly.
- Meanwhile, add the lentils, shallot, rocket, basil, walnuts and pumpkin seeds to a bowl.
- After about 5 minutes, give the apricots a swirl and squeeze in a bit of the lemon juice. After swirling again, carefully flip the apricot halves, before placing the frying pan in the oven for a further 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the yoghurt, remaining lemon juice, olive oil and a liberal amount of salt and pepper, before pouring onto the lentil mix and combining evenly.
- Plate up the lentils and top with two apricot halves each.
Parsnip and Celeriac Skordalia with Grilled Asparagus, Braised Peas and Fried Egg
1 large parsnip
Enough asparagus or broccoli for 1
A few handfuls of frozen peas
A handful of spinach
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Chicken or vegetable stock (I also added a glug of white wine)
- Peel and chop the parsnip and celeriac. Put a pan of salted water to boil, and once simmering add the parsnip, followed a few minutes later by the celeriac. Boil until soft – about 7 or 8 minutes. Heat your chicken/veg stock and wine until simmering.
- When the parsnip and celeriac are nearly cooked, heat a frying pan on high and add a glug of olive oil. Once hot, throw in the asparagus/broccoli and fry on high until charred. Whilst the asparagus is frying, add your peas to the stock and simmer for a few minutes.
- Once soft, drain your parsnip and celeriac, and blend with a stick blender, adding a knob of butter and seasoning to taste. Once smooth, add the tbsp wholegrain mustard and the spinach. Combine until the spinach begins to wilt.
- Once wilted, spoon the mash onto a plate and spread round to make a little well in the middle, where you can put the charred asparagus and peas.
- In the still-hot pan, crack an egg and dry over high heat until done to your liking. Top the skordalia off with the egg, and season with a final turn of salt and pepper.