She never makes new year resolutions, but this year Rachel Cooke wants to avoid dirty food - and stay on Team Cheese.
On the second day of this month, feeling tired of brandy snaps, I looked inside my freezer in search of savoury inspiration and found... three chicken carcasses (age unknown), two pheasant carcasses (ditto), and one enormous tub of stock (bird of origin unknown). Uh oh. Now, I never make new year resolutions for the simple reason that it's not at all nice to feel like a failure before January is even out. I've never had a dry start to my year, nor have I ever spent the dark days after Christmas on a diet. On the other hand, I couldn't help but feel that the ice age fowls were trying to tell me something and I sat down and wrote a list of kitchen rules for the coming year.
1 Chicken, etc. Once the bird is done, I must boil them up for stock immediately. Bones frozen for a rainy day tend to stay in that state for months, if not years. It's not only that they take up space in the freezer that could be put to better use (ice cream, peas, fish fingers and, er... ice cream). What happens if I'm run over? Do I really want my grieving relatives to have to do battle with all that frostbitten gristle?
2 Step away from the trophy fruit and veg. At the greengrocers, the squash always seem so lovely: the pattypan and the acorn, the butternut and the banana. At home, they look even better, imbuing the kitchen with a sort of (pre-prison) Martha Stewart sensibility, all bountiful and good. But once they are arranged in a bowl - I'm trying hard not to use the word "centrepiece" here - do they ever leave it? No. I am damned if I ever know quite what to do with squash. Ditto cob nuts, loquats and, if I'm honest, mangoes.
3 Dirty food. In 2012, I did not engage with the "dirty" food trend at all. I didn't even know that hamburgers were dirty until the other day, when I read it in the paper (in our house, "dirty" is applied to dishes where the components cannot be clearly identified - eg: lentil stew). This is mainly because I hate queuing, which is what the best dirty joints expect patrons to do. But I don't want it - you know: fashion, life - to be over for me just yet, and I know that I must join the line soon or be condemned to granny-dom. The key is, I think, not to be intimidated even if everyone else in it is wearing a onesie, a bowler hat, or tartan headphones. I must wear my opaques with ironic pride.
4 Bags of salad. Why do I keep buying them? So wasteful, and the contents smell so noxious once they've been open for more than about six hours (after six days, you have to make like Emilia Fox in Silent Witness and snap on a mask and rubber gloves before carrying their oozing contents to the bin). The truth is that I am no longer a twentysomething girl-about-town who can fashion a perfectly good night in out of a few bits of radicchio, a bottle of white, and an over-priced exfoliator, and I must accept this.
5 Cookbooks. Time to prune. Someone, somewhere, may well be longing to own a pristine copy of Ken Albala's magisterial Beans: A History - "When I first proposed a history of beans, little did I suspect what I was getting myself into," goes the gripping first sentence - and I really should deliver it to lucky old Oxfam quite soon.
6 Last, but not least: cheese. In India Knight's funny new novel, Mutton, the heroine, Clara, theorises that women may be divided into two groups: Team Cheese, and Team Chocolate. I'm in (the far superior) Team Cheese. So the first rule is that I must, for the sake of my arteries, which are doubtless more clogged than your average London sewer, eat a lot less of it. This will be hard, especially since I embarked on a love affair with prima donna, a Dutch cheese that's made in the style of gouda, but tastes like parmesan. But I will do it. In the deli, I will abandon the awful cheese snobbery which compels me only ever to order what I persist in calling a "decent" slice of brie or cheddar, and at home, I will hide the Breville sandwich toaster somewhere I cannot find it (under the squash centrepiece, perhaps). This sounds bleak, but it will be less so once I get into dirty food. Mac'n'cheese comes pretty much as standard in those places, I gather. Or have I got my trends fatally muddled?
Are you Team Cheese or Team Chocolate? Photograph: Getty Images