Saturday, March 24, 2007

Multiple deprivation

I found out this week, via Meg, via Zoe Williams, via Loyd Grossman Sauces, that most British people a) have around four staple meals, the most popular being spaghetti bolognese, sausages and mash, chicken tikka masala and chilli con carne, and b) eat precious little else. I am not sure I trust the agenda of a readymade sauce manufacturer any more than I trust readymade sauces themselves, but even if it's only a bit true it's not a very cheery thought.

There are some staple meals chez joella, of course, and some of them - lentil soup, nut roast, celery-mushroom-pasta-bake, fishy-eggy-ricy-thing, tuna-noodle-pickled-vegetable - have been around for a decade or more. I also keep a jar of pesto in the fridge, which I eat with pasta and without shame.

But most of the time, we make it up, depending what we feel like, how much time we've got, who's in the mood to cook, what veg we have in, and what's in the fridge. Sometimes it's a disaster (I won't be doing those beetroot and sweet potato fritters again), but it's rarely out of a jar. And every time I buy a crap ready meal or eat rubbish takeaway food I curse a culture that can so shamelessly sell us something so utterly devoid of all the things food should have and so utterly full of all the things it shouldn't. Then I curse myself for being disorganised, lazy or drunk enough to be giving it stomach room. But now I think, how many people think this is normal?

I was in fact musing on this as I was bashing my leadwork around in plumbing class this week, when the subject of books came up. I have no idea how, given what followed, but it wasn't me who mentioned them first. The guy next to me said 'I never read books'. What are you talking about, I said. 'I reckon I've read two books in my life,' he said. I just looked at him. I think my mouth may have fallen open. Wow, I said. I think I'd die without books. I probably read about a book a week. I never stop reading. I have been known to read books by Andy McNab in the absence of anything else to read.

We looked at each other in mutual incomprehension for a few seconds, then got back to hitting things. But then I don't like football, so what do I know?


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