Saturday, June 07, 2008

Pop goes the Sausage

There seems to have been a steep increase in food writing in the British press recently (well beyond the usual Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall "Your kids will love my watercress, sorrel and lobster soufflé, too" kind of waffle shored up by the posher end of Little Britain against European prejudices about the quality of British nosh). It's all "food here" and "no food there" at the moment.

Now, why might that be the case?

Explanation I: There is a global food crisis in the making and a nasty one it is going to be.

Explanation II: There's an international sporting event going on in Southern Europe in which England does not participate.

Personally, I believe the latter to be the right answer. Which kind of suggests that all that food jazz is in fact a "displacement activity" of sorts.

Anyway, to give the whole gourmet talk a grimmer edge, today's Mail takes the launch of the ASDA 2p sausage as the opportunity to put some heroic volunteers through a bit of banger testing.

When I suggested the other day that grubs and locusts will not be on sale in ASDA stores in the near future, I didn't quite envisage just how spot on I was. Why eat earthworms and maggots when you can have the 2p "pork" sausage, consisting of ... well ... I don't know.

Apparently, star-studded chef Marcus Wareing finds these sausages "surprisingly good" despite their "fatty and processed texture":

They were like the sausages I ate as a child at school. My children would love them with a load of ketchup.

"The sausages I ate as a child at school." How are we to take this statement, given that Mr Wareing spent his childhood in Southport, Lancashire (this is where his Wikipedia entry locates Southport, which is of course terribly, terribly wrong, as a faithful reader of this blog has kindly pointed out, just as it is equally terribly, terribly bad of me to uncritically appropriate this flawed piece of information. Mea maxima culpa.), where even today school dinners probably remain stuck in the age of austerity that he here nostalgically reveres?

And "a load of ketchup." Is that the what gourmet chefs from Merseyside (where Southport really is) allow their kids to eat when the food situation is really bad? (NB: I love Merseyside, honest. I love especially the famous Merseyside sense of humour. Pity - not petty - that Mark David Chapman put an end to all that).

But anyway, what would Hugh say to all that?

But as always, we've seen it all before. Once again I have to direct your attention to George Orwell's underrated masterpiece, Coming Up For Air, in which the phlegmatic protagonist George Bowling is forced to enter an American-style milk-bar (for want of other available eateries):

There's a kind of atmosphere about these places that gets me down. Everything slick and shiny and streamlined, mirrors, enamel and chromium-plate whichever direction you look in. Everything spent on the decorations and nothing on the food. No real food at all. Just lists of stuff with American names, sort of phantom stuff that you can't taste and can hardly believe in the existence of. Everything comes out of a carton or a tin, or it's hauled out of a refrigerator or squirted out of a tap or squeezed out of a tube.

In this place, Bowling orders coffee and frankfurters - in the naive expectation to get the real thing. What is dumped in front of him, however, is ... ASDA's 2p sausage, I guess:

The frankfurter had a rubber skin, of course, and my temporary teeth weren't much of a fit. I had to do a kind of sawing movement before I could get my teeth through the skin. And then suddenly - pop! The thing burst in my mouth like a rotten pear. A sort of horrible soft stuff was oozing all over my tongue. But the taste! For a moment I just couldn't believe it. Then I rolled my tongue round it again and had another try. It was fish! A sausage, a thing calling itself a frankfurter, filled with fish! I got up and walked straight out without touching my coffee. God knows what that might have tasted of.

At least when it comes to the skin texture, the ASDA sausage scores better, as a youthful guinea pig in aforementioned food-tasting from hell suggests:

This was like cereal - it was hard to taste the meat. But I liked the crunchy, golden skin - it helped make up for the lack of flavour inside.

That's all I can take. I'm off to buy some veg and cheese ....


Anonymous said...

'How are we to take this statement, given that Mr Wareing spent his childhood in Southport, Lancashire, where even today school dinners probably remain stuck in the age of austerity that he here nostalgically reveres?'

Hmmmm, you lost me here - is there something wrong with growing up in Southport(which is in Merseyside, by the way)? Why would you presume Southport schools 'probably remain stuck in the age of austerity that he here nostalgically reveres?' Maybe you have been there more recently than I have - but I visit quite a few schools in the Merseyside area (including Southport) and the meals look quite good to me.

Am I being petty?

The Wife said...

a) As my article states quite explicitly - and twice: I am perfectly aware that Southport is in Merseyside. I am also perfectly aware of the dismal quality of dinners in UK schools, having worked in some of them myself. The phrase "age of austerity" therefore applies to potentially hundreds of comprehensive schools across the country.

b) I was trying to be funny. Seems not everybody out there gets my special brand of hun humour. Of course, this won't keep me from writing.