Often, in my role as imparter of the English language to the overprivileged wastlings of the wealthier non-English speaking nations of the world, I am called upon to don the mantle of George Orwell and to defend British food. I usually draw the attention of my students to the fact that, although British food is Not Up To Much, there is in the UK a huge variety of international food on offer due to our cosmopolitan multiculinary heritage.
More recently, however, and especially given that I now have to live here myself, I have decided that we are in fact simply schizophrenic when it comes to food. For all that TV chefs have been kind enough to share with us the benefits of their hard-earned wisdom, the end result is a nation of people wandering round oversized, catastrophically overpowerful and overpriced supermarkets feeling very confused and depressed about the prospect of what they are going to have for tea.
Understandably, a lot of people stick with a) what they can afford and b) what will fill them up as tastily as possible without giving them time to think about the nutritional consequences. This is of course all based on the widely accepted but basically erroneous understanding that the only people in the country who can ‘cook’ are the TV chefs and Nigel fucking Slater and his über-middle-class chums.
On a very recent trip to my local Walmart subsiduary to pick up some very low-fat turkey rashers for a friend, stuck as I was in the queue behind some large, gingerish people, I took the trouble to inspect the contents of their somewhat overladen shopping trolley. It contained:
6 boxes of Asda’s own brand ready meal Chicken Kievs
A bag containing 6 bags of six different flavour crisps, making a total of 32 packets of crisps
Four tins of Asda’s own brand Baked Beans
A breakfast cereal which appeared to be called ‘Breakfast Boredom?’
Some more crisps
Several bags of Extra Special Chunky frozen chips
Four frozen Asda’s own brand Lasagnes
A £6 DVD copy of the film ‘Dude, Where’s my car’?
A large number of frozen pizzas
Four frozen ‘Indian style’ nan-breads
A multipack of ‘German-style’ twiglets
A two litre bottle of Tizer
A six-pack of Smirnoff Ice
Another six-pack of Smirnoff Ice
A third six-pack of Smirnoff Ice, which seemed to be black in colour for some reason
A six-pack of Bacardi Breezers
A second six-pack of Bacardi Breezers (to be fair, they may have been planning some sort of celebration)
An apple (I am not making this up. Oh, okay, there wasn’t an apple).
The sum total of this high-fat bounty came to £47.13. I wanted to try and get hold of the receipt but at this point I was too busy trying to get the bleedin’ plastic bag open and getting slightly annoyed by the impatience of the woman behind me (contents of trolley: Sixteen rolls of kitchen, erm, roll and four two-litre bottles of Asda’s own brand Still Water for fuck’s sake). I did pass them on my way out of the shop. Fatty Bum-fluff Football shirt Boy was perusing the receipt avidly. I think perhaps he was planning to eat it. I did briefly consider grabbing it out of his hands and making a run for it, thereby gaining a more detailed and specific record of their anti-nutritional shopping expedition which would allow more scientific analysis, but I was scared that they might catch me and put me on the front page of the Daily Mail along with the words ‘Student Type Caught Red-Handed in Terror Plot to Mock the Lower Orders!’. Or, you know, something.
It might make an interesting art project to go round Asda buying the most unhealthy week’s shopping available, and seeing if you could make it match up to exactly £47.13. I suspect that the contents of such a trolley would be exactly the same as those I’ve listed above. Mind you, I dread to think what toll those low-fat turkey rashers will enact on us all one day…