I cooked an oxtail.
Being, as I am, an extraordinarily new new-man, I have always prided myself on the scrumptious fare that awaits the LTLP on her return from work. However, one thing that has transpired over the past year or so is that I have forgotten how to cook.
Circumstances, you see. For weeks on end, she wanted nothing but bacon and tomatoes on toast. Then I found myself on crutches and unable to glide round the kitchen with my usual fernbrittanness. Then I got really busy and didn’t have time. Plus I really, really like takeaways.
So I cooked an oxtail. I did this because a) it’s apparently quite trendy these days; b) it caught my eye in the shop; and c) I’ve never done it before and one should try new things. Which sound like sound and reasonable enough reasons, until you realise that they’re the sort of tempting arguments that can lead to a) growing a goatee; b) buying ‘Zoo’ magazine; and c) being arrested in the playground.
And so it was that five hours later I was scraping a plate furiously into the bin and ringing the Chinese Pub to source emergency rations.
There are several pointers one can examine to decide whether a meal is worth eating. One is that you should not be able to turn your plate one hundred and eighty degrees vertically so that it is completely upside-down, without your dinner accordingly obeying the force of gravity. As it was, a combination of gelatine and sci-fi strength surface tension conspired to offer an unappetising V-sign to the laws of physics.
A second is this. If one tries a bit of the gravy during the cooking process, and swills it round the mouth thoughtfully, thinking: “gosh that reminds me of something!” then five minutes later the revelation should not be: “oh yes, a Fray Bentos pie”.
I yield to no man in my admiration of the great chefs who have put traditional English cooking on the map recently: Fearnley-Whittingstall, Henderson, Harriot. But the fact is that people ate peasant food in the past because they were peasants. Boiled pig’s cock and the like were the only options available for the poor downtrodden masses in Walpole’s Britain, and reviving it as gourmet is the affectation of an idiot.