Friday, 16 December 2016

An Annual Feast

From regular commenter Wiggia

With a certainty that little will change as the annual stuff fest approaches, I am again chided into driving Miss Daisy to Waitrose to purchase the “bits not attainable elsewhere”. To be honest I don’t mind to much as it gives me the opportunity to get some decent cheese for the festive period, something sadly lacking in the other supermarkets. Plus the only cheese / creamerie shop in town is so difficult to get to I can’t be bothered.

We went a week earlier this year for a dummy run, as She Who Never Forgets found advancing years meant she actually did forget an item and the journey was justified on  the grounds of “they will be sold out by next week”.

 Upon arrival I homed in on the cheese counter and found it unoccupied giving me time to evaluate that on offer and discuss with the suitably rotund cheese serving lady what were the best buys this year, thereby saving me time when on my “official” visit next week. Information garnered I was at a lose end as No1 had managed to vanish, something that still astounds me after all these years as to how she achieves becoming invisible within seconds of saying "I am just going to have a look at x." It’s not really a problem as I am usually found again perusing the wine shelves.

This year though I was taken aback on my pootling through the store by the sheer number of ready made meals dishes and accompaniments  on the burgeoning shelves. It seemed the whole store was ready to cook or ready to go, no niche market was left out, everything could be purchased needing no more than heating unwrapping or carving, from red cabbage to dry hung beef joints! It was there to be consumed with no or little cooking effort involved.

I picked up the Waitrose festive catalogue of Christmas goodies. All ready to cook, natch. It was split into festive season and everyday, an even larger section with prices of up to £190 for a large beef joint. I saved the full read until returning home for as mysteriously as she had disappeared No1 reappeared needing help to retrieve a high shelf item.

In that section were an awful lot of “celebrity chef” items in jars and tins and display boxes. All of this was still milling round in my mind when we returned home when a rather obvious fact presented itself to me. Waitrose is the go-to supermarket for the middle classes, a large part of the clientele even showing their loyalty by wearing matching green fleeces scarves anoraks hunter boots etc and carrying Waitrose ‘for life’ bags as a badge of honour.

These are the people that all the cooking and baking programs that fill endless hours on our tv screens are aimed at. The same people that buy AGAs Heston Blumenthal foamers Gaggia coffee machines and Japanese multi layered steel kitchen knives at £200 a pop and thousands of glossy cook books. Yet apparently, going by the shelves of their favored store none of them actually cook. It’s all a mirage. The kitchens of these people are stuffed full of must-have items. Lakeland catalogue anyone? Costing a kings ransom and purely ornamental, a fact expounded by a kitchen designer who gave the game away when he said that after fitting the must-have 10k AGA you really need to fit a conventional oven and microwave to cook with!

As AK  related to in his article on mince pies (ready made) we have passed the generation that actually cooked - our parents. No more Christmas puds from my late mum who supplied the whole family every year with various versions of the said pud and if you were lucky got a matured one. The vision of my mum struggling with the Christmas cake mix in March so much so I had to lend a hand. The same sadly missed lady caught wearing my motorcycle helmet and googles to help prevent crying whilst peeling onions. None of this is likely to observed in a Waitrose customer's kitchen these days.

With the most used room in the house, the kitchen is becoming redundant for its original purpose, cooking. Perhaps someone will explain why we need to spend according to House&Garden 30k and upwards sans appliances like steam ovens and boiling taps on a room that is becoming increasingly a talking point over the water cooler, your own that is, and yet it sees very little actual cooking in situ.

I had a very good example of this modern phenomenon a few years back when a very good friend of mine, a property developer, was finishing his own house and I designed and built his garden. He was showing me around and explaining how he saved thousands having the granite worktops imported from Spain and where he purchased the units, bespoke of course, when I casually remarked that I hoped his new wife, younger dimmer but not my problem would appreciate all this. "Don’t be silly," he said, "she can’t cook - we eat out." I rest my case.


CherryPie said...

Lovely post Wiggia, you made me smile :-)

In my world the kitchen is the place to be, someone is cooking in there and others want to join in and help or at least chat whilst the meal preparation is taking place.

As to the vanishing act... It is always Mr C who vanishes without a trace. For example, last weekend in Waterstones... We were trying to find the right floor for something we were looking for.

We both paused to assess if we were on the right floor, as I was working out if we were on the right floor someone spoke loudly in my ear. When I turned around Mr C had disappeared (I learned later that just as the person was speaking in my ear Mr C had said, let's go up a floor). I looked around and he was nowhere to be seen. So I waited... After about 10 minutes I decided he must have walked off without me, but in which direction had he gone...

I chose the right direction and looked up the stairs to an annoyed face...

The Waterstones incident reminded me of a similar incident in Bruges on my birthday a few years ago...

That is a tale to tell ;-)

Michael said...

Excellent assessment Wiggia!

One item of furniture which is a must in any kitchen should be a table, and preferably a few chairs. There has to be a place where conversations can be carried on with tinctures to hand!

Sadly, we have a small kitchen but there is an island unit (one of those Canadian wooden spaceships), and therefore allows a bar-stool arrangement to circle the unit as cooking progresses. I can often do several laps of our kitchen during cooking, and Mrs O'Blene always knows where a certain implement is, because I will be sitting right in front of the cupboard she wants to delve into!

As for Bruges, Cherry Pie, it has an egg-shaped road map, and we have been lost on every visit, so you're in good company!

A K Haart said...

Cherry - it takes two to vanish :)

Scrobs - a few laps round the kitchen is almost as good as five a day.

CherryPie said...

Michael - I think you will enjoy the following tale of mine from Bruges. Same holiday but not the incident I mentioned above.

Our arrival (by car) in Bruges was challenging due to roadworks and a diversion on the way into the centre. When finally in the centre there was a little complication of ‘road closure’ on the only way to get to the hotel from the part of the city… A local resident stopped to help us out and proclaimed we had a stupid map, followed by ‘IT IS IMPOSSIBLE’. He then advised we go back out to the ring road and start afresh using a different route in. That did the trick and we eventually managed to navigate to the hotel and book in.

A K - For some unknown reason Mr C agrees with you ;-)

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Don't sneer at all aga-owners please!

I'm sure there are people like those you describe, but let me assure you all the Aga in our kitchen is used for everything, is well battered (the enamel tops are not as tough as they look) and is the go-to sit-upon and lean-against thing for children, grandchildren, visitors who are in the know, etc.

Absolute centre of the home, it is, and although it's true we have a gas cooker as well, it is used only in summer when the Aga has to be shut down as it makes the whole place far too hot.

PS and yes we do have a Gaggia too! Also used morning and night every single day. Best espresso you can get north of Milan...

A K Haart said...

WY - I had to Google Gaggia - never heard of it.