ONE of the many sacrifices I make to ensure that the general public is well informed by its press is that I often work late shifts.
Because I start at lunchtime, and get home long after Huw Edwards has put his slippers on, it means I regularly go for a week without having a hot meal. And it means that I am now approximately 37% sandwich.
Now sandwiches are tremendous things and it is hard to imagine where we would be without them. We would have to scoop up egg mayonnaise with our hands for a start, and our lunchboxes would be in a terrible state, with bits of cheese stuck to our bananas and our Capri-Suns covered in Branston pickle.
In fact, if John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, creator of the sandwich, were to introduce himself to me I would shake him by the clean hand and say, “Thank you for all the chip butties. Hang on, I thought you died hundreds of years ago. Argh! It’s a ghost!”
But a diet of sandwiches does begin to pall after a while. Perhaps it is that predictable bread-filling-bread pattern. Perhaps it is the fact that while virtually anything edible can be slapped between pieces of bread, the same fillings keep cropping up – usually mayonnaise with things in.
But the other day I sat in front of my work computer, passively taking in sandwich calories as I ensured democracy could thrive through knowledge of the world as it is. And I thought, “This is total bobbins. Eating should be a pleasure. Tomorrow, Bainbridge, you will have a nice tea, one not surrounded by bread and sponsored by the mayonnaise industry.”
And so the next day, I stood before the chiller cabinet in Britain’s Favourite Struggling Retailer, trying to ignore the rallying call of the bread-wrapped battalions in front of me. I scanned the shelves, looking for something not slathered in mayonnaise, or, worse, yoghurt.
I know that lots of people like yoghurt. But I do not like milk very much, and cream even less, so the thought that a sort of slightly-off thick milk might enhance my eating experience does not convince me.
Then it appeared, bathed in golden light, the answer to every food problem. It had a long name, and you might need to have a cup of tea in the middle of reading the name. It was “Seared Chicken With A Moroccan Inspired Cauliflower Couscous Salad”.
I snapped it up. Who could resist that, apart from vegetarians or people who do not like cauliflower? I fit into neither of those two categories. In fact, I am a big fan of cauliflower, although I could not tell you who invented it. It’s so versatile – you can roast it, you can boil it and serve it with cheese sauce, you can… I don’t know, there are probably other things you can do with it.
It turns out that one thing you cannot do with it is make it into couscous.
Now, even couscous at its best is underwhelmingly flavourful, a sort of pasta for ants. But this somehow had negative flavour. It prevented other things around it from having any taste.
I understand that some people have bowel illnesses or gluten intolerance which mean they cannot eat ordinary couscous, but whatever the answer to that is, it is not cauliflower couscous.
Desperate measures were called for. A hunt through the salad for something which tasted of anything at all took place. I had a bite of what I thought was apricot. I cannot be sure it was apricot. It tasted indeterminate.
I was reduced to picking out the chickpeas which were dotted among the polystyrene-like cauliflower fragments. I do not know if you are familiar with the chickpea, but it is a crumbly pulse that tastes of not very much.
Whizzed with oil and garlic, the chickpea makes houmous, which is excellent. But in the wild it is nothing more than disappointment and heartbreak. And it was still the best thing about this salad. Even the “seared chicken” was a sort of dry cotton wool sitting on top of the bowl and hoping for escape.
I was brought up in the 1970s and still eat all my dinner in case Mrs Savage from the school canteen is watching. But this ended up in the bin. It was better to go hungry.
It was a sacrifice too far. I am having a sandwich today. I have learnt my lesson.