Sunday, 1 November 2009

The social class of a vegetable.

The three course meal this month was provided by Jayne Middlemiss. Learning my lesson from last month, I gave myself a whole day to cook it and had a quiet word with the cat, asking him not to bring any dead things in this time.

The menu looked relatively simple; Seared Tuna with guacamole and a wasabi dressing, rack of lamb with celeriac and potato dauphinoise finished off with a citron tart. Easy eh?!

Alarm bells started to ring early in the day, when Jayne just happened to be on Saturday Kitchen, cooking her “Food Hell” which was John Dory. She told the celebrity chef, that she loved eating fish, but not the “meaty” variety. Ummm what’s Tuna then? The vegetable variety? So I wasn’t convinced Jayne actually liked her own suggested starter, great start!

My second challenge came when I had to go and buy a celeriac. Now I love my food, and my veggies, but I have somehow managed to live my 28 years without actually knowing what a celeriac looks like. On my hunt for a celeriac I discovered 2 very significant things. 1. The celeriac is possibly the ugliest vegetable on the planet. It looks like someone vomited up wood. 2. It’s a vey middleclass vegetable.

I don’t live in the most affluent area, but nor do I live in a place where there are more Take Aways than residents and cooking from scratch is a foreign concept. It seems that our local Tesco feels that a celeriac is something a resident from my area wouldn’t require, even though it has a great and extensive world food section – the celeriac is evidently far too out there for us.

So I drove a mile down the road to the local Morrison’s. Now this is the same Morrison’s where a shop assistant lapsed into palpitations when I asked if she could point me in the direction of a vanilla pod some years ago.

“People round here wouldn’t eat vanilla pods” She exclaimed.

Which I repeated to Morrison’s complaints line and got enough vouchers for some tangerines, due to being mortally offended at being told I am not worthy of a vanilla pod simply down to my breeding.

So you can imagine the blank, vacant response I got yesterday when I asked for a celeriac.

“I’ve never heard of one”

“It’s a vegetable”

“Erm – hang on a minute”

At this point the young assistant sidles up to another staff member and I can see confused looks and head shaking.

“Err yeah, we’ve not had any of err those for ages”

Bloody fibber.

So I got back in my car and racked my brains as to where to look next. The next suburb on from me is a fairly aspirational middleclass area. The sort of area that has a couple of wine bars with funky names such as “Damson.” An area that counts for a disproportionate amount of sales of contemporary damask wallpaper and Kath Kidson tea towels.

So I drove another couple of miles to the greengrocer there. Realising when I got in there that I didn’t quite know what I was looking for. Sheepishly I sidled over to a funny looking vegetable and tentatively held it up to the assistant.

“Is this erm a..”
Realising it wasn’t a celeriac half way through the sentence….


“Yes love”

The assistant looked a bit bemused at me walking in and naming random vegetables. So I put it back.

“Do you have any celeriac?”

“Yes love”

The assistant pointed to a crate, with a big red sign underneath that said “CELERIAC”.

Now I felt like a prize turd. I should know my place; I evidently don’t come from a celeriac kind of upbringing. If we all at the celeriac, who would be left to buy up the turnips? The politics of this vegetable were becoming clear, so I bought it and legged it… refusing a bag, carrying my ugly status symbol down the road in full view of all to see. That’s right people, I eat celeriac.. I have arrived!

Once home, I started to create the 3 courses outlined in the magazine. The pudding was really fiddly. Making pastry, then chilling it, then rolling it, then chilling it, then baking it, then filling it, then baking it again… I got bored by the end and ended up burning it.

The dauphinoise were also a bit fiddly, lots of peeling, grating, chopping, mixing , baking… then baking again. Far too much effort as far as I was concerned, especially when you take the results into consideration.

The starter of seared tuna and guacamole however was a total winner. Totally my kind of cooking, quick, easy, looks and tastes good and relatively healthy. Jayne Middlemiss has claimed she has given up drinking, and recommended I bought some posh fizzy adult pop to go with the meal. Half way through cooking it though, all I wanted was a large glass of wine. I now understand why Keith Floyd needed all that wine to get him from the start of a meal to the end… its stressful!

After a total of 4 hours in the kitchen, Husband and I both agreed that this menu wasn’t worth the time it took to create. However I learned a lot going through the process, from how to cook a rack of lamb - to the class system of the vegetables kingdom.

PS: I was supposed to wear a red dress, but as this time it was just husband and I, I figured it would clash with my red face so didn't bother.