What would we do without mince? Vegetarians please note, I know all about lentils and tofu. I spoke to my son yesterday as he shopped in an Oxford supermarket. Our talk was all about the hundred different things you could do with a packet of Tesco ‘value’ mince. In the end it came down to a jar of Lloyd Grossman Bolognese sauce. Don’t tell me about the fat content, everyone knows that a proper Spag Bol just doesn’t come together with extra lean mince. And everyone knows that making your own sauce is best, but he had to cobble together something quickly and in cases like this, at £1.76 a jar, Lloyd is your man. I also spoke to my daughter while she shopped in a London supermarket. She is doing what she can, trying to make ends meet, but with rocketing prices and high rents I don’t know how people do it any more. When I was my daughter’s age things were easier. Even people on the dole could eat, pay the rent and have a bit over to spare – I knew plenty that lived for years like this. Some people called them scroungers, but most I knew worked hard – at creative projects, community or voluntary work, and those that didn’t still lived a life that was in some indefinable way edifying because it wasn’t centred on money-making, even if too much time was spent smoking the marijuana you grew in your back garden or window box.
But perhaps I’m looking with rose-tinted spectacles, especially as I was not one of those – having a student husband and later a spendthrift no-good substance-abusing boyfriend to support. Silly me. I should have dropped out, tuned in and written The Novel while the going was good – there’s no way anyone could do that now without wealthy patrons.
But some things never change: Spag Bol was the first dish I ever learned to make and I think it might have been my daughter’s too (though she made the sumptuous Delia Smith version with chicken livers). We had it with salad and red wine and the living was, if not exactly easy, kind of good. I reckon it still works, even with ‘value’ mince,