Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to Live Well (with Value Mince)

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,

17 comments:

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

The good old staples - it was the same in my little flat when I first started working - spag bol, cheap but nice red wine and salad. It's good that some things at least don't change.
Now what was that about eat or be eaten... ;-)

Reading the Signs said...

Thing is Vanilla, we didn't have Haagen Dasz in them days. So couldn't - you know - practice. Just wouldn't have worked with Walls ice cream. But did we complain?

gael said...

I wonder if "Marvellous Meals With Mince" is still in print?
The first time I "entertained", I made tacos from a box-kit. The height of sophistication in the early 80s : )

Gael said...

OMG, It is! And by la Dimbleby, no less;
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Marvellous-Meals-Mince-Sainsbury-Cookbook/dp/B0000EF6D4

Reading the Signs said...

It is too, Gael, just had a butchers (pardon the rhyming slang) myself. This is what I should have given the lad, instead of the Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater. And to balance it with a bit of vegetarian retro, there's that other classic 'Not Just a Load of Old Lentils.' How it all takes me back. Must be time to put another 10p in the electricity meter.

Ms Melancholy said...

My student days just wouldn't have been the same without Rose Elliot's Book of Beans. I had a second hand copy with someone else's notes in the margin. Black bean casserole was, apparently, 'very farty'. Oddly enough, I never felt inspired to try it.

Reading the Signs said...

What could possibly have put you off the black bean dish, dear Ms M? I mean we all had baked beans on toast, didn't we, and I'm sure I remember a little ditty that went:
"beans, beans, the juicy fruit,
the more you eat, the more you toot."

But Why? said...

I'm sorry, but I can't let that ditty go by without offering the version that did the rounds at my school:

Beans, beans, good for your heart,
The more you eat, the more you fart,
The more you fart, the better you feel,
So let's have beans for every meal...


I believe there was a chorus, as well, but for the life of me can't dregde it from my memory. It's probably best not disturbed.

Reading the Signs said...

Yes, Dr. Why, we sang that too - at school, not when I was a cool spag-boller in bedsits. And thank you, for I would have forgotten had you not brought it back to consciousness. Chorus anyone?

trousers said...

I would otherwise be in agreement but, following recent experience, I have to say that value mince is rather a sore point for me :(

Reading the Signs said...

Oh gawd, Trousers, I remember reading that post of yours and it did bring up some ghastly memories. Mince gristle is an abomination. I have to say, though, in defence of Value Mince (and believe me I have no wish to blow a trumpet for the supermarket involved), the few times I've had it in spag bol have been gristle-free.

trousers said...

Then I may well have to investigate said product, it sounds superior to that which I had the bad luck (or judgment) to sample.

cusp said...

Spag. Bol. always makes me think of bedsits and flats and going to a particular Uni. friend's place after the pub --- he'd make good (quite fatty) Spag Bol but the place was always absolutely freezing so no matter how hot the food was when he served it, within seconds it was freezing too. Another friend was a veggie and seemed to exist almost entirely upon always-topped-up veg. Spag Bol made with Beanfeast -- bit like Enderby in the Anthony Burgess novels.

By the way, Lloyd's sauces are available in all good Lidl stores near you .... and much cheaper too ;0)

I hear Delia is about to reprint Frugal Food so maybe that'll be useful. Come to think of it, she lives about 5 minutes drive from me (if I stand on a stool by our bedroom window and look through some very powerful binoculars I can practically see her sweating her onions !) so maybe I'll nip over and ask Deel what's the best way to rustle up Spag Bol on the cheap (sure she doesn't get even her frugal ingredients from Lidl --- can't see her swinging the Jag into their car park)

Reading the Signs said...

Ja, ja, but ve haf no Lidl near us! Aldi is coming soon, lord help us, and no doubt I'll be foraging there for Lloyd sauces there. And the rate things are going, schwester, we'll all be "sweating our onions" pretty soon. I do love the picture of you on stool, binocular-stalking Delia. Chicken livers in Bol sauce just ain't right, tell her. And she puts too much butter in everything.

cusp said...

Well at the moment I can see she's polishing her shoes ready to go out for a Directors' meeting up the Canaries in Nowidge and she's just done a nice batch bake of cheese scones for the meeting and put them in her Cath Kidson cake tin and ..........oops ! just fell off the stool. Musn't tell the doctor about these athletic feats on Monday ;0)

Reading the Signs said...

On the contrary, Cusp - tell him in minute detail about Delia's cheese scones, but he doesn't have to know about the binoculars and chair - tell him it was all revealed as inner illumination (I seem to like that word today). And then let me know what he says.

Kahless said...

Wow you have a good memory to remember your first meal you cooked!