Which is what I want to address you about today. You'll have seen it, of course. You'd have to have led a very sheltered life not to have seen it. You probably avert your eyes, though, decent Independent on Sunday readers that you are, with taste and sensibilities. You probably walk past and think, "Ugh. How can they?" and move on.
But there it is, in every supermarket: Quorn. Boxes of Quorn pasties and Quorn bolognaise, Quorn curry and Quorn casserole and, worst of all, boxes of the raw stuff, pallid and spongy, fungoidal and in- explicably flocculent. One does so recall [leans back in armchair, fingers goatee absently] the old NAAFI shepherd's pie, of which the brave British swaddie used to say: "I don't mind eating the stuff, but I wouldn't want to tread in it." And, do you know, in a very real sense [goatee snarls, bites hand hard] ouch.
You'd have though that market forces alone would abolish Quorn from every shelf and piecrust in the land, but I suspect dark powers at work. Over the last few months I have watched in increasing bemusement as a harmless young woman, sitting her GCSEs, has demanded more and more Quorn. Some adolescent food fad? No; this girl is a harsh rationalist and abjures such flim-flam. A reasoned choice to be humane by eating terrible mycoprotein salmagundi instead of tearing strips of flesh from dead animals like civilised people do?
No. It's for school, you see. They're doing Quorn. Week after week, instead of learning to make a decent roux brun or whip up Atholl brose; instead of coming away with the roasting times for meat and game engraved in their brains, being able to tell the difference between pintade and Bernard Matthews Tastee-Lick-Lick GibblyBurgers; instead of being able to rescue a curdled Bearnaise or gut a sturgeon, they do Quorn.
They "design Quorn-based high-protein-value food products". They "market- test" these products on "consumer groups" and make little pie charts (haha) and adjust their "product specifications" for "maximised consumer acceptance" and at the end of it they have learned neither to cook nor to understand good food.
It would be nice to think that there was some conspiracy theory behind it all; that evil Quorn merchants had entered into devilish pacts with cynical, greedy school governors. We could look for evidence; whiny-voiced educators disporting with long-legged prostitutes on the Croisette and LEA finance directors scarfing up their posh venison tucker in Le Caprice. "Feed the children Quorn and ye shall eat meat." And then the subtle genetic modification of the mycoprotein itself, so that it breeds some potent serotonin analogue, inducing artificial happiness and an unbreakable craving in our innocent daughters, hooking them (and their subsequent families) on the satanic brew for ever, so that in one generation we shall have become a nation of Quornies, stupefied, manipulable and docile, ready to sing in tune with Blair's Heirs (who of course will be free of the taint, as will all of the new aristocracy, educated at private schools where the children are fed a traditional diet of pig-snout and kneecap).
But of course it's completely untrue. Teaching our children that Quorn is a representative of that class of things which can legitimately be called "food" is an act of Modern British barbarism arising not from conspiracy but from lack of taste.
That's what we need to fight against, so I am thinking of starting a detox centre for Quorn victims. I envisage a secluded Napoleonic Fort somewhere; beeswax candles and biddable staff, Frescobaldi, orchids, Eau d'Hadrien, Pliny's Naturalis Historia and whatever you're having yourself. A week-long course and a ceremonial dinner at the end, featuring the Shield of Minerva, an imperial Roman dish consisting (if I remember correctly) of a stag-beetle stuffed in a hamster inside a stoat and so on through a pterodactyl, a moose and ending up with a velociraptor, and what you do is, you roast it all and then you just suck the beetle. Three thousand quid for the week, but cheaper than a private education and they'll never touch Quorn again.