"Take polenta, for example," said somebody.
"As an example of what?" said somebody else.
"As an example of something that it is fashionable to like, which pops up in trendy places like the River Cafe, which is thought to be ever so ethnic and authentic, and yet which is absolutely horrible. It would seem impossible to turn maize into a stodgy, unappealing mess, but they have done it. The Italians! You might expect the Americans to make a mess of maize, but popcorn isn't half bad, until ground into cinema carpets ..."
There was a silence.
"What's the point you're trying to make?" said someone, who spoke for all of us.
"Just that because polenta is so very trendy, nobody dares say out loud that they don't like it. There must be other things that people don't like but daren't say so."
"Yes," said someone else. "I've never dared say this before, but fresh pasta is not as nice as dried pasta."
There was a sharp intake of breath from someone who, I happened to know, was the owner of a fresh pasta maker.
"Nick Hornby," said someone else.
"What about him?"
"It's not cool to admit Nick Hornby leaves you cold."
"And does he?"
"Yes. And so does Inspector Morse."
And suddenly everyone came out of the closet and their unspoken, secret dislikes came tumbling out.
"The Edinburgh Festival."
"Holidays in France."
"Hold on," said someone. "Do you think anyone would really be shocked if someone didn't like Seinfeld?"
"I'd be shocked if anyone liked Jeremy Clarkson," said someone else.
"Ah!" said the original speaker. "Maybe there's another list here. Things that people secretly like but daren't say so ..."
Everyone laughed, but we got the idea, and another closet opened.
"Kenneth Branagh?" said someone, puzzled. "Shouldn't he be on the other list?"
"He used to be," said the person who had put up Kenneth Branagh for membership, "but he moved on to the second list. It's quite possible to be so trendy that you daren't admit to disliking it, but then go so out of fashion - or become so popular - that trendies like us wouldn't be seen dead liking it."
"Oh God," said somebody else. "Is this a third list? A list of things that have moved from one list to another?"
"I think you're being unfair to the Germans," said someone else. "I can think of one good thing they've done. When there were German prisoners of war in Italy in the Great War, they encountered polenta for the first time and so disliked it that they named it `the yellow peril'."
Someone turned to me and said I hadn't added to any list yet.
"I'm still worried about polenta," I said. "Someone said that even the Americans hadn't turned maize into a nasty, soggy mess. But they have."
"What's it called?" someone asked.
"Cornflakes," I said.Reuse content