Suzi Feay: At the Sharp End

'What six bucks actually got me was a lump of soggy, cold pasta drenched in cheapo mayo and a few flecks of basil'

Share

A petrolhead friend of mine once outlined to me his theory of TV car advertising. This is someone who seriously knows his motors, who, on seeing some gleaming beast purr by, will say something along the lines of: "Of course, you know it's just a Vauxhall Cavalier under the bonnet, don't you?" His theory was that cars are advertised for precisely those qualities they most lack. See a zippy little number chicaning effortlessly round hairpin bends, and you can deduce that the vehicle in question handles like a cake on a rollerskate. If you see a baby being tucked lovingly into its car seat while the voiceover coos about safety, then the panels and roof are constructed from tracing paper. In ad-land, the poverty-spec motors always belong to the Comme des Garçons-clad clones with the vast designer apartments.

So what about this word "gourmet", then? Last time I bought a boxed sandwich I was amazed to find out that it wasn't any old chump who had inserted flakes of candle wax cheese into two flabby pieces of preservative-laden bread - there was a mission statement from a frowning, hirsute chap in chef's whites, assuring me that every bit as much effort went into this as into preparing a "gourmet" meal. I mean, do they they think we're complete idiots?

It brought back with a shudder the gourmet meal I recently endured at the airport in Chicago. Be warned that once you pass security there are no restaurants or shops (cheers, Bin Laden! Yes, it's his fault). If you have hours to wait for your flight, your only hope is the Bud on the "beeyurr" trolley, the sweets concession and the - yum! - gourmet chilled food counter.

As a veggie I was feeling half-starved in the States anyway. When restaurants are routinely called things like Ted's Big Beef Shack, have a steer's head outlined in neon in the window and the only thing you can eat is the fries and the paper napkins, it didn't come as a surprise that all the sandwiches on offer at O'Hare contained chicken, turkey, ham, or all three. (I went to a formal dinner where the main course choices appeared to be steak or salmon - but what the meat-eaters actually got was steak AND salmon, on the same plate.)

So, sarnies were off. But what's this? A plastic bowl filled with what looked like - peering through the film - quite decent-looking linguine with pesto for six bucks. "Gourmet", it said. Well, I wasn't expecting pesto with ligurian olive oil and basil flown in from Genoa (what is this, an airport?), but failing to read the label properly turned out to be a grave error. This was by far the nastiest thing I have ever eaten as a vegetarian, and possibly even the most unpleasant thing I can imagine eating.

I had failed sufficiently to consider that typically Italian delicacy "pesto-mayo sauce" or "sarse" as they say. The impression of greenness was perhaps accentuated by the film lid.

What six bucks actually got me was a lump of claggy, soggy, cold pasta slicked with gloopy, cheapo, synthetic mayo with a few flecks of basil and about half a dozen infinitesimally small squares of red pepper. You gasp at the level of cynicism that would present this pile of catsick as though it's cordon bleu. I was forced to fill up on Reece's peerless Peanut Butter Cups, whose "chocolate" coating tastes like a cocoa-bean once waved at it but declined a closer acquaintance, but whose advertising makes clear that it is just what it is - cheap, sickly and fun.

At least my veggie meal made it on to the flight - they don't always with British Airways, who treat vegetarians like they're kosher nut-intolerants with coeliac disease. A friend's pre-ordered dinner was once mistakenly given to the passenger next to us. We waited several minutes while he got stuck in, until it became clear that no further vegetarian meals were forthcoming. My friend alerted the flight attendant, who in turn addressed our fellow traveller. "Sir - are you a...?" It was the last available meal on the flight. We all three lunged at him and wrenched it away while his jaws were still chomping. Even if you're not a vegetarian, book the Asian vegetarian dinner on BA, it's seriously delicious (where are they getting the Bombay mix?). But whatever you do, don't steal it from a hungry veggie, especially not one coming from O'Hare.

****

Having dealt at great length with my tummy, let's head further south. When I respond to emails from book PRs begging for review coverage, I don't expect my sometimes harsh comments - tried it, didn't like it, not half as good as his first one, she's a bit past it, isn't she? - to be relayed straight back to the quivering, sensitive author. I mean what are PRs for if not to parlay unwelcome tidings in terms the poor dears can safely assimilate?

Unfortunately, that's just what happened with the new novel by the actress turned writer Nichola McAuliffe. Would I be sending out for review her new one, entitled - brace yourselves, gentle readers - A Fanny Full of Soap?

"Most off-putting title ever," I typed briskly back (hardly fair of me, when in the same post arrived a book called Nationality: Wog). This sally caused a bit of offence in the writer's camp, and apparently led to some ribald comments about my own, ahem, "arrangements", given my evident unfamiliarity with soap and water. Well, I've always found asses' milk and rosewater entirely satisfactory, and am happy to confirm that McAuliffe's book is extremely amusing and not overly concerned with feminine hygiene. As for her new career, it's something to fall back on if the parts dry up. Oh good grief! What did you think I meant?

Rebecca Tyrrel is away

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas