Will Self: PsychoGeography

Kitchen confidential
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The Independent Online

The man with the cupcake stall in Northcote Road offered me one and when I made as if to pay for it he said, "No, no, it's the least I can do in return for your PsychoGeography column." This has to be about as good as it gets in the fan stakes; some writers have lust-crazed nymphets throwing themselves at them – I get a carob cupcake with very sweet, very glutinous icing. Still, I'm not knocking it, I know for a fact that Ralph Steadman has never received a gift of any kind from any of his myriad fans, and that when he reads about the cupcake he'll be demanding his share. But it's too late, mate, I wolfed the lot down on the spot, staring round me at the bourgeois mummies and daddies strolling from the specialist honey shop to the chichi French kidswear boutique.

In "sarf" London, the area round Northcote Road in Clapham is known as Nappy Valley, and there's something rather heartening about the way it lives up to its stereotype: there isn't anyone within the immediate vicinity who doesn't look either fully gravid, fully loaded, or both. Saving, possibly, the man who runs the cupcake stall, who next said, apropos of nothing that I could see: "As Montaigne observed, to philosophise is to die."

Now, this isn't what you expect of a cupcake-stall proprietor, although once I'd considered it, I was surprised that he didn't continue, because clearly he was glossing the old adage that man cannot live by bread alone, with the truth that neither may he become a metaphysical breatharian. Indeed, the more I thought about what Cupcake Man said Montaigne said, the more I suspected that this was but a tiny slice of an exhaustive critique of the impact of globalisation on our patterns of consumption and our perception of the world, that the Cupcake Man had hidden in his stall.

I mean, that the likes of Jamie Oliver make a big noise about healthy eating for the lumpy proletariat while racking up fees advertising a supermarket chain certainly gets on my tits, but what it must do to Cupcake Man – who's manifestly involved in the honest labour of a culinary artisan – I hate to imagine. I see Cupcake Man, by night, working away on his treatise, his hands covered in icing burns, while on the TV in the corner of his garret (which is above the cupcake works), Oliver, Ramsay, Stein, Fearnley-Whittingstall, Blumenthal and all the rest of the celebrity egg-flippers are effing and blinding about a soufflé made from Eritrean goat's cheese.

And while we're thinking about Heston Blumenthal (crazy name – whatever persuaded his mum and dad to name him after a motorway service station), he's recently invited me on one of his TV shows. Apparently, on these he recreates the cuisines of the past in order to "tempt the jaded palates of the 21st century". But there's nothing jaded about my palate at all, Heston, me old fat duck, I cleave to the notion that food is only shit waiting to happen, and that paying too much attention to what you shove in at one end is tantamount to coprophilia in advance.

No, give me an honest wedge of cheddar, a few oatcakes, a crisp apple and a carob cupcake and I'm a happy man. I once asked a gastronome friend of mine how far ahead he thought about the meals he would be having. He mused for a moment, before replying, "Sometimes only a day or so, but mostly at least a week." A week! Golly! Such foresight when it comes to an individual stomach is in marked contrast to the way humanity, like six billion locusts, is chomping through the planet's flora and fauna.

I'd like to organise a Master Chefs' tea party to be shown on all networks as part of the celebrations to mark the end of the Atlantic fisheries. We've only got a decade or so to go, so we better start planning it now. We'll need to speak to all the egg-flippers' agents and book 'em; we'll need to put all the relevant fish species on ice, so they're available; and we must secure the right venue, somewhere stupendous like the Turbot Hall ... sorry, I mean the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern.

I don't think any old punter should be allowed to eat the last cod, plaice, lobster or mackerel – it must be left to the finest palates we have to savour those final fishy riches for the rest of us. And when they're done, they can simply move round a place and begin on the next endangered species. Montaigne had it wrong: to satirise is to die a little, while these great chefs prove the truth of that toothsome adage: you are what you eat. Since they prepare – and eat – everything, it's they who are the world. Whereas the likes of me? Well, I'm just a sweet little cupcake, now aren't I?

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