The Third Leader: Funny food

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The Independent Online

Unpalatable news for our more fastidious foodies to digest: the British appetite for ready meals, already the biggest in Europe, seems insatiable.

What's going on in our kitchens? Much pinging of microwaves and puncturing of film with fork, evidently, but not much chopping, hulling and mixing. We happily watch television chefs evincing the joy, health and efficiency of fresh ingredients winningly contrived but, clearly, many of us are chewing on something prepared rather earlier while doing so.

Perhaps it's not that odd. Gordon, Jamie, Nigella, Rick and the rest are engaging performers; and we don't necessarily want to work in pathology or with David Brent, or live in a close knit community or the Big Brother house, either.

The British have always have had a robust way with food; basically, it's been downhill, stars-wise, since the Romans left. Quantity has been the understandable aspiration, with the Henry VIII approach to a drumstick an early example of our taste for convenience food.

There is also a tendency to treat food as a comedy prop rather than with European reverence. Tripe, pies, mushy peas, that sort of thing. In Weymouth, where the 2012 yachting will take place, for instance, a butcher with a sign showing the Olympic rings made from sausages has got himself into all sorts of trouble with the organisers. And Marmite has just been voted our most popular and unpopular food.

We might, of course, also be showing that we prefer richer, more cerebral activities to selfish panderings and elaborations of a quotidian physical function. Meanwhile, I note that a shortage of HP sauce is causing panic buying.