Gerry Thomas is dead!
Ok, so he's probably not as famous as James Doohan who played Scottie in Star Trek but his impact was probably far greater and more pernicious. He's the man who invented the TV dinner.
"Get behind me Satan!" I hear you cry, but it would be wrong to blame all the evils of modern laziness in the kitchen on one single man. And as far as I can tell he never actually ate the things himself, his wife claimed he was a top notch chef.
But his legacy lives on and has mutated into something far more deceptive than a small box with a picture of a TV on it and a turkey and gravy dinner inside - now the ad men really know their business.
Take, for example, the campaign to get parents and children sitting down to eat meals together, the Back to the Table Campaign. Great idea you may think, and I would agree with you - up to a point.
Except perhaps the spooky appearence of Captain Birds Eye and his fishy, child friendly fingers everywhere. The entire website seems to be an advert for the Captain and his chum Mr Kellogg. And if you follow any of the links to the Captain or the Kelloggs website and see their ideas for feeding children you'll get ideas alright, but your child will be living off a diet of cereals for breakfast, branded sweets and biscuits with lunch and Captain Birds Eye ready meals for dinner. I don't doubt they are advising a healthy diet and if you probably analysed what they're recommending it's probably balanced nutritionally but what they will do is train every child on the planet to the idea that food comes from packets and is heated in a microwave. It's Soylent Green in the making.
What we need is more than a back to the table caimpaign, we need a 'Back to the Kitchen' campaign where parents (both the men and the women) take their little cherubs into the kitchen and cook dinner with them. Chop things, mix things, get tactile with the food, learn what the different fruits and vegetables are and how to use knives and stir things. From my limited experience of the little mites they love cooking. I've never seen a child that didn't beam with joy at the thought of cutting out cakes or adding some pepper to a stew. And when children are taught to cook and enjoy the process of creating food, then you'll see a healthy nation, well fed and concerned about what they put into their mouths, all sitting down to dinner as families and sharing experiences and socialising away from televisions and computers.
I know it wont happen, but a man's got to have a dream.
Today I went to the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant (52 Faulkner Street Manchester, tel 0161 237 5664). This appears to be the Chinese restaurant of choice for the Manchester University Maths Dept and I can see why - excellent, full flavoured food and no pretence. It also has some things on the menu you can't find anywhere else and the aubergines stuffed with king prawns in black bean sauce are a shining example.
The hot and sour soup isn't as good as the Thai version at Siam Orchid being neither as hot, sour, nor having giant pieces of seafood floating in it, but apart from the soup (which wasn't bad I must add) the food was really excellent.
If you're in Chinatown and fancy good food without the expense (and grandeur) of the Yang Sing for instance,
I'd give this a go.
Toffee Apple Cream Lattice: From Greggs. I've not seen these in Greggs before and when I was passing this morning thought "That'll do just nicely for my breakfast." And so it did.