Saturday, 20 October 2012
Back to the future or a cup full of dissapointment?
‘Well I’ve been a prisoner all my life...’ sang Phil Collins in his 1985 epic ‘Take me home’ and it seems that I have! For many years I have been blind to a cruel and erstwhile mistress that has chosen to raise it’s blunt and ugly head after many years dormant.
Let me set the scene, it’s 2001 and I was freezing my socks off as a 13 year old recently started at a school in the heart of a cold and blustery valley. The wind whipped and shook the very rafters of the boarding house; little solace could be found in both the latin grammars and compulsory rugby. The kettle may have produced a cup of builders brew strong enough to melt girders but it was of little comfort against the chill February air that seemed to linger and embed itself in the 18th Century cornicing of the building.
Prep, although it was but an hour-and-three-quarters long felt arduous as, chilled to the bone, we attempted to cram in the deeds of Publius Decius Mus and ponder on how Horatio kept the bridge in which the only respite was in a quick and furtive reach into the treasure trove of your tuck box.
Weaving a grubby paw through this hoard of cola cubes, pork scratchings, twiglets and kit-kats the wearying hunter would finally alight on the mecca, that pep to give one hope and courage to last an evening of banter and beats...the pot noodle.
I suppose it was all in the preparation and the anticipation. I like to think that perhaps, in some distant time, people thought that these gaudy and cheap looking containers held the future of human comestibles. The future...how exciting one felt even in the noughties filling that receptacle with the hardest boiling water known to man (after all the flakes of limescale where hard to distinguish from the textured soya matter).
I was always a chicken and mushroom man, I had no care for the curry or the beef & tomato. After opening the spot-welded foil lid in one swift motion I would take in the pile of desiccated stock cube, dehydrated sweetcorn and peas (which had probably not seen the fields from whence they came for many years) and of course the textured soya sitting atop a nest of anemic noodles. I can still hear the kettle click in the lonely brew room and the crackling of the sleepy noodles waking up after a long stay on the off licence shelf as the sandy Chicken-flavoured dust gave way to a lurid yellow soup flecked with green ‘herbs’. The savoury smell of MSG wafted up, hitting the nostril with the aromatic subtlety of a squadron of Red Arrow jets.
The taste, well we all know it, ersatz to the full but, like the barbecue ribs from a cheap Chinese takeaway very more-ish. Cold and hungry at 13 I couldn't control myself as I hovered up the noodles and gulped down the liquid which - as the pasta supply was depleted - became disconcertingly viscous.
It was soon finished and one was left with both an abiding sense of dissatisfaction and a certain degree of shame for having decimated with such relish a really sub-par product. One went to bed on those nights feeling ever so slightly sordid!
Imagine my surprise when I found myself purchasing one the other day! It had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening the previous night, in fact, some might say too enjoyable. I had got up for work on time, showered, dressed but in my rush neglected to prepare some lunch for the rigours of a day in the office.
Working in a small village just outside of the Capital there is little choice on the shelves of the local shop (unless you are a fan of the disturbing array of vacuum-packed, processed pork that lingers interminably on the shelves). Then I saw it, like some shitty grail of mediocrity, the toxic green almost sang to me as I reached for it and before I knew it I was walking out of the shop with a Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodle.
‘Do a favour for the flavour’ the slogan on the complimentary packet of soy sauce teased me. ‘Oh go on then matron’, if I must! Adding it to the stewing mass of water and detritus I stirred for the last time before taking the flabby, shivering strands of pasta to my lips... on the first mouthful, and the second and the third the memories came flooding back in droves... It was bloody delicious. I am ashamed!