Tag Archives: burger

Chicken, tubes and toilets

In the spirit of ‘Blue Monday‘, here are three foodie sights that consistently depress me:

1. Queues outside South London’s multitudinous purveyors of fried chicken

Step forward all you Chicken Shacks, Chicken Huts, Chicken Expresses and Chicken Dinnerz. From 6pm onwards, these places do a roaring trade in low-quality, low-welfare, saturated fat-laden chicken dinners, all pitched at eye-wateringly low prices.

Perhaps more dispiriting are the trails of gnawed chicken bones, discarded on the pavement Hansel and Gretel-style, so that diners can always find their way back. Are the same people queuing day after day? Or are huge numbers of repeat customers treating themselves week in, week out? I can only hope it’s the latter.

2. People who sit down to lunch on the tube

Let me be clear: it’s not eating on the tube per se that upsets me – I hold no truck with peckish travellers who snatch snacks en route to their destination, nor do I object to a perceived lack of consideration for others (unless the all-pervasive Red Bull is involved).

What gets me down is seeing someone who gives every impression that the tube is their idea of the perfect dining location. The culprits are usually men who sit in near-empty carriages at lunchtime, with straight back and feet firmly planted on the floor. They’ll carefully arrange their belongings on the seat to their left and place a crisp, brown paper bag on the seat to their right, from which they’ll reverentially extract some item – a sandwich, a burger, or whatever – before tucking into it with gusto, as if they’ve been waiting all day for this movable feast. Park bench, anyone?

3. The misery of unusual toilet signs in restaurants and bars

I am among the people who – inadvisedly, I know – always wait until the last possible moment to pop to the loo. Alcohol only serves to hinder my judgement in such a matter. So imagine the gnashing of teeth and crossing of legs that ensue when I’m in a bar and encounter any of the following on the toilet doors: a reproduction of a curly-haired Botticelli madonna, versus a curly-haired Regency-era prince; an intricate sketch of a dapper Edwardian gentleman, complete with umbrella, paunch and Penny farthing, versus one of a fragrant Edwardian lady, complete with parasol, bustle and, yes, Penny farthing; an enigmatic letter that could feasibly be attributed to, say, either a lad or a lady; a cartoon of a male sheep/horse/earwig, versus a cartoon of a female sheep/horse/earwig…before you know it, you’ve wet yourself again, haven’t you?

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Just passing judgement

Every time I pass my local McDonalds and glance into the new-look dining room, I can’t help but marvel at the cold, flinty genius behind their most recent advertising push.

You know the one – all these average Joes who were ‘just passing by’ – people from all walks of life, all tucking happily into their burgers. Your subconscious prods you excitedly: they’re just like me – that could be me in there! God, I take the gherkin out before I eat a cheeseburger too! The spoken poems come at you like a train, tickling you internally with their catchy rhythm and, slowly but surely, against your better judgement, McDonalds manages to endear itself to you just a little. (More than the soft-focus footage of children frolicking amongst hay bales ever did anyway.)

I’m curious as to which particular store the company used to study and capture the antics of these average McDonalds customers. Not the one around the corner from me, that’s for certain. Had they come to my part of town, the narration would have run rather differently…

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The last supper of a legend

I had a contemplative Sunday yesterday, because until I opened The Observer I didn’t know that Egon Ronay had died. When I learned that, it certainly brought back memories.

The first time I saw Egon Ronay in action was when I was about eight years old. It was a Sunday afternoon at my grandparents’ house, the telly was on, and my brother and I were glued to it while the adults slumped on the sofas making small talk.

I can’t remember what we were watching. It could have been a holiday show. However, it’s more than likely to have been Masterchef, which was staple Sunday afternoon viewing at that time. Masterchef also happened to be one of our favourite comedy programmes, firstly for its hilarious opening sequence of an egg being cracked in slow motion into a bowl of flour (which we liked to record on VCR and rewind…), secondly for Lloyd Grossman’s double whammy of silly name and sillier accent, and thirdly for the way the judges admired the painstakingly poised food for a brief moment before thoroughly demolishing it, eating one spoonful, and leaving it behind, razed to the ground. The audacity.

It’s not important how or why Egon Ronay had a slot on whichever show it was: what caught my attention was his job title. (His name too, in all honesty. But mostly his job title.) At that age, I was constantly being asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. Up until then I’d answered firmly that I wanted to be a waitress, because I loved the black dress and frilly pinny I’d seen on the French serveuses in ‘Allo allo. I hadn’t thought beyond that, except for the fact that I also wanted to read Enid Blyton at university.

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