This has probably been blogged to death or some smart arse stand-up has done a skit on it and so I will be more than understanding if you wish to skip this post and do something more constructive with the next ten minutes of your life, like…weave…or learn how to free-dive.
But, I have a bit of a reading affliction in that I’ll read anything – and I mean anything. If a newspaper or magazine isn’t close then in desperation I’ll read whatever comes to hand: the side of a detergent bottle…or the information on the back of toilet tissue packaging…or a Jeffery Archer novel (just the back, though*).
Anyway, while I waiting for the 52,000th saucepan of pasta to cook I was idly reading the side of a tin of tomatoes and on the front was a picture of some chopped tomatoes – just, you know, there – and in tiny, weeny, loan-shark small-print it said: serving suggestion. Serving suggestion? What is the suggestion? Just turf the contents onto a work-surface and announce to your dinner party: ‘get stuck in, don’t let the lack of plates stop you…or that they’re cold…I can’t be arsed talking to you either.’ (though there didn’t seem to be any indication on the tin whether the picture depicted hot or cold tomatoes – but let’s assume cold. If you’re pouring a can of tomatoes on a table for supper then serving them cold is not too much of a stretch.)
After reading that I rooted around inside the cupboard and found some more:
- Rice Crispies Serving suggestion: put them in a bowl and pour milk over them. There must be people who eat Rice Crispies dry, out of the packet with their hands…maybe watching a movie…maybe they use chop sticks…or a straw. Maybe they just pour them straight in their mouth before seeing the picture, large and then reading: serving suggestion. What a water-shed day that must be, eh? ‘Of course! A bowl…that would less messy by far…let’s try some milk then, why not?…hey…hey!!!…that does sound like snap, crackle and pop!’
- Rivita Serving suggestion: put something on them. I don’t mind Rivita, they’re quite nice – they have a distinctive flavour all of their own. They are marketed as a healthy alternative to bread…or cheese biscuits (biscuit for cheese, if you wear red trousers) and so I find the serving suggestion a little disingenuous. What it seems to be saying is: Rivita tastes like particle board, so why not smear an inch of cream cheese on it, a tranche of ham, a tomato and a bloody radish and then it won’t taste like the bottom of a gerbil’s cage anymore? But then this guilt free snack will be transformed into a 1200 calorie bodybuilder training meal. Just do away with the Rivita, is my advice, and get a plate. You can re-use them and everything.
- Toilet Roll Well, not really a serving suggestion but a bit of text saying: if you have any problems with this product or require any help or advice then please call our product helpline on… I am no rocket scientist, and there are people out there who a far, far stupider than me – like proper 20 watt bulbs – but even considering that – most people who can read know how to wipe their own arse. I am tempted to ring the number to see if they’ll give me a demo…or maybe they’ll wipe my arse for me and then the mysterious purpose of these rolls of perforated, double-ply, paper sheets will be de-mystified.
- Cashew Nuts Serving Suggestion: put them into a wooden nut scooper. Call me bananas, but I think a bowl is better. But, following the advice of Casino (the French supermarché who sell the nuts) I have been scouring Switzerland and France for a wooden nut scooper, like JR Hartley and his godforsaken fly-fishing book, but the shop keepers and antiques dealers just shake their heads: desolé (…this man is clearly losing his mind…) I have tried the internet as well, but typing wooden nut scooper into Google gets you some truly frightening results. Therefore, their suggestion of serving nuts in a wooden nut-scooper is a bad suggestion because they are harder to find than Osama Bin Laden and the nuts would fall out of it. Maybe I could whittle it, but I’m not that into cashew nuts that I’m willing to get all Ray Mears about it.
- Lardons Serving Suggestion: put them onto a wooden chopping block, raw, with some peas. I have worked in a professional kitchen before so I know the basics of food preparation, hygiene and a little bit about cooking and in my professional opinion bacon lardons taste better if you cook them. I also think that it is not recommended – as a general rule of thumb, but remember: I’m no expert – to eat raw pork. Cooking the peas makes no difference. Secondly, putting raw meat on a wooden chopping block is a bit of a food-prep no-no – it’s a bit like cleaning your bog with a facecloth and then rinsing out the facecloth and using it for it’s designed purpose. Just…no.
- Moroccan Spiced Cous-Cous Serving Suggestion: construct a Moroccan bazaar in your dining room. Now you’re talking! This is a proper serving suggestion. Granted, it would take a while to assemble all the props, buy all the tagines and fabrics – but it gives you a hoop to shoot for and I say: go for it. This kind of aspirational – hell, inspirational – serving suggestion should be gold standard all serving suggestions measure themselves against.
I think that some of these are just stating the bloody obvious (tinned tomatoes), totally unachievable (the wooden nut scoop) or dangerous (eating raw bacon.) I like the idea of building a mini Istanbul in your living room and this kind of motivational packaging should be built upon.
What about cashew nuts in a pretty ladies’ cleavage? I’m sure I could persuade the wife to serve up some snacks in that fashion. Or some Rivita’s splayed across the bonnet of a Ferrari? I’m certain, if you got your timing right, you could scoff a quick picnic off a car bonnet on the King’s Road.
There needs to be a suggestion revolution.
Or I need a lie down.
* I feel bad about flipping Jeffery Archer the v’s because every time I have read one of his books (which is two) I have finished them. They’re not high art, but he writes well enough that I’ll finish his books and I am not shy about knocking a book on the head if I think it’s shit. It does, however, go without saying that I think Jeffery Archer is lying, cheating, devious cock of Himalayan proportions.