Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ready Meals

As an individual whose culinary skills amount to little more than heating up Ready Brek, ready meals should be the best thing ever. And to an extent, they are. They are an infinitely better invention than, say, robots that take photographs of the surface of Mars; my point being that there are plenty of desolate wastelands one can photograph without leaving planet Earth, for example the Nevada desert, or Rhyl. But who wouldn’t want an entire meal you can pop into that magical light-up box that is your microwave, only to devour it a mere 5-ish minutes later (after leaving the tray for an extra minute to regain rigidity, obvs. Although I suspect that is it just me that takes the instructions on the box as gospel).  Food goes in cold, and then comes out hot. I am slack-jawed with amazement.

Another plus point is that unmatchable feeling of frenziedly stabbing something with a pointed object, safe in the knowledge that no police action will be taken. At least until the point in history that I anticipate filled with a cold dread- the day that microwaveable meals begin to evolve, developing functioning index fingers and proceeding to dial 999. Or equally as bad, start brandishing sharp cutlery in your general direction, just to see how YOU like it, huh?? And I can say with certainty that, even for gentler folk such as I, the thrill of feeling like a homicidal fruitloop just for a few seconds is almost enough to send one delirious, feeling like Head Chef Hitler, a peckish Jack the Ripper, or Anthony Worrall-Thompson channelling Norman Bates. (I hear he does this often. Still, it lags behind ‘cheese theft’ as his most unnecessary feat to date.)
However, a low point of my young life so far has been, as a skint first-year student, coming across a ready meal costing a mere 74p, and instead of laughing heartily in amusement at how eerily similar to Pedigree Chum it must be, and moving along to the next aisle to buy caviar and a gold-plated gravy boat, I have thought, “Hmmm. Good. I’ll stock up.” For there is only one sight sadder than someone locked in their bedroom, eating a microwave meal for one-- and that is when it is a microwave meal for one from a value range. This point of culinary rock bottom that I had reached only served to fuel a fantasy of the day when, as a retired multimillionaire at the age of 30, I would have a medieval-style banquet every night of the week. This would involve roasted peacock, flagons of mead, and live swans flying around for my entertainment, all orchestrated by a team of midgets dressed as Teletubbies, with Henry VIII summoned through time to be my guest of honour.

Meanwhile I am chomping away on swathes of rubbery fluorescent rice, designed to conceal the fact that there about three tiny scraps of chicken in my chicken tikka masala. To counter situations like this there have been moments of madness- paying over £3 for a ready meal curry has once or twice sounded like a good idea at the time, and to be honest it was pretty tasty, and there was more chicken than you could shake a stick at- but the sensation that my purse felt lighter than helium after these purchases prevented these wild spends from becoming a habit. Also off the menu are those penne pasta disasters from Farmfoods, as I am curious to know exactly which component of them never fails to have me doubled up inexplicably in stomach pain by halfway through eating one.
But there is something joyous about the comfort of flinging open the freezer after a terrible day and finding an entire meal there, just ready to be stabbed, zapped and scoffed, all within minutes, and with no sign of the threat of such chores as “peeling carrots”, “pre-heating the oven”, or “chipping the burnt bits off the bottom of the pan.” As the author of Superwoman Shirley Conran said, “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom”, and she’s right. I want to be stuffing my FACE. Preferably for 74p.

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