16 August 2004
It pains me, but about the worst thing to take on holiday with you is a man who fancies himself as a chef. Before last week, spent in a rain-lashed Suffolk village sharing a house with the Lawyer’s old litigation mucker from Hyena Bandicoot Meerkat, I always fancied running off with Nigel Slater or one of the other earthy celeb cooks.
All that loving appreciation of tomato flesh: they must be dynamite in bed, if a bit hairy and smelling of garlic.
No longer. The sort of man who will drive 40 miles – 40 miles! – to see what the fishing boat has brought in, coming back with two sick-looking lobsters with broken claws that scared the kids half out of their minds (nightmares with Liability complaining she could hear the poor beasts trying to drag themselves out of the pot – click, screech, splash) is just plain selfish. More than that: a holiday-wrecker.
We have spent an entire week waiting outside delicatessens and farm shops and smelly old farmyards while Roger rooted around for “proper” food, boring the locals with diatribes on pesticides and factory farming (I bet they shoved gallons of DDT under the table when they saw him coming), feeling himself a proper man of the people for buying brisket and beef dripping from the butcher and giving us all heart attacks with the stuff instead of letting us have fish fingers and peas like anyone else.
God forbid that he’d let me into the kitchen to give the poor, starving children beans on toast. (All these food lunatics have a thing about not pandering to children and making them eat adult food, which just means they sit pining at the table in front of indigestible boiled brisket or mackerel sushi and gorge themselves on ice-creams and chocolate while Roger is busy prodding sausages in yet another dismal farm shop.) It’s about control, of course: the man is not head of litigation at a national firm for nothing. I gave up control over the children’s diet years ago, and I really don’t want someone clawing it back for me (especially when I know he’s the one defending some of the major manufacturers for putting the culinary equivalent of asbestos in their food). If you didn’t turn a blind eye to the
E numbers and emulsifiers and rusk that pads out children’s food, they’d eat nothing but bananas, and then they’d bring home a classroom project on the Third World, proving that bananas are as bad as heroin for the growers, and then they’d have to live on air.
But I really object to this foodie control freakery on holiday, when I know he lets himself be waited on hand and foot at home and eats out every lunchtime (although I bet he hangs around the doors into the restaurant kitchen, trying to engage the chef in conversation about how delicious squid ink is or where to find pigs’ trotters, while the chef signals frantically to the porter to hide the economy pack of oven chips in the freezer).
But really Roger, like all controlling lawyers, wants to get inside the kitchen door and start bossing people around: he runs his own department like a legal Gordon Ramsay, with a bit less effing and jeffing, but just as much sending things back and making the trainees cry. Lawyers, with their horrible attention to detail and their hatred of taking the blame, would probably be good value on Hell’s Kitchen: you’d never see carrots julienned so neatly, while the rows over why the clients refused to pay the bill would be monumental.