I was at the supermarket checkout. Ahead of me in line was a young man and a woman, possibly boyfriend and girlfriend. They were loading their groceries on the counter. I noticed a big tray of mince (or ground beef, or ground cow muscle), a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and a few cans of some tomato concoction.
I immediately imagined what would be cooked. Stick the mince in a frying pan, add the tomato stuff and a cup full of vegetables and serve on a plate of rehydrated spaghetti. Dinner’s ready.
The man and woman standing in line had blank, bored expressions on their faces. I got the feeling that their purchases were pretty standard. Every week they probably trudged along to the supermarket, bought the same food, went home and cooked it and sat in front of the TV watching Shortland Street eating their meal (well, that’s how I like to imagine it).
That’s so sad. If I’m going to eat meat, it’s going to have to be a lot more interesting than mince. I would rather be a vegetarian than eat mince. In fact, vegetarians are probably healthier and have a better diet than mince-eaters (not that I am sufficiently knowledgeable on such matters, but it sounds right). From what I know about meat, mince is all the off cuts and bits of cow that can’t be sold as they are, ground up. It’s cheap, it’s meat, but that doesn’t make it right.
And then there’s frozen vegetables. I don’t know if a bag o’ frozen veges is cheaper than buying it fresh (growing your own stuff would be pretty damn cheap), but personally, I much rather prefer vegetables that don’t come in one centimetre square cubes.
I used to think that all pasta was dehydrated, that that was its natural state. But I have since discovered that such a wonderful invention as fresh pasta exists. If actual, real, freshly made spaghetti took on a stick of dried out spaghetti, it would kick its ass.
But put it all together and a dish which gets affectionately known as “spaghetti Bolognese” is created. I remember being served such a dish when I was young. The tomato sauce was stuff that Mum made. It was very bland, just tomato and nothing else, and it was very very watery. So there’s be a plate with some greasy, slimy mince, spaghetti and this sauce would get poured over the top. It made me crave the excitement and originality that the menu at McDonald’s offered.
So why is this dish so popular? Probably because it’s quick to make and doesn’t cost much. But it’s not an enjoyable meal (at least I don’t think it is). It’s for people who feel they should provide something resembling a “good square meal”. It’s food for the sake of food. It’s like flavour, appearance and nutritional value don’t count, it’s just following a check list of stuff that can be thrown together as something to eat.
I’m sure that it is possible to make a wonderful spaghetti, meat, tomato and vegetable dish, but that sort of things isn’t happening a lot.