Mince: Food of the Gods

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.

New Zealand

I’m sick of the attitude that so many New Zealanders have. That New Zealand is a small insignificant country at the bottom of the world that no one knows of or cares about.

Actually, it’s not really New Zealand vs the Rest of the World. It’s New Zealand vs America. If someone from Brazil spoke of New Zealand, no one in New Zealand would care. If a Malaysian pop star said she liked New Zealand, it wouldn’t really matter, but for some reason America is different.

This is how an average American (by American I mean from the USA) is supposed to react about New Zealand:

“So, tell me what you know about New Zealand?”
“Noo… Noo what? Noo Zealand? Where’s that? I’ve never heard of Noo Zealand. It’s a country? Are you kidding? Are you sure you’re not making it up? I think I’d know about it if it really was a country. Is it part of Australia…..”

There’s also the problem of complementing the country. It goes like this.

“So what do you think of New Zealand?”
“It’s a very beautiful country with some wonderful scenery and I’ve met so many wonderful people.”
“No it’s not. New Zealand is really ugly and it’s polluted and all the locals are uncultured slobs”
“So what do you think of New Zealand?”
“It’s not very good. There’s too much pollution and all the people I’ve met are real assholes. I wish I’d never come here.”
“No it’s not. New Zealand is really beautiful country with wonderful people”.

It’s like playing the devil’s advocate to whatever opinion of New Zealand is presented. It seems like it’s really hard to take a compliment and equally as difficult to take criticism.

It can not be denied that New Zealand is a relatively small nation, but that does not mean insignificant. But most New Zealanders revel in any mention of the country on American tv or movies. Even if it is something as meaningless as someone mentioning the work “kiwi” (referring to the fruit), it is still enough to get a New Zealander excited. It’s as if instead of the person saying “I am going to eat a kiwi”, they say “I am going to eat a kiwi, which is a fruit that is not a native plant of New Zealand, but it is named after a native bird of New Zealand. New Zealand is a great country”

So, the basic theme is, New Zealand is a small, insignificant country that no one knows about, especially Americans, and it is a wonderful clean, green, unspoiled paradise. But if you are an American and you know anything about New Zealand, even acknowledge its existence, then there is something wrong with you and if you like New Zealand then you are really wrong. But if you don’t like it then why’d you bother coming here. Go home if you don’t like it.

I don’t know what has caused this attitude, or if it will change over time. But I’d like to see a stop to it now. This attitude has been responsible for a whole lot of really bad, poorly made New Zealand-promoting web pages and it must stop.

What a country.

Girlie Mags

One thing that I have learned is that it is important for the modern girl of the ’90s to read women’s magazines with slight scepticism. Or, as Flavor Flav so succinctly put it, “don’t believe the hype”.*

So there I was reading the June 1997 edition of New Zealand Cleo magazine. The editorial was about their recently redesigned layout and about the typical Cleo reader. She is described as “young, intelligent and informed… she certainly doesn’t want to be taken as a fool.”

But there, in dark blue and white, as part of an article called “Shape Up” was this: “I have a friend, a personal trainer, she’s 50kg and doesn’t have a gram of fat on her”.

Excuse me! If that woman didn’t have a gram of fat on her, she’d be nearing death. I don’t know if that sentence was meant to be metaphorical, but it is sending out an extremely screwed up message. Not even those body builders who only eat egg whites have no body fat.

Then there was a page dedicated to helping the reader look like Gwyneth Paltrow. The best bit of that article was the recommended lipstick having “available August” in small print. That’s two whole months I will have to wait before I can perfect my Gwyneth look! This is terrible!

Another amusing article is one with ten “sure-fire seduction strategies”. My favourite is the one where you ring up the guy, talk about Friends then say “By the way I’m naked oh there’s my call waiting gotta go”. I’d like to think that if I tried that on anyone he would laugh his arse off.

And then there’s the fashion spread with the male model with the disturbingly large breasts…

So why do I buy it and read it? Because it’s highly entertaining.

* That sentence simultaneously irritates me and pleases me.