Saturday, 24 August 2013


For reasons I won’t go into, I had to spend some time this morning trawling around Waitrose on a quest for a few ingredients which don’t figure in my usual twice-weekly shop (Thai fish sauce, straight-to-wok noodles, etc.).  It wasn’t an unpleasurable experience, offering as it did the chance to observe the bright young things of the Reading Festival, with their skimpy shorts and knee-socks and braided purple hair (and that’s just the boys…). 
At the checkout, as I finished loading up my substantial haul (does anyone else suffer from the anxiety that the till girl will start scanning before I’ve finished emptying the trolley?) I noticed that the lad behind me had just two items – a bottle of banana-flavoured milk, and a bottle of chocolate flavoured milk – so naturally I gave way to him.  His embarrassed mutter and smile of thanks have hung in my mind all day.
Anyway, on my drift through the aisles I had time to reflect on all sorts of things, and one of them turned out to be useless foods.  So here are a few.  They’re not things I actively dislike or am allergic to or anything, I just think they’re, well, useless.

1.      Maldon sea salt.  It costs more than Chanel Number 5, and tastes of salt.

2.      Saffron.  Use turmeric instead.  I guarantee that any friend who claims to detect the difference is a food writer for the Guardian.

3.      Courgettes.  They’re just stroppy adolescent marrows, aren’t they?  They need to grow up and resign themselves to their blandness, like we’ve had to.

4.      Runner beans.  We only grow them because we can, and we only eat them because we’ve grown them.  They taste of water, which is what they’re made of.

5.      Chick peas.  Dried or tinned, they need hours, if not days, of tenderising before they are even half edible, and then it’s like eating a well-soaked duvet.

 I have more.


  1. 1. Well I think you have to applaud the entrepreneurial skills of a family company that have managed to sell virtually the equivalent of the Emperor's New Clothes for over 100 years right round the world.
    2. I bought 60 saffron crocus bulbs from a well known nursery two years ago, thinking I might make my fortune, and for two years running they have singularly failed to produce even one flower.
    3. The blandness of courgettes is their virtue. You can put them with loads of things as bulk. On eating reheated leftovers of courgette pie as "something that was left in the fridge" I have been asked if I was sure the green bits were actually courgette.
    4. Runner beans. Great. I like things I can grow, and then fill my freezer with so that I can have green things on my plate for the whole year.
    5. I tend to agree.

  2. 1 I agree that I can't taste the difference in cooking, but I love Maldon salt at the table - not that I add salt to food generally, but when I do the crunch is part of it.

    2 I'm always vaguely disappointed when I do use saffron, I agree with you.

    3 As long as you never cook courgette in water, they do have flavour. It's delicate, is all.

    4 I love runner beans, more than french, and would happily eat a plateful and nothing else. I also like them raw.

    5 Darling, I'm sorry, it's not that I think you're wrong any more than I think I am right, but I like chickpeas too, especially those I've cooked myself rather than the tinned ones. I have to cook too many because I can't resist eating them before they get to the table.

    I do realise I'm inordinately greedy and, to be frank, there are hardly any foods I don't munch with enthusiasm.

  3. I've not considered food in terms of usefulness. I will cogitate further upon this subject. There are a couple oh items that spring to mind for now though:
    1. Broccoli - it is the food of Beelzebub and should be avoided at all costs. It is added to all kinds of dishes for no apparent reason.
    2. Shellfish - you play the salmonella lottery every time. It is has to be operated on to access the "edible" part. In the end, you get a small lump of rubber that tastes of sea water and resembles a bogey.

  4. I disagree with numbers 3 to 5. Zucchini do have a taste of their own, it's only a matter of preparation. The same goes for Stangenbohnen und Kichererbsen; I have not too much experience with the latter, but ate very fine hummus and falafel made by friends.
    Broccoli is sensitive, can be killed by cooking in no time. Then you can only make soup from it.

  5. OK, maybe I was a bit harsh on the courgettes. But they're still my least favourite of the Big Three Med vegs. Try shaving them wafer-thin with a potato peeler, griddling over high heat and sprinkling with teriyaki sauce.
    Seafood's fine Sir B (assuming you like the taste). Just spit without swallowing if it seems even a teeny bit iffy.
    I wasn't talking about hummus or falafel, both of which I quite like, Mago. I was talking about chickpeas.
    I have nothing to say about broccoli.
    I stand by the rest. But runner beans are not a falling-out issue amongst friends.

  6. I like all those. But, like Z, I like most food.
    I'm not always sure I can tell the difference between saffron and turmeric but on one or two occasions when I've used it Barney has asked (politely)about the funny taste. And it does produce a nicer yellow colour in the rice:)

  7. I've realised my main unfood is boiled potatoes. What are they for?

  8. I've come round to courgettes a salad item... Not as wet as a cucumber... But the squirrelly varmints got 'em all this year. Even they turn their noses up at the runner beans though!