This is a new outing for a post back in June 2013

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Mr Fluffy was in the ascendant on Monday and Tuesday. Mr Curmudgeon has rounded him up and put him back in his box. Hence my diatribe about the Food Standards Agency yesterday. Today I’d like to maintain the culinary theme, and discuss how to buy prepared vegetables. Here’s a hint. Don’t. Don’t do that. Just Say No.

I discovered to my horror the other day that my local Co-Op now stocks bags of sliced onions. Marvellous. Saves you all the trouble of buying the real thing, and going to all the time and effort of peeling them and slicing them yourself. Oh Brave New World that has such wonders in it. Come on, just how bone idle can you be? Exactly how much time does it free up to let you watch the omnibus edition of Eastenders? You’re just being a slacker. Oh it makes your eyes water, does it? Slicing onions? Poor baby. There there, mummy will kiss it better. Sorry, you’re going to have to suffer for your art. Be a brave little soldier. Oh, it’s worth pointing out that half an onion will keep pretty much in perpetuity. Breach the packaging on pre-sliced and let out the nitrogen that keeps them ‘fresh’ and they’re rendered to a black noisome sludge in about a day. They don’t taste of much either.

You can buy frozen sliced carrots. They’re a sign of moral turpitude, too. OK, keep some frozen ones for an emergency, but not as a staple, please. It’s not hard to slice carrots. You don’t like peeling them? Then don’t. Nobody’s going to die, and they taste better anyway.

You can buy ready mashed potato. Honestly, you can. What sort of person buys ready mashed potato? You do? Really? You can’t peel, boil, and mash potatoes? You wastrel. Frozen sliced mushrooms. These really are an abomination in the eye of the Lord. I personally think that slicing mushrooms is the Devil’s work, since you should always break them, without washing them! Wipe them with a damp cloth if you must, but don’t wash them for goodness sake. Breaking mushrooms into bits is a simple and guilt-free sensual pleasure of the highest order. Slicing them, if you must, is also irresistibly lovely. And it’s not hard. Jeepers you can slice mushrooms with a butter knife if you need to. A teaspoon even.

Sliced peppers? I hope you don’t mind paying over the odds here, because pound for pound they cost more than kryptonite. The ‘fresh’ ones, which are likely to be days old, again drop to mush within a day of being opened. Frozen they have all the texture of wallpaper paste. Taste the same too. Garlic puree is just about acceptable in terms of taste, but reveals moral weakness. So called ‘lazy herbs?’ Forget them. They all taste vaguely of parsley. Very vaguely.

Another thing. Not a vegetable, but still in the same sinner’s gallery. Jars of ready made apple sauce. Ghastly. Comes off the same production line as baby food. If you can’t be bothered to make your own, at least be honest and take everyone down the local Harvester for Sunday lunch at the carvery. It won’t cost you an awful lot more either. I’m not a purist about buying sauces, though I prefer to make my own.

But bear this in mind, if you would. No jar of Uncle Ben’s bolognaise will taste anywhere near as good as something you make yourself. It just won’t, trust me on this. Even if you shell out a pirate’s ransom on something swanky such as Loyd Grossman’s overpriced and under-savoury offerings, it won’t be as good as anything you knock up, even if you have a culinary disaster along the way. While you’re at it, forget trying to claim you cooked anything with a bought sauce. You didn’t. You cheated if you say you did.

And I think perhaps that’s my point. Cooking is important. It shows you care. It’s OK, fine and dandy, to cut corners, use shortcuts. But it’s not OK to cheat. I’ll tell you what I mean here. I’ve known people hold dinner parties, and every item, every single damned thing, came from Waitrose, or M&S, or Sainsbury’s Finest. Everything. The host and hostess will rarely admit this to their guests, but will admit it to non-attendees. They find it funny. Well I don’t find it funny to short-change your guests and then fib about it. Do it by all means, but be honest about it.

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