Illustration by Joda (@jonydaga)
“I think it’s a bit too Guardian, even for the Guardian,” says my editor, on receiving an idea. I’m quite pleased with myself. I think it’s fairly hard to achieve this kind of particular knock back by an editor you regularly write for, or come up with an idea that encapsulates so much of everything the paper is about that it’s too much even for it!
It was a food piece about cooking with moss: foraging off damp rocks for it, then wrapping fish and whatnot, before cooking in a mud oven or something like that. It’s a thing. There’s a pub up the road which does it, but then I live in Fiveways, which is definitely too Fiveways for itself (hence the North Village), and about as Ultimate Guardian as you can get.
Nobody here eats food without an issue or a story attached. Kids ask if their sausages have been kind to pigs, the local supermarket sells ‘Moroccan Inspired Breadcrumbs’. Presumably, they inspire the Moroccan women who made them to fight for equal pay or access to free nursery places. Even the seagulls, who regularly cover the car, appear to live off foraged granola. Oh, and the pound shop sells hummus!
I have to admit to railing slightly. Whatever happened to food just being stuff you ate? I’m nostalgic for the days when peaches were tinned, avocado was the colour of your bathroom suite, wine was Blue Nun, and breadcrumbs were things you made yourself, inspired only by the fact the bread was stale.
I rebel in my own ways: sending the kids to school with Scotch eggs and crisps for lunch, and citing a cheese and marmite sandwich when asked by a very-full-of-themselves food journo what my favourite meal was.
I’m proud of the fact my daughter thinks I’m the only mother in the village who wants their children to eat junk food - less so of the fact she calls me a hypocrite for writing about nice food while rarely making it.
I do appreciate good food, mostly in restaurants and friends’ houses. It’s just all the talk of it that puts me off and makes me panic at the prospect of“foodies” coming round for dinner.
In some circles, though, my own lackadaisical attitude has its own kudos.
“I still think that’s the most impressive thing about you,” says a friend, citing something so unimpressive it’s a bit depressing that it’s the most impressive thing about me.
I’d invited friends for supper, years ago, but it’s still remembered.
I’d stressed supper. Nothing fancy. Baked potatoes, probably. An impromptu get together with no element of me trying to impress with the food.
But inadvertently, I did.
“You invited everyone for dinner...” My friend loves telling this story. “...And then you gave everyone Penguin biscuits for pudding!”
I did. A cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit is my absolute favourite pudding.
But it’s not really North Village enough for the North Village.