essex

In the early 1990s, I took a contract with an Essex based company. They offered me a weekday place in the company B&B, which was convenient given the alternative was 3 hours a day commuting.

The B&B was spotless, but it had an essential problem: food. The town was Harlow, a New Town with the usual English restaurant-itis, e.g. you aneathestise yourself in advance to avoid an unpleasant experience with food. I’d have been happy to cook for myself, but the house’s kitchen only had a microwave.

So, I decided, dammit, I’ll have to make do with raw, and plotted an exploration of salad. I stocked up leaves, some mild but ready soft cheese (as innocent as brie if I recall correctly), and fresh basil, and put them in the empty fridge.

Working next day, I was pulled out of whatever I was doing, and was asked to leave the house. When, surprised, I asked why, I was told it was because I’d put smelly food in the fridge. I’ll admit I was completely shocked; the idea that the glorious aroma of basil is so bad it causes expulsion is like suggesting you should be thrown out of church for believing in God. To believe either, you have to be intentionally ignorant. You can see why, even in England, a land of food philistinism, Essex has a special philistine reputation all of its own.

I did indeed leave the B&B. There was no way I was going to live in a place with such a Monty Python attitude.

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