Go Fork Yourself: Spice Burgers, Stuffed Pasta and Brown Sauce
Your life has really come to this. Again. You’ve spent all of your money and it’s three weeks to payday. The bloke who goes to the post office once a week for his welfare cheque can manage his money better than you, but does he sympathise? Does he arse. Like he’s going to offer a shoulder to cry on when you whinge at him about how you spent close to a grand on that trip to Sicily next month and how you can only afford one takeaway a week now. It’s a miracle the plasma gushing from his icy veins to his broken heart simply doesn’t burst out of his chest and drown you in sympathy blood.
Once you’ve washed the compassion goo out of your Jack & Jones cardigan, your mind drifts back to your immediate money problems. The sad reality of your being a twat with melon-sized holes in your pockets has never been more obvious. If you lived in Morocco, your name would have been Nadir. You don’t. And your name is still Nadir.
No more, you exclaim. It’s time to bite the bullet and find sustenance that is both cost-effective and at least minimally nutritional. You start analysing a potential diet and deciding what’s useful and what’s not. Need iron? Lick the stove or the fireplace twice a day. Done. Calcium? That comes from milk. You can afford that, as long as you buy it by the vat-sized container. 10 gallons should do for all that tea your granny has been sending you, along with the odd bag of fruit and nuts for the 6 weeks after Halloween through to Christmas. Sorted. Zinc? Swallow a penny. Well in. This living cheap lark is easy, right?
Then disaster strikes and your belly rumbles. You’re hungry. This is both impossible and unacceptable, but it’s here and it’s happening. You need to go to the shop and buy something that at least looks like a dinner. What happens next is hazy and when the fresh oxygen from outside the doors of your local Centra hits the back of your throat, you have a packet of suspect-looking Lithuanian-brand Spice Burgers in one hand and some budget stuffed pasta in the other. Félicitations, Nadir, you’ve outdone yourself.
The pot of water boils, as you throw in the pasta. The microwave hums, heats and spins during the 40 seconds required for that unique, authentic spice burger experience. You can’t even pretend you bought an acceptably jolly type of spice burger. All that this one has to offer is indiscriminate depression. You stare at the grout between the tiles on the kitchen wall, your thoughts somewhere between wondering what you’re doing with your life and hoping you’re standing far enough away from the microwave not to get mild radiation poisoning.
You put your dish and pint glass of milk on the living room table. The Simpsons is on the TV and your flatmate didn’t replace the ketchup, so brown sauce will have to suffice as flavouring for tonight’s piatto secondo. It’s not even Heinz or Chef, it’s one of those supermarket-brand knock-offs that contains more sugar in one drop than a Mars bar dipped in Lucozade. It slupfs phonetically out of the bottle, splashing a bit as it hits the water you didn’t drain properly from the pasta. No need for a knife either – you’d only have to clean that up later and, let’s be honest here Nadir, this is about as far from culture as North Sentinel Island, and you’re kidding yourself if you feel you can retain any dignity by incorporating an extra piece of cutlery into this barely palatable scrotum of a meal. You slice the burger into quarters with the side of your fork and rub one of them repeatedly in the brown sauce, maybe taking a minute to look directly at it and reflect that even death row inmates would get half-pounders, lobster, strawberry cheesecake, milkshakes and blueberry pancakes before they realise their life is officially over.
Then you taste it and it’s not all that bad. The pasta’s not too shabby either. Somewhere in a distant room, Heston Blumenthal and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall are forming a support group at just the thought of what sits on your plate, but right now it’s pretty good. OK, that’s an exaggeration, but it’ll do. Sure, there are bits that taste like cardboard, and the tortelloni has the consistency of a dead wasp, but you made it. You survived adversity and budgeted accordingly. You can feel pretty pleased with yourself and go to bed feeling strangely full. Well done Nadir. Just 20 more to go until a week of hopping between Nando’s and Crackbird for lunch and dinner sees you broke again.