ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can it!

I guess Sod’s Law dictates that a particularly busy time at work should coincide with the last few weeks of planning for my wedding (which we are largely organising ourselves) and the cumulative effect is to increase my stress levels while decreasing my free time.

Consequently, I’m feeling pressure from within to give up blogging, sleeping, cooking or possibly all three!

But that’s just not how I roll, nor will I countenance any notion of buying instant ready meals rather than cooking proper dinners from scratch. Pah!

The thing is, I don’t find the purported convenience thereof even remotely tempting. Microwave meals have never done it for me. Nor indeed anything that needs to be 'boiled in the bag', kept frozen until it's time to heat it up, or, worst of all, which can be stored indefinitely at room temperature in a tin can.

I was standing in a very long queue for the checkout at Tesco the other day – so long that it extended two third of the way down the tinned food aisle – and what I saw there reminded me of  products I’d eaten as a tiny child, but assumed had long since disappeared from the nation’s shelves.

Not good.
Baked beans with mini pork sausages. Tinned ravioli and spaghetti bolognaise (both of which, I recall came in the same sauce as baked beans). Fray Bentos tinned pies. Goblin meat puddings. Ugh.

I like sausages. I like ravioli and spaghetti bolognaise and pies and tomato-based sauces. But my understanding of all what these things should look and feel and taste and smell like is a world apart from the tinned versions.

Be afraid

I’ve had an aversion to tinned food for a long time, and seeing large stocks of tins still makes me think of Nuclear War. Irrational, I know. Blame the scaremongering lefty teachers at my school and their obscure 1980s propaganda films.

There are some robust exceptions. I’m perfectly happy to have baked beans with my Full English without a second thought (little tip: cook the beans last, in the same pan as the bacon, and add a dash of Worcestershire sauce), but baulk at the idea of alphabetti spaghetti or any of the myriad products in the same ‘in tomato sauce’ family. Isn’t that strange?

On the beany front, I’m also happy to buy cans of kidney, cannellini, haricot or any other kinds of beans for use as a cooking ingredient, but any other kind of tinned vegetable will always be eschewed in favour of the fresh article.

Likewise, I’ll have canned octopus chunks in me seafood risotto, and I occasionally cook with Foie gras, which is almost always sold in a can, but pretty much any other fish or meat product is off-limits, except as part of a dare, maybe.

The mere thought of a greasy slab of luncheon meat or corned beef, or, worse, the pink goo of  ‘potted meat food product’ (possibly the most unpleasant food I've ever tasted) is utterly sickening.

And needless to say, as a real ale fan, I've never had a canned beer that I've really enjoyed, and I'll only ever drink that metallic piss-water when I'm both a) extremely thirsty and b) being polite to the person who offered it to me!

But if I feel like drinking Diet Coke or something similar, I'd rather have it from a can than a plastic bottle, or a machine dispenser where the syrup gets mixed with water at the point of service. Strange

Oh, and pork brains in milk gravy. Ugh.

I guess that means that today's lesson is that tins are always bad and nuclear stockpiley, except when they're good and diet cokey, obviously. 

Yep, the stress is starting to affect me. Just squeeze me into an aluminium cylinder and whack me on the shelf...


  1. Dear Ben 'Vavoom'

    I once decided to treat Mrs Chapstick and the boys to a tasty treat that I enjoyed as a young whippersnapper. It was called 'Penis Spaghetti', or 'Cock in Sauce', and used to be served to me by Grandfather in the middle of the night.

    Mrs Chapstick just yummed it up, but I fear the boys were frightened by the assorted pasta todgers that adorned the plate. Suffice to say, that was the last time such a meal was partaken. And sadly, Mrs Chapstick died soon after.

  2. Definitely think people should only buy the canned food they like. I'm all about the canned beans. So much better than soaking dried ones overnight and then boiling for hours!


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