Thursday, 25 June 2009

Bateman Blog 004: Variety Is The Shite Of Life

Their second album 'Back To The Future' is out now and STA's finest wordsmith Bateman of The Young Playthings continues the documenting of his life episodes for the STA blog. The brief is open-ended and editorial control out the window, - we hope you find his insights contentious, illuminating, scintillating and titillating!

Whenever I go to the US I eat salads. Not that I'm on a diet - in fact, far from it. I have a healthy love of nachos and burgers and pizza, but for every junk food meal I enjoy I know it's only sensible and healthy to alternate with salad and fruit and raw tofu. The thing is, American salads are not very salad-like - like Katie Price isn't very ladylike. No, they're a brash, naughty indulgence that satisfy an immediate craving but leave a foul aftertaste (though, scratch that, I'm sure Katie doesn't leave a foul aftertaste - she's just foul-mouthed).

I'm very fond of the parable about the guy who makes soup from a stone. I've never been sure what the lesson is supposed to be, although I'm sure the tale comes from some ancient salesmen’s' almanac - one can have anything from nothing, or one can sell anything using nothing, if one employs the wherewithal vacuum-packed within that clever little stone in one's bright little box. If you don't know it, it goes like this. A 'travelling' (read: homeless) man is walking along a dirt road and he's hungry. There's nothing to eat for miles around - until he stumbles upon two mucky children playing in the dirt. He thinks to himself 'I broke all my teeth on the last child I ate, so that's out of the question. What I need is some soup - but I'm sure these two don't have a clue how to make any and it's highly unlikely their parents have a blender I can use.' But the traveller, though homeless and jobless, is no fool. He picks up a pebble from the dirt road and saunters over to where the children are playing. The children look up at the stranger with wild, wary eyes (for their parents read the News of the World and they have been warned hysterically about paedophiles) but the stranger looks kindly, if a little devilish.

'Hello children, I'm a travelling man with no trade to my name and of no fixed abode - I'm hungry but I'm an honest john - I will show you how I can magically make soup from nothing but this mere stone and a dash of your kindness. What sayst thou?'

And the children, because children love creeps like magicians and clowns, are all ears.

'First I need a pot to make it in'. So Tracy runs off to the family home, climbs in through a broken window and comes back with a battered old pan.

'Excellent. But now I need some water'.

So Dwayne runs off to CostCutter and nicks a 1L bottle of Evian.

'The magic is working, but now I need some vegetables....'

And this goes on till the kids are exhausted running back and forth between the dirt road and the town, but there's a lovely pot of vegetable soup with a stone at the bottom of it bubbling over a warm fire.

American salads are kind of like this story. The stone in the soup story is like a bay leaf - it adds no flavour unless you're the unlucky one that gets the mouthful with the thing in it - and your taste buds are wrecked (or teeth, in the case of the stone). Ultimately, the stone is a way of fooling someone into giving you something nice for free. The American salad is a way of fooling yourself into thinking that you're giving yourself something healthy and tasty to eat.

For example, you go into these whole food stores (what the hell is 'whole food' anyway?) where they serve healthy things. You get a tub of lettuce and hand it to the Mexican behind the extra-ingredients-and-condiments counter, and tell him what you'd like on your salad. 30 seconds later you have a $14 'salad' consisting of barbecued shrimp, sesame tofu, broccoli, sundried tomatoes, asparagus, blue cheese, avocado and artichoke hearts, slathered in a ladle spoon’s worth of 1000 Island dressing. It's like a blended 4,000 calorie pizza with a few bits of romaine lettuce in it. You go to the park, eat it and feel like eating a platter of nachos with extra cheese to assuage your soul (and clogged arteries).

I'm no chef and those ingredients weren't meant to go together. What the hell was I thinking?! I'll tell you what, my fat little eyes were greedily eyeballing the extra ingredients and condiments and I just pointed at a few of them, with no thought as to how well they'd compliment each other when combined in one dish, and the Mexican dutifully scraped up a spatchelor-load of each and dumped it in the green mixing bowl. Voila!

The point is, like children I'm easily fooled by conmen and sly marketing gimmicks. Ludicrously gullible. The dullest tool in the dull-tool toolbox. The kind of person who'll eat a raw chilli when a stranger dares me to drunkenly do so, which will inevitably ruin my evening. The 'spice of life' for me is not a good thing, it only leads to a numb tongue, a belly full of rubbish and a revolting aftertaste. And it costs a lot more than it's worth.

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