I’m feeling very happy today, even despite my growing unkempt white hair and increasing resemblance to Andy Warhol. I’m happy not least because the number of my followers has risen, so here’s to my “fifteen minutes of fame” in cyberspace. But really I want to talk about survival, and more specifically survival and diet off-grid. Yesterday I dipped my toe into romantic fiction in terms of dinner a deux. I enjoyed getting my feet wet and soaked up the readers’ response, but it got me thinking about how, or more pertinently, what I’ve been eating in order to survive life on the road.
But first I’ll set the table as it were; I’d travelled north from Staithes to Saltburn, where I planned to stealth-camp for at least two nights and catch up on the football. Ah football, not palatable to everybody but essential to my diet – that beautiful game played by twenty-two professionals and watched by millions of expert consumers and critics. When I arrived on the prom I was lucky enough to get a place, free of charge, with a fantastic view and a stone’s throw from a pub showing Sky Sports.
Saltburn Funicular Railway
Saltburn is a lovely little place and I liked the town and the charming way it doesn’t pretend. In general the people were friendly and well-heeled, and I enjoyed listening to their kind of Geordie-cum-Teesside accent – “the Saltburn Vernacular” if you pardon the pun. I took a ride on the famous railway, reading up on its history and hydraulic mechanism, then a long walk down the clean sands towards Marske while hoping to make a valuable discovery or find a lucky stripy stone. But it was a Saturday and I’d worked up a thirst for beer and football, so I trekked back to The Marine pub on the prom. I had a really nice time there, got talking to the locals (stories to follow in later posts) and drank good beer while watching Stoke beat Arsenal. What more could a man want, except for a good dinner? So, what to cook what not to cook (mmm… might work that up into a pitch for ITV)?
I prefer to eat as much fresh food as possible and avoid tins. But this isn’t always practical or indeed affordable, so I always have a stock of tins, along with dry noodles, rice and pasta. When I embarked on this journey all those months ago, my friend Kim put together a hamper for me, and I suggested Heinz Big Soups, which I remembered from childhood as living up to their name or “doing what they said on the tin.”
I’m sorry to say though, that today I’m somewhat disappointed; what used to be chunky pieces of chicken and veg are now etiolated morsels of not much… except in a bigger tin. “Go big or go hungry,” runs the slogan, well frankly I’d rather the latter, or more likely reach for the dry noodles.
As I say, I do as much cooking from fresh as possible and get my five a day, and while I’m no Gordon Ramsay (thank God, the man always looks like he forgot to put the turkey in) I like to think I do OK. Especially with curries, which are my signature dishes as I learned a while back how to do them properly. Like my life I like them spicy, so I try to make sure the rack is full. If not, however, or if I’m stealth-camping somewhere not conducive to a four-ring gas operation, I fall back on a tin. Which leads me to a valuable discovery I did make…
This is going to read like a bare-faced plug for the brand but I couldn’t give a shit. I’m a firm believer in giving credit where it’s due, and with Asda’s Chicken Jalfrezi I find it “suits the palate of the consummate curry lover.” “At just £1 and enough to serve two, its authentic blend of spices in a rich sauce containing bigger-than-bitesize chunks of chicken, it’s a canful of nutritious value that’ll keep you going all day.” I should add “not in the toilet sense.”
To make a serious point, even when you’re hard-up, on the road and off the grid, you need to eat as well as possible, and you have to stay strong lest you’re attacked by a couple of fuckwits on Tyneside. In short, you have to survive. A camp of vanners marches on its stomach, as it were. But to make a purely cynical point, if Asda are happy to sponsor this advert for its Chicken Jalfrezi, I’m happy to give it its fifteen minutes of fame or else “go hungry”.
Anyway, if I survive this day I will write up the collection of stories I found in The Marine. One or two of them are delicious.