Food is the one area in which I refuse to compromise for the sake of our bank balance
Alice O'Keeffe's "Squeezed Middle" column.
Curly stomps up the stairs carrying a large cardboard box. “Madam, your cabbage delivery.” I rub my hands together in glee. Thursday morning is one of the high points of my week. It’s when the Abel & Cole box arrives, stuffed full of lovely organic tangerines and carrots that taste so definitively much more tangeriney and carroty than the waterlogged, pesticide-stuffed crap from Tesco’s.
I am slightly ashamed at how accurately I must fall into Abel & Cole’s target demographic. They might have created their brand and merchandising with me specifically in mind. Every week I pore over their brochure, which is filled with obscure British cheeses, recipes for wholesome stews and friendly personalised messages from their farmers, with all the intensity of a stockbroker checking the FTSE 100.
Needless to say, Curly finds the whole thing ridiculous. “Eighteen quid for a load of cabbage!” he sneers, choosing to ignore the plump, fragrant tomatoes, the delicate fronds of purple sprouting broccoli. “You could get this lot down the market for two-fifty.”
Admittedly there is often a lot of cabbage in the box, especially during the winter months. At one point I opened our fridge and counted five different varieties, some curly, some floppy, some green, some purple. Fortunately I’ve discovered that cabbage is a surprisingly versatile vegetable if you really set your mind to it. I just wish at least one other member of my family would agree to eat the bloody stuff.
Food is the one area in which I refuse to compromise for the sake of our bank balance. The day you see me tucking in to a plateful of pink, sweaty-looking Tesco Value sausages is the day I have well and truly thrown in the towel and given up my middle-class credentials for good. Healthy body, healthy mind, that’s my motto. If I started to head off down the Tesco Value road, where would it all end? Would I give up my improving books in favour of I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!? Swap my Birkenstocks for fake Uggs? I shudder to think.
Some cynic once tried to tell me that organic vegetables are actually no more nutritious or better for the planet than ordinary ones. Well, I don’t believe it. And even if that is true, it doesn’t matter. The food in my Abel & Cole box tastes nice, and it makes me feel good. It makes me feel just a teeny bit special. At heart I know I’m just an ordinary pleb, just another consumer whose primary function in society is to line the pockets of those higher up the pecking order. But, for one fleeting moment every week, my Abel & Cole box makes me feel that I have a choice, that the power is in my hands, and that the world may one day change for the better.
I rip off the rustic-effect string, throw open the box, and quickly stuff the cabbage into the fridge before Curly notices it.
Tonight I think I’ll whizz it up into a delicious green pesto. He’ll never even know he’s eating it.