Slow food and slow cooking are all very well if you are in the right mood and have got enough time, but occasionally only fast food will do. If you come home at night exhausted and hungry, you are not going to start making a complex dish from scratch. Proper grown-ups have ovens with timers, and microwaves, and so can heat things up straight from the freezer. But I never manage that. I haven't got a freezer, anyway. Nor a microwave. What's wrong with baked beans on toast for supper? Nothing. Similarly, eggs and bacon, toasted cheese and scrambled eggs form the cornerstones of the British menu. Breakfast a toute heure.
One of the charms of being here in France by myself, hard at work on a book, is eating bizarre supper dishes invented on the spur of the moment. The neighbours shake their heads: you don't make soup every night? I think that as long as you've got a tin of anchovies in the cupboard you can't go wrong. Anchovies on toast are heaven.
However fast I want my food to arrive, I avoid ready-made dishes from supermarkets, because they are expensive and taste nasty. We are conned into thinking these plastic-sealed mounds of glop convenient. So is poison. We are conned into thinking we can't cook. It's too difficult. It's too uncool. I would like to write a cookery book called Real Good Fast Food - a sort of update of Edouard de Pomiane's Cooking in Ten Minutes.
So, first catch your chicken: the fastest food on two legs.
Yvette has just slaughtered all her poultry, for fear of Asian flu. Arsene, rumbling by on his tractor and stopping for a chat, shook his head - she's overdoing it. He's still got hundreds of turkeys, but has moved them from the outdoors into sheds. The mayor called round to see how I was doing, and to check I didn't have any chickens. He watched me stuff and truss the one I'd bought from Yvette. You're putting lemons as well as garlic inside it? Hmm, we don't do that here.
What people don't do any more in England, I am told, is make stock. Now come on. It is easy and it is fast. Having eaten your chicken, you cast the bones and carcase into a pot you fill with water. You throw in a peeled, chopped carrot and a peeled, chopped onion, a bunch of herbs picked from the pots on your window sill, and a glass of white wine if you have one spare. Bring to the boil; simmer very gently for an hour or more.
If you have time to watch TV after supper, you have time to watch your stockpot. Then you've got fast suppers for the next few days. The stock makes soup one night, risotto the second night, and on the third pommes de terre a la boulangere, the sliced spuds simmered in the hot liquid.