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Sam Herlihy Of The Northwestern: The Age Of Austerity
Sam Herlihy , August 13th, 2010 07:32

"I know they look like Skeletor's fingers but give 'em some time and they taste like real chicken, not like breast implants and doom". Sam Herlihy brings you a guide to bargain shopping. Photograph by Barney Britton www.photoinsensitive.com

There are two cute little boys I see on TV all the time. They are just soooooo dreamy. Their hair is all tidy and brushed. They are nearly always wearing nice neat shirts but those boys are not uptight. No sir, sometimes they are in their respective gardens in Fulham or Chelsea or somewhere, not wearing ties. More often than not though they are together, maybe secretly holding hands. They remind me of kids on a school trip, paired up to cross the road safely. They are running the country.

Unfortunately they are not leading the country to a fossil exhibit or a farm open day. They are leading us, guiding us through "THE AGE OF AUSTERITY".

I don't know where my permission slip got lost. My Ma forgot to pack my lunch. I left my waterproof coat at home. Somehow though, me and all of us are traipsing behind these skipping, pocket sized Churchills, full pelt into "THE AGE OF AUSTERITY". It sounds like a Depression era newspaper headline. Imagine it spinning out of a black and white TV screen. Inter-cut with footage of flatcaps, dustbowl mothers staring into the distance, union riots, Woody Guthrie, locked gates outside coal mines, stern men wearing hats and pinstripes, kids in shorts with grubby faces, "The North". On the next page though, an aggro quasi-hippie dressed like a geek beanpole Johnny Cash just sold 10 million IPhones in 10 minutes to 10 million happy-go-lucky advertisement agency perfect, global networking, Benetton multi racial, multisexual, citizens of the world! Soundtracked by some elvish Icelanders 'cos even though all of this is probably their fault for saving all their money in FairyBank, under a rock, 50 miles outside Reykjavik, actually owned not by magical Nordic elemental nature sprites but by some West Ham supporting Arctic barrowboys with greed and dried whale cock pulsing though their veins, we are all really in touch with our feelings these days! Cloudbursting pianos and high wire falsettos are the true sound of our globally positioned hearts!

What "AGE OF AUSTERITY"??? I've got an Ipad and a down-payment for a halfbedroomed flat in a crack addled graffiti strewn shithole block that's only a six hour commute into London! My neighbours are other cowering graduates and born and bred psychos. It's so VIBRANT! We are planning on setting up an organic veg garden in the grounds (a cracked expanse of concrete, puke and glass shards) but for now we are keeping ourselves to ourselves. The junkies and dog wielding nutters who were born and raised here look at us funny. Those kids on tags don't know what a celeriac is! What "AGE OF AUSTERITY"??? They've got crack and tracksuits, we've got "Forgotten Cuts" from Waitrose and this amaaaaaazing video on Youtube of a woman getting shot in the head in Burma. Or was it Pakistan? Or the Congo? We send money there, to build schools and factories and churches so they can "pull themselves out of poverty, and fundamentalism". We send our old mobile phones there too! I'm not sure if they text each other but if not at least they can strip them for lead and mercury, those kids have such skinny fingers! Then they can sell all that toxic stuff and get money to buy themselves Macbooks and Audi R8s. They are saving the environment and saving themselves. Every little helps! (I don't shop there though. Have you ever been in? It's full of the living dead buying beer and battery chickens) What are we eating as this pauper ship sails off the edge of the world? Every supermarket seems to be wheeling out a "Forgotten Cuts" style meat counter. We had a few years of organic cheerleading. We were fully expected to be on first name terms with the pig we were eating. What was that pig's take on troop deployment in Afghanistan? Cheryl or Danni? Did your pork chop enjoy therapeutic spa retreats in the Maldives? Did it have an active and spiritually fulfilling sex life involving orgasm delaying and herbal (and organic) tinctures? If any of the above was missing, your bacon was bad news and you probably bought it from a supermarket. Get to the farmers market ya yobbo! We had to live on a farm, in Dorset preferably. Our kids, named Amelia or Alfie or Marrakech (we stayed in a riad there once and ate organic houmous made by a wizened old lady who looked like a dog chewed shoe) had to deliver stillborn lambs and make goat's milk yogurt flavoured with flaxseed and felt.

Now though, the money's running out. Some supermarkets are just tunneling deeper and deeper into basically cat food for humans. If you bleach and inject something for long enough it's eventually going to pass muster (legally speaking) as "food". You can whip fat and tendon and "bits" for long enough in a centrifuge to then be able to whip that mulch into a "chicken" burger or a "steak grill". It's awesome! Even though the cash well is running dry, families don't have to suffer. They can still gather round the TV on a sunday and eat a six quid reconstituted "crown roast" made of balls and shit smeared hooves leaking bromide and asbestos into the gravy.

Other supermarkets are rolling out the stuff folks used to eat. "Lesser" cuts of meat and offal. I'm not going to bang on about "The Olden Days". I wasn't there, I'm like nineteen years old or something. This stuff is amazing though, and cheap (like the budgie. That's a Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels reference to show how young I am). The whole organic bickering of a few years ago definitely had a bit of class warfare to it, because a lot of people couldn't justify spending twice as much on a chicken just because it had regular meetings with a therapist and got a tantric handjob once a week. This Olden Days style meat is lush though, and cheap. It's cheaper than paying for the chemicals and the legal funds to fight the impending lawsuits to defend the use of those chemicals once our kids start growing bones out of their chins and limping in circles. Maybe you couldn't care less about pigs, farmers or your own vile blooded vicious little kids? If you care about your bank balance put that Value/PoorScum range meat down and go grab a skirt steak. When I barbecue a bit of skirt steak marinated in apple juice, soy and garlic, even my wife admits I'm not a complete loser. She might even let me hold her hand! It's that good it can even bring struggling marriages together! If I wasted a load of money on suspiciously cheap "sirloin" steak she would kick me quick to the kerb, after spending a few hours vomiting up rat poison additives and red dye.

Let those skinless, boneless, wire and fishmeal fed chicken breasts rot on the shelves. Grab some chicken wings and slow cook those bony bastards 'til they're lush. I know they look like Skeletor's fingers but give 'em some time and they taste like real chicken, not like breast implants and doom.

I'm not even pushing proper guts on y'all. Kidneys and liver, spleen and stomach are not the food of love. To be honest, most of the time they taste of blood and not a lot else. I know it's the mark of a true cook to be able to make near enough anything taste good but there's degrees of success. I've eaten damn fine chef's takes on cooked guts and I've eaten this crap in gastropubs. If your taste buds roll over like a panting puppy at the taste of blood good on you. Mine, battered and ciggie damaged as they are, recoil like a kicked mangy hound if I fling that nonsense at 'em.

As per usual I am spouting off minus any factual insight, research or clue. It does seem though that high end restaurants are largely the same as they ever were with a few economically mandated differences. Some of them are hurtling out of business as the investors sense blood in the financial waters. Not surprising seeing as they are still charging twenty quid for a main course of cheapo guts and chum instead of caviar and wagu beef. Even a couple off months ago head chefs in many high end restaurants looked like swarthy, housewife banging (but romantically....and powerfully), casanovas of the kitchen. Now though the food they are putting out requires a new image. They can't be artfully (but rustically...) dressing plates of tongue with veal sinus jus while looking like a cross between a sprinkle bearded George Clooney and a young knife wielding Marlon Brando. It just wouldn't work in these belt tightening times. A far more fitting look is surely that of Baldrick.

This may be entirely untrue but I'm near enough certain that for a per head cost of about £200 (excluding wine - in "THE AGE OF AUSTERITY" we drink mud mead and bin juice for a mere 200% markup) you can eat the bits of a dead cow even a ravenous raven would turn it's beak up at. You can eat this feast of poverty without the risk that your missus is going to end up filled out like an application by a freakishly handsome and insaiatable chef in the wine cellar when she says she's "popping to the ladies room". This is because though your wife or girlfriend dropped her standards through the floor when she deigned to be with you. She ain't dropping her knickers for anyone who looks like a consumptive Tony Robinson, after a swim through a compost heap, in a Victorian abattoir, with Dengue Fever, and woodlice. You look bad and smell bad but you're not charging her for the pleasure, I assume. Your lady has some standards (again, I assume. Which reminds me of a saying I once heard "assumption is the mother of all f*ck ups". That is TWO Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels references in one piece! God I miss Chris Evans!)

If this financial tombstoning continues I swear peg legs, eyepatches, open sores and a Pigpen style halo of flies will be the TV chef look de jour. No plates or cutlery required Phillip and Holly! Today I'm serving a bucket of shit, served on a stick that has been slow roasted in shit by a three legged dog that's drenched in shit! Chow down on yr slop buckets scumbags! This is "THE AGE OF AUSTERITY" and it's all those mean bankers' fault. Next on This Morning: Tramp fashion for size sixteen and up and later on the twelve o'clock news, some slow motion, soft focus footage of those two dreamy boys, skipping through a meadow, leading us to the promised land of organic milk and Buddhist honey. All this still to come, after Jeremy Kyle, which is still exactly the same. What "AGE OF AUSTERITY"???