Listening to Jonathan Meades on Nicky Campbell's Radio 5 programme yesterday I was reminded why I like this man. He's a bit like Will Self - compelling to listen to but impenetrable to read. I once had a book of short stories by JM - until an unsuccessful search today I thought I still had - the title of which escapes me, and it defeated me completely. But his food columns make great reading and listening to him yesterday - despite Campbell's continuous interruptions ( Meades is a wordsmith; he chooses his words carefully, and is, despite his intellect, easy to interrupt due to his fastidious need to always to find the right word) - he was compelling.
Both witty and condemnatory about British food, Meades suggested that we - the British - "Can teach the French nothing at all about food", despite the obsessively popular status of the TV food programme and the elevation of " mediocre cooks" into minor celebrities. The British sausage was roundly dissed as nothing more than a "condom filled with abattoir slurry." Tripe was ( I'm paraphrasing like mad here) a typical convergence of noun and adjective - who else but the British would "invent" a food and then condemn the word into a synonym for claptrap. And describing the delights of eating obscure things such as fox. " What did it taste like?" asked Campbell, " A bit like dog" said Meades. He was also very funny about how certain foods were euphemised - the truth masked to protect the squeamish - look out for "white kidneys" they could be worth avoiding.
And,( I have trouble with this one) you shouldn't, according to Meades eat an animal you don't like, that is you don't like it as a living animal. If you like furry bunnies or cute baby elephants, okay to eat, if you are afraid of snakes or crocodiles - and who the hell in the sane world isn't, not okay to eat. Eating as paying the compliment I guess, a sort of: "You look good enough to eat scenario."
Perhaps best known as looking like a cross between a Blues Brother and a tubby agent from The Matrix, Meades often appears on TV doing angry verbose monologues into camera about the state of British architecture. Often he would be doing quirky things whilst talking like: lying down, riding Penny Farthings, eating ice creams and getting up from a table and dismissively walking off camera. But his true metier is as a restaurant critic and his latest book the alarming sounding Incest and Morris Dancing will definitely be added to my embryonic wish list.