A Sandwich is just a Sandwich, but a Manwich, that’s a Sunday Meal!


I know a roast dinner is standard fare for Sunday lunch and that to avoid serving lamb, chicken, or beef ribs today is the British equivalent of an American missing church. I also know that in a country seemingly less and less concerned with “family values”, the Sunday Roast is the last bastion of home and hearth. So, it would be a bit stupid for me to insult a great tradition of my host country, but stupid is my middle name!

Roast dinners bore me. It’s not the meat element, or the potato, or the stuffing, carrots, parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy that put me off. It’s the amalgamation of everything on one heaping plate. Each element individually is great, but I go into a bit of sensory overload when I’m presented with so many things mixed together. I try to isolate the elements and just enjoy them individually, but my taste buds are not adequately refined and the whole mess just tastes like a bland soup.

I think it might have something to do with life experience. To me a roast dinner is something for special occasions. Several dishes prepared sometimes a week in advance all in preparation for a big meal served once or twice a year. The dishes are then placed in the centre of the table and everybody takes what they like, regrets the consumption afterward, but doesn’t mind feeling bloated and horrible because the next event won’t be for another 364 days.

Maybe it’s just the way Freyas family serves the meal. Food is plated up in the kitchen and presented restaurant style to those seated around the table. I’m a huge fan of the buffet and the culinary autonomy represented by this style of dining, so having portions dictated to me is always galling. I’m not as terrible a son-in-law as I may sound though. I do understand that the method used for serving up the in-laws is based on a distinct lack of space and an undersized dining table (antique family heirloom or not, too small for serving five people).

Fortunately, roast dinners have fallen by the wayside with us for the most part. If we do have one, it’s on an occasional Saturday or a holiday. I think secretly my extended family is just as happy with this arrangement as I am. This is in no small part thanks to Freya opening their eyes about the possibilities that food can offer. They are now asking for Jerked Pork for the next meal. These are people who talk about doodlebugs flying over during the war asking for Jerked Pork!

So, what does the husband of a food enthusiast eat on a Sunday when everybody else is having the “special meal of the week”? Since I find myself eating poached sea-bass or prawn tostada Monday-Friday while my neighbours are eating Chicken Tonight and McCain’s oven chips I use Sundays to eat pizza, hamburgers, burritos or maybe even a hamburger burrito pizza (don’t ask!). Collectively, Freya and I eat so much crap on a Sunday that it’s amazing either of us is even alive on Monday morning. And yet, we don’t seem to be suffering any ill effects. (Were my legs this oedematous last week? I don’t remember that vein on your neck being so prominent before.)

I have today planned out. I went to bed thinking about it last night. I started the day with a bowl of cornflakes. I considered a breakfast burrito, but changed my mind because I was still too tired to bother. Freya had tea and biscuits. For lunch I’m going to crack open a two year old can of Manwich. For those of you unfamiliar with Manwich, it’s a tomato sauce with onions, peppers, and seasoning. It’s mixed into browned beef mince and served on hamburger buns, usually with a slice of processed cheese on top. It’s very 1950’s, not very nutritious, but the perfect vehicle to transport me back to my childhood. For school kids in the 70’s this was a staple in the cafeteria. So, I bought a huge can of it on a trip to the US a few years back and I’ve decided finally to eat it. I know I’ll be sad when it’s gone, but I’ll enjoy eating it today. Freya won’t touch it, but then it’s not evocative to her. She’ll have fish fingers, chips and beans I bet.

It’s meals like this that experienced food writers don’t tell their readers about. Food writing is about maintaining an illusion of sophistication. Food writing is about presenting a unified front against Pot Noodles and cheese doodles. Unfortunately, despite the 3000 cookbooks on the shelf telling me that every meal should be made from scratch from ingredients I’ve picked from my own garden just this morning, despite television chefs rightfully trying to ensure that school dinners be healthier, despite politicians cynically taxing foods that make us fat to pay for health care for the obese (while simultaneously denying specific procedures such as hip replacement for the overweight), despite my own tirades against processed foods on this blog in the past, my taste-buds still crave garbage on a Sunday.

I want Manwich for the same reason that everybody else wants a roast dinner, tradition and nostalgia. To me these things share equally with taste in our enjoyment of food. That’s why people say, “just like mom used to make.” That’s why people eat foods that remind them of childhood. That’s why you’ll never stop people eating roast dinners and why I’ll always get a slice of Rocky Rococo pizza when I visit home. This is probably due to our instinct for genetic survival; an innate desire to remain close to those who share our DNA, protect the pack, and ensure mutual longevity. Food was certainly the first concern of our primitive ancestors and it’s not surprising that it still brings the pack together. Enjoy your meal!

9 comments:

Kathryn said...

Well said, Paul! I loved this post. I can't even begin to agree about roast dinners, but that's because I grew up with them rather than because of their instrinsic taste properties. I know when I'm tired or grumpy, I want food from my childhood. (Oh and I can't eat roast dinner restaurant style, because my preferences are odd. I serve myself lots of parsnips, gravy, stuffing and carrot...)
I love the idea of Sunday as eat-what-you-want day.
I also like how you're not maintaining an illusion of living on gourmet feasts and nothing more; more people should confess like this.

Thanks for a great post.

Kathryn

sher said...

Great post!!! I know all about a Manwich!!! Yumm! That's a great picture too.

Freya said...

Kathryn,
Eating food from childhood has the same effect as rubbing the back of your head when you're stressed or uneasy. It reminds you of the days before your problems weren't any bigger than a tangled kite string or a skinned knee.
The thing I forgot to add to my post was that it's for this reason precisely that parents need to make healthy choices for their kids as these habits will be carried over to adulthood.
Sher,
As you can see from the new picture I've added, I didn't eat mine the sloppy joe way. I like to use a fork. I also caved in to pressure at home and added a healthy salad to the side. Well, apart from the reservoir of buttermilk ranch dressing hidden from public view.
By the way, your red onion soup post made me very hungry. Good thing I was full!

Chellie said...

Yay Manwich!! Sometimes I heed its siren song, complete with processed cheese slices, and I'm not ashamed. :D

Joyce said...

what a fun posting...you've a fine way with words, young man even if I'd be hard pressed to go the manwich route. The image bears a close resemblance to the Japonica rice I posted the other day! Who could tell the difference by looking? Thanks for the lift!

Chris said...

What a great post! I have just come across your blog and can't wait to come back. I agree with Joyce - your writing is wonderful to read. (And... thanks for leaving a comment on my blog!)

Paul said...

ummm, that salad is contaminating your Manwich.

That looks pretty good. I haven't had Manwich/sloppy joes in a while. Though you need to add some potato chips (fine, "crisps") on top of that.

Freya said...

Okay, I have to apologise for the centrally justified post. I made a small change this morning and blogger decided to do this to my whole post. I have been trying to fix it, but I'm at work and have to build a scale model of the HMS Victory that my boss has been on my case about. This is because he's tired of me beating him at Warcraft 2.
Chellie,
It was a bit sweeter than I remembered and I ended up using smoked bavarian cheese, but it was satisfying.
Joyce,
Thanks for the praise! You'd never know I was illiterate. I approach writing in the "if a thousand monkeys were seated at a 1000 typewriters" style. Next Sunday I won't be having a Manwich. Maybe a BLT and some hashbrowns!
Chris,
Thanks for stopping by. Remember though that this is my wife's blog and that she does the hard work, writes most of the posts, and puts up with me as well. The last being the worst.
Paul,
I had potato chips for lunch so I thought that would have been a bit much, but I did want the picture to have that picnic in the park feel. I always liked to take the burger bun and fill it with the really buttery corn that was standard fare at barbeques when I was a kid. Corn, and a dog named Thundarr who liked beer.
-Paul

tammy said...

Boy, do I love Sloppy Joes. Meatloaf, too. It's the American way!