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August 2001 - Vegetable Questions

Well, here we are at the beginning of August, with Christmas just around the corner again. Soon the evenings will be drawing in, and all those millions of extra winter readers will be pouring onto the Web to catch a taste of my wonderful and witty writings.

In the meantime, however, I have to keep my viewing figures in peak trim until they all arrive.

So, with what, dear readers, shall I enthral you all with in this edition of Comment? That's the question I've been asking myself over the last month.

One thing I have noticed of late, is that a couple of you have taken to the habit of not reading right to the end. It's for that reason that I think this had better be one of those editions where the cat stays firmly in the bag until the last paragraph.

Up until the end, I shall ramble as per usual. Indeed, I may still be rambling when I get to the end, but you'll just have to wait, and find out as this month's story slowly unfolds.

Aren't beans funny things! No, it's all right, I haven't gone completely mad. It's just that I was doing whatever it is you do to broad beans on Sunday, when the thought struck me.

Anyway, what is it that you do to broad beans? There must be a proper technical description of the operation. Is it de-podding or something? Anyway, whatever it is that you call it, I had the dubious honour of doing it.

While I was busy discarding the pods of the broad beans, she was equally busy slicing the runner beans up into little strips to be cooked in their entire, total completeness.

Why is it that runner beans get cooked complete, while the poor old broads have their shells thrown in the bin and we only cook the pips?

It just seemed odd to me that this is the way we go about things. I mean, they're all beans aren't they? Why should one rule apply to runners and another to broads? Now I bet you hadn't ever thought about that question had you?

Now, this is the purpose of Nick Harvey's Comment you see. The plan is to widen your minds by bringing up questions on which you can ponder, which would never have come to your attention if I hadn't had the brilliant idea of raising them in the first place.

I'd hate to think how many questions there are in the world, but as soon as I know, I'll ask them.

Quite some time ago now, I raised the question of free range egg signs.

That one's still bubbling around, with more than a few regular devotees out there sign spotting. Recent information has proved that I had a significant effect on raising the consciousness of the country to farm signs with that particular piece of masterful prose.

At least, I'm going to continue to claim all the credit, even if MAFF, DEFRA, or whatever this week's stupid letters for the name of the government department are, seem to think it was those big, red Foot and Mouth notices that got all the attention, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with ME!

So anyway, back at the plot, now I want you all to go out there, to investigate beans.

You won't? But why not? When I thought of it, I thought it was an excellent question with which to stretch the jolly old brainbox. Must confess I spent most of Sunday afternoon pondering the subject of beans myself.

Pondering to the point of being told off for being preoccupied by the subject. It wasn't till after tea and they'd been (or is it bean?) eaten that I stopped pondering.

We ate them with chicken. That's chicken with the giblets removed. Now, there you are you see, you take the insides out of the beans and cook them, while you take the insides out of the chicken and cook the shell.

Silly, isn't it? But, after all, there's no rhyme or reason to cookery in any case, not in my opinion anyway.

It's far easier on the odd days when I'm on my own. At least there's no problem deciding whether to discard the boil-in-the-bag bag or its contents.

There's another question to stretch your minds. Why does the bag only burst during the boiling when you're absolutely starved and it was the only one in the freezer?

And if the instructions say boil for fifteen minutes, then add the rice, then boil for a further ten minutes; why doesn't the bag burst till twenty-three minutes into the whole operation?

I mean, have you ever tried very weak chilli-con-carne flavoured soup in a cup, with rice floating in it instead of croutons? It's not very pleasant, I can tell you!

And why are chilli beans called such a damn stupid name when they're so flaming hot? There's another culinary question to ponder while you're straining the mixture through a tea-towel to thicken it up a bit.

Cabbages and sprouts are totally confusing to the amateur chef like me as well. I mean, you always unwrap the cabbage before you cook it don't you?

You go to all the trouble to pull all the leaves off the poor little cabbage and throw them in the pot one at a time.

But not when it comes to cooking the sprouts. They go in whole without having their leaves pulled off. Just imagine the Martian chef looking down on us from his space ship, laughing at the silly things we do.

And, more to the point, just think how much quicker the sprouts would be cooked if you put all the leaves in individually. Now there's an energy saving idea, if ever I had one!

There you are you see, not only am I thought provoking, but I'm green as well. A bit like all the beans really, after all they're green aren't they?

Which brings me to probably the biggest question to be posed in this edition. When you see the words "green beans" on the menu in a restaurant, to which beans are they referring?

Nearly all beans start their lives green, so which green beans are the green beans to which they refer? It's no use asking me, I'm still sitting here, trying to work out why the peas far are more expensive if you have them in their shells.

But peas are a totally different question, to be left alone until a later edition when all my winter readers have arrived and can send in informed and reasoned answers.

If we got bogged down with the pea problem in this edition, I'd never have time to tell you about the subject I've chosen to enthral you with in this edition of this load of old nonsense.

And I can't help thinking that if I never got round to letting you in on the carefully guarded secret of the subject of this edition, you would probably never forgive me; and might not read the next one.

So, I suppose I'd better come clean and let you in on it soon, otherwise I'll be without my loyal and devoted readers until the nights start to draw in a little more.

Deciding the subject for this time round was quite a difficult task. Mind you, with my smaller than average brain, that's the case on most occasions so it's not really anything unusual.

After an enormous amount of thought, interrupted on the odd occasion by removing the insides from miscellaneous vegetables, I came up with the ideal subject.

The subject to which I refer has to be the ultimate question. The question of whether anyone will bother to ask what this month's subject was, or whether they just don't care enough to ask?

So that must be about it for this time round then. I hope you've all enjoyed it and will come back for more at the beginning of September.

In the meantime, it's back to the kitchen for me. Right, I'm off, where's me potato peeler?

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