A new TV show started on RTE this week. Take On the Takeaway is a series in which a top chef competes with a takeaway to make the same dish with healthier ingredients. This is probably as close as the national broadcaster comes to admitting that as far as they are concerned, summer TV should be as cheap as chips.
Sneery-asides aside, food-based challenge shows can be entertaining. However they miss the point when they try to make fast food with freshly cooked natural ingredients.
Ingredients?! Pshewh! When you eat fast food, you don’t want to think about ingredients; in the same way that when you buy new runners you don’t want to think about child labour. It’s one of those moments when we, as a society, like to believe that sometimes good things just… happen.
In any case, to prepare fast food at home misses many of the joys of getting a takeaway. There is that beautiful moment when the takeaway is brought home and placed triumphantly on the table and excitement builds in the household.
A curious form of amnesia may be observed at this point. Some people conveniently forget what they’ve ordered just so they can experience the Christmas morning feeling of surprise as they unwrap the squishy bundles of delight.
“What’s this? Oooh it’s the battered sausage!!” trills someone excitedly.
“There should be a curry sauce in there” There is a flicker of panic as a dream is in danger of being shattered.
“It’s in with the chips” says someone. Happiness is restored. The brown gloop – it’s ingredients include curry and sauce – trembles slightly as it awaits its first dip. Then the bag with the chips is opened.
There is no other brown paper bag on earth quite like the brown paper bag of chips. The bag itself commands respect. Proper chip establishments will provide one which is lined with a white inner bag known in Latin as the chipidermis. This is designed to soak up actual puddles of grease but still allow pleasing damp warmth to seep through to the outside. From the moment that the man in the takeaway puts an extra shovel into the bag that you didn’t even ask for, right to the time the last piece of shrapnel is crunched, it’s hard to find a more satisfying holistic experience than eating chips from a bag.
What is astonishing is that the chip is apparently little over 100 years old. Given how perfectly in tune with human existence it is, why wasn’t it invented sooner? How could any self respecting civilisation have prioritised inventing the wheel above creating a means to deep fry chopped potatoes? And writing should only have been discovered as a way of communicating the price of the chips.
It takes extreme willpower to transport the chips home without pilferage. You won’t tackle the burger while in the car – it’s too complicated and messy, and anyway, They’re going to notice. But it is tempting to reach over with the left hand to take one or two chips. Not too many, just a few from the extra shovel. No one will miss them. Now the steering wheel and gear stick taste of chip. No matter. You’ll be back to lick them at a later stage.
Once home, the chip bags are ripped open and a communal pile can be constructed – the open bags facing each other like circled wagons. At this stage, someone in the group –one with a logical brain who abhors disorder – may at this point intervene. “I’ll get some plates for the chips”. Don’t let them. Resist this veneer of civilisation. As soon as the chips are placed on the pristine white plate, something is lost. It’s like the switching on of the lights at the nightclub. What had looked mysterious and sultry is now just fake tan. No, the chips stay on the brown paper. As the scrabbling gets closer to the finish, some of the last mouthfuls may be up to 30% brown paper. It doesn’t matter – it’s vinegary.
While plates are to be avoided, it is perfectly acceptable to use your own ketchup. I don’t know what brand takeaways use but their ketchup looks like a by product of the petro chemical industry which has been dyed and flavoured with Skittle extract.
Soon the party is in full swing. The Club Orange is cracked open. There’s all sorts of licentious behaviour going on. Battered sausages are inside in burgers. Onion rings are being dipped in garlic mayonnaise, a chip is floating in the curry. It’s an orgy – like pre-war Berlin and the last days of Rome rolled into one.
Next morning, you feel dirty, unsatisfied. Yes, you had a good time but it feels hollow. “Don’t look at me like that”, you tell the porridge. “It’s you I love. Last night meant nothing. It was just a fling. It’s over I swear.”
But you know you’re weak. Before long, you’ll go be back knocking at the takeaway door. Looking for fast love. Don’t take on the takeaway. They always win.