Douglas Adams started it, producing the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything, without working out what the question actually was. So I suppose I’m in good company here.
But let’s go back a bit. Who remembers when the ‘must have’ starter was Prawn Cocktail; and Chicken Kiev was the staple of bar menus? Then there was the ‘chicken in a basket’ craze. I remember it as a kid, Mum and Dad would take us for a meal somewhere and your chicken and chips (and probably peas) would come in a faux wicker basket lined with glorified kitchen towel. I might be a victim of false memory syndrome here but I’m sure my Mother bought four of these plastic baskets and we even used them at home.
Who would ever have thought that eating out of fancy Tupperware would become fashionable? Are trenchers going to make a comeback next? Made fashionable by Virgil in his Aeneid they’re ‘plates’ made of a type of bread. The gravy soaked into them and you could eat them after if you wanted. See
http://www.fraxinus.com/cookbook/sides/trenchers.html for a recipe.
But back to our Prawn Cocktail and Chicken Kiev; now they’re so unfashionable you can probably only buy them as supermarket ready-meals. And when was the last time you saw chicken in a basket?
But hang on a minute. What about the people who liked prawn cocktail? Now they’re officially ‘Naff’ are these folk reduced to eating them in the secrecy of their own homes with the blinds down? Eating in fear lest they be mocked unmercifully by their more stylish neighbours? Fashion is bad enough in clothing.
Admittedly I’ve managed to avoid that; my sole concession to the fashion industry was buying two Ben Sherman shirts when I was sixteen (with ties to match which may come as a surprise to some who know me). Since I abandoned the path of chic, I’ve tended to stick to white shirt with tie for the rare formal occasion. (The black tie for funerals, the other tie for a wedding)
For normal use I just wear what I now discover are called polo shirts. They’re good because the soft collar serves the true function of all collars; it stops the jacket or jumper worn over it chafing your neck.
But if fashion moves on, should I, like the lovers of Prawn Cocktail or chicken in the basket, abandon what I genuinely like? And why? To join a herd of people who are so lacking in self belief they have to dress or eat like everyone else to prove to themselves they matter. People who are so insecure in their own identity that they feel threatened if someone ‘breaks the rules’ and doesn’t seem to care.
There’s phrase of CS Lewis’s in the Screwtape Letters that always stuck with me.
“You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the “best” people, the “right” food, the “important” books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.”
One thing I have learned over the years is that frankly, you might as well eat the food you like, wear the clothes you’re comfortable with, read the books you enjoy and listen to the music you want. Other people might not like your choice, but the only person you have to face in the shaving mirror (or whatever the female equivalent is) is you.