Thinking inside the Box

Although I like to cook (and love to eat) I’m reaching that stage of life when neck-loaded napkins are more important than knowledge about the right order of cutlery, or which way the Port should go. (The answer to that last one, by the way, is ‘down’).

I’ve always been one of those blokes whose space at table in a restaurant seems mysteriously to have more crumbs, wine stains, butter-marks and gravy blobs than anyone else’s. Waiters have traditionally approached my between-courses couvert with the sort of equipment one normally associates with bashing old cars into very small cubes.

I used to put this down to my lust for life; but as you get older, defensiveness reduces: I now accept that it’s because I’m both a greedy and messy eater. I have to, because an enthusiasm for food and drink has begun to collide with a growing degree of consumption incompetence.

Do you ever find that, as you get up from a chair or change direction suddenly, one or other of your feet inexplicably kicks something? I mean, like the edge of a rug, a table leg, dogs, steps leading from one level to another, doors and so forth? I do – and unfortunately, it’s spreading to my hands. They sweep to ram home a debating point, and break drinks decanters given to my wife’s many-times great grandfather in 1640. But chiefly, they fork, cut, reach and pick in a manner designed to transfer the plate’s contents to any item of my clothing within range. At the end of the day now, my teeshirts look like a particularly energetic Jackson Pollock. You know, something from his middle period, when the Pollock brush was still working at full-flick.

Soups are especially difficult, but I’m adding to the list of splatter-foods with every month that passes. Anyone dining with me should take note: spaghetti bolognaise may require them to wear welding glasses. Even a medium-rare steak can become a weapon of mess production if I’m the forkmeister.

When it comes to cooking action, in recent years I’ve taken to using a proper, grown-up, fully-fledged chef’s pinny. But while this stops me looking like I’ve been pebble-dashed by the time the food is served up, there is no napkin yet invented that can keep me fleck-free during the repast.

There must be money in this somewhere. As an ex-adman, my first thought is that I should hire myself out to one or other of the detergent companies as A Difficult Case. I feel a long-running campaign coming on: ‘Disgustain takes on those slobs other washing powders can’t tackle.’

In the meantime, I’m still out there looking for stuff to interest equally dissolute Sloggers. So let me explain in a few lines why wine boxes as we know them may soon be a thing of the past.

For someone as physically inept as me, the wine box has always presented a major problem. Not only do you have to read the instructions, but getting at the stuff inside involves pressing a serrated circle that never serrates in the advertised fashion. I push it, and it feels like 30% of the planet just imploded. I pull out the plonker, and no matter what I do, the little bastard will not sit properly: part of the serrated area is missing, and the cardboard outer won’t house the dispenser without said tap adopting a flaccid pose suggesting it’s lost interest in the whole idea.

Once in service, your standard wine box dispenses wine east to west as often as the preferred north to south. What’s more, as the bag inside the box empties, you have to hold the whole apparatus somewhere east by north east a yard above your head to release any liquid. Getting at the last ten per cent involves demolishing the box completely.

But nil desperandum, because help is at hand. French mass-market brand Club des Sommeliers three years ago had a lateral thought: ditch the box. I haven’t seen evidence of the concept penetrating the British Isles yet, but it’s here in France bigtime. The CdS chaps have come up with an opaque bag that means 0% need for a cardboard outer. Not only does this mean (I assume) they can cut costs, but the liquid that bursts forth with minimal effort from these sacs a vins is really not half bad. So far I’ve tried a Pays D’Oc Merlot, and Mrs Slog has had a go at the Cotes de Gascogne white. Neither of us are complaining. Especially as the price isn’t half bad.

Snooth wines has the full selection. Unfortunately, they’re based in the States…. so thus likely to be expensive. The best thing I can suggest is heavy lobbying of Majestic et al to ensure that this fab idea is destroying British livers before too long.