The sauce of all our troubles…

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THERE was a woman on the radio who had the sauce to defend the indefensible. She was the PR speaking nonsense person for Mars Foods, makers of Dolmio pasta sauces.

I like this story, even if it did originally splatter itself over the easily outraged pages of the Daily Mail. This was the one, you will recall, when the producers said that you should only eat their pasta sauces once a week because of their high salt, sugar or fat content.

In that moment, as the woman bull-shat her way through the routine required of her, I thought two things. One: that PR business must be harder than it looks, having to spout such shameless, tin-headed nonsense. Two: a tin of tomatoes, an onion, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper, a splash of olive oil, maybe a shake of dried herbs – that’s all you need.

Pasta sauce couldn’t be easier. If you have a freezer you can make a vat of the stuff and portion it up for future use. For a while we used to buy a Sainsbury’s Arrabbiata sauce. It wasn’t bad and it was easy.

But really the answer is to shun bought sauces. They contain all sorts of stuff that needn’t be there. And a relatively small amount of effort will produce a vat of something a hundred times tastier and healthier.

I guess saying things like this doesn’t make you popular with people who either don’t like to cook or lack the time. And, yes, a jar is easy –but when even the makers tell you to eat their product only once a week, you have to wonder at the corporate insanity of food production.

We make virtually all of our own food because that’s the way we are. Other people prefer not to because that’s the way they are. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way – although, saying that, I couldn’t live off bought food and I think it’s a shame more people don’t cook.

There is no need to ascend to the heights of Masterchef, just make something wholesome and straightforward. I do love that show, by the way, and often watch while eating something far more mundane. But at least it’s homemade mundane.

The pasta sauce debacle stands as a double reminder for me. Once again, here is proof that the food industry so often tries to sell you something bad that’s been primped up by the adverts (Dolmio goes for the homely Italian family, not the salt-stricken, fat-loaded, sugar-addled dolt who eats a jar a day).

And then the other thing was more personal. As I heard the no doubt highly paid PR woman dodging and weaving between the absurdities of her company’s position, I saw how useless I would be at some of those PR jobs I occasionally apply for.

A lifetime in journalism leaves you permanently sceptical in some senses, facing the world with a questioning frown. Or at the very least wondering what lie is being told, what trick is being pulled.

Oh, I can still be as naïve as the next person on occasions, but somewhere beneath the surface a nagging pimple of suspicion throbs away.

As for bought pasta sauces, here’s the clincher: they’re just not all that nice, and are so toxic even their makers warn against having them too often. Next they will be telling us that chocolate bars are full of sugar and fat as well.

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