I've seen it all now - the local supermarket is selling bags of gravy, and they cost £2.99 each. Yes, that's right, plastic pouches of ready-made gravy, priced at nearly three pounds, which is enough to buy a whole meal. There is a choice of red wine gravy flavoured with rosemary, white wine gravy flavoured with tarragon and one or two more. What are you going to pour it on? Surely if you've got the time to roast a joint of meat, you've got the time to make gravy? Or are people going to just slurp it out of the packet?
I still haven't got over seeing pots of ready-made porridge being sold for about a pound each in supermarkets and at posh continental cafés. People must be bonkers to buy ready-made porridge and pay that ridiculous price for it. All you do is add oats to hot water or milk and cook it for a few minutes. That really is all there is to it. Then there are the sad packets of ready-made pancakes, yes, ready-made pancakes, sold cold and clammy in a plastic box, which you are meant to take home and warm up in the microwave. What tosser would do that? I have even seen shops selling ready-cooked omelettes. Yes, melancholy cold slabs of omelette made in a factory somewhere and being sold in a supermarket so that someone can chew on them stale and miss out on the pleasure of making one fresh and bubbly in its butter, and sliding it from pan to plate. That is of course to miss out on the essential pleasure of an omelette.
We are getting lazier and lazier. Nowadays we watch more and more cookery programmes and we have better equipped and better designed kitchens than any previous generation, yet we eat ready meals in millions, and seem less able to cook than ever before. The shops are full of shelves of ready-made tomato sauces, that work out about three times as expensive (at least) as a tomato sauce you make yourself with the simplest of ingredients. There are acres of cook-in sauces that quite honestly swindle people who have never bothered to find out what is in a sauce. As for gravy, for God's sake, here is the recipe once and for all: pour the meat juices and fat out of the roasting pan into a small saucepan, and using a wooden spoon stir enough flour into it to form a smooth paste. It should turn light brown but not burn. Now slowly start adding a liquid - if you want red wine gravy add half a glass of red wine, a little at a time, and let it cook gently over a very low heat. For £1.99 you can buy a small 25cl bottle of red wine, in the same supermarket where they sell pouches of gravy. Add about a glass of hot water a little at a time and stir gently until your gravy thickens. If the gravy goes lumpy at any point, use a wire whisk to de-lump it. Drop in a sprig of rosemary and any other seasonings you want. Then take it off the stove, put a lid on it and keep it very hot for another ten minutes (on the top of an Aga is ideal), stirring from time to time. You now have one and half glasses of wine left to quaff and you have change out of the £2.99 you would have spent on buying the gravy ready-made.