If anyone was wondering where Jenny Morrill will be today, she’ll most likely be at a carvery. With her dad. He bloody loves a carvery. Unlike Jenny, who will be taking deep breaths of preparation before her first forkful.
Far be it from me to generalise, but in my experience, all dads in the history of dads, love the following things:
• Drill bits
• Turning the TV up really loud
• Going for a carvery
My dad is no exception. Whenever it’s a special occasion such as Father’s Day or his birthday, his default suggestion setting is: “Let’s go for a carvery.” Cue the shrivelling of my appetite as the ghosts of carveries past return to haunt my tastebuds before I say: “That would be lovely.”
Let’s relive my memories of every carvery I’ve ever had, since they’ve all stuck together and formed one huge lump of gammon and peas in my mind.
The universal carvery pub to which you arrive is called the Red Lion. In emergencies it can be called The Ship Inn or The Queen’s Head, but there must be a sign up informing customers that it would be called the Red Lion if there wasn’t an identical carvery next door that’s called the Red Lion. The decor is homely and welcoming, as long as your home is full of brass things and photos of steam trains. My dad’s home is exactly like this, so that’s fine.
Your appetite as you walk in is robust, thanks to the fact you haven’t eaten since teatime the day before in preparation. I’ve been to enough carveries now to know that I won’t stand a chance of beating it unless I’m in a state of mild starvation and willing to eat a roll of stamps.
“Stop being such a negative Nancy,” your stomach says to your brain. “Just because every carvery we’ve ever been to has been a bit shit, doesn’t mean this one will be. Stop trying to spoil everything.”
Meanwhile the sign at the bar screams: “ONE CARVERY VISIT PER TICKET”: as if anyone’s going to be trying to scam them for more food.
As you wait in line for the ticket, your eyes fall upon the specials board, and you start thinking about all the other food you could be having. You consider breaking ranks and ordering something from the normal menu, but deep down you know you won’t. Because of the unwritten rule: If a group of you go for a carvery, everyone has a carvery. And any traitors will be shunned and called ‘picky’.
As you shuffle along to the serving section, an angry woman in a hairnet will demand you choose a meat. At a carvery you can have up to three meats; sometimes they are even from different animals. But if you choose more than one meat, the angry woman will tut at you and then give you the burnt bum end of the meat.
She’ll then hand you your plate, which is made of fire. Because this is Britain, no plates are dropped. We all know it’s preferable to endure plate burns over causing a scene.
Sometimes the angry woman will offer you a Yorkshire pudding in exchange for your immortal soul. It’s not worth it. These are not homemade Yorkshire puddings. Not even Aunt Bessie has had a hand in these square inches of microwaveable brown matter.
A tide of human disappointment will sweep you along to the vegetables. Carvery vegetables are all boiled in an industrial vat or a cement mixer until they are grey. Some of the more upmarket pubs will then spray paint the colour back on.
Remember earlier when your brain and your stomach fell out? Well they’re still not speaking, and now they refuse to co-operate in order to let you know that none of it looks that nice. Your plate will soon be piled high with spadefuls of assorted veg.
You can also help yourself to roast potatoes, which have escaped the cement mixer on account of them being potatoes and therefore not real vegetables. Because you are an idiot, you get 12 roasties before realising they could double as rudimentary weapons.
Once back at the table, a competition begins as to who can eat the most food. The only person not taking part in this competition is your dad, who is shovelling down carrots and playing ‘Guess the Meat’ without a care in the world.
This is a test of wits and strategy, as you try to figure out what order to eat your food in order to maintain your life expectancy. For example, a mouthful of cauliflower can help to cancel out the three pints of salt in the mashed potato. The mashed potato, in turn, can be used to give your jaw a break after 20 minutes of chewing beef.
It is not advisable to eat all your meat in one sitting, since you will be given a yard of meat. Instead you might want to save half of it in your handbag ‘for later’. This is why my handbag now smells of gammon.
The unwitting winner of the competition is your dad, who has cleared his plate. The losers can then admit defeat by saying, “Ooh that was lovely, but I couldn’t eat another mouthful.” Everyone praises the food, giving your dad licence to suggest you all go back there next time.
No one ever learns, but at least your dad enjoyed it, which I suppose is the point.
Jenny writes for Den of Geek and anywhere else that will listen. To date, the most Trios she has eaten in a row is 20. Her blog is the place to be if you like Bungle and expired food. worldofcrap.co.uk