Today’s diatribe is, as ever, about something trivial and unimportant that doesn’t really have any relevance to my daily existence. Nonetheless, it did dominate my thoughts for a whole thirty minutes or so earlier this week.
As with many of my ‘adventures’ this began in a supermarket. I was in the canned foods aisle. It’s not an aisle I frequent often, but I was in need of chickpeas for a curry my other half had instructed me to make. That’s kind of how it works at the moment in my marriage. I’m the cook, because I quite like cooking and I’m moderately good at it, but I have a tendency to eat unhealthy food if left to my own devices, so my other half, who is less inclined to spend time in the kitchen, but who is rather more health conscious, tells me what it is I should be making. It’s quite a good arrangement, I’m healthier and she seems to enjoy my creations. The downside is that I seem to have been lumbered with the washing up. My wife informs me I’m better at that too, and I’m a sucker for a compliment. Or just a sucker full stop.
Anyway I was in the canned foods aisle looking for chickpeas because it’s one scenario where opening a can seems entirely justifiable when compared to the faff involved in cooking dried chickpeas. You can debate the nutritional benefits of the non-canned variety but in comparison to the hamburgers that I’d be eating out of choice, you’d have to agree that canned chickpeas are quite a bit healthier.
Anyway, there I was, in the canned food aisle, when two people walked past. Later on a third party would appear who would confirm that the original two people were grandmother and grandson. The grandson was fully grown and I’d estimate he was somewhere between sixteen and nineteen years old. And living independently for the first time. And the grandmother (and the third party who later turned up and was apparently his mother) were stocking up his cupboards for him.
And though I only caught a snippet of the conversation, it bothered me for a good half an hour.
This was the snippet:
Grandmother: Do you like soup?
Grandmother : Because I do worry about your diet boy…
Now I’m not being judgmental about the fact that the grandmother thinks that canned soup is a healthy alternative to whatever the grandson is eating. When I first moved out of my parent’s abode and struck out on my own, I lived on canned goods an awful lot. I lived on them because they were cheap and easy to prepare. I can cook now but eighteen years ago I was a disaster in the kitchen. And I had no money. I lived on canned soup and the like for six months, and aside from being the thinnest (borderline emaciated by my standards) I have ever been in my life, I wasn’t notably unhealthy.
It obviously isn’t the best diet though. Living exclusively on canned goods, even chickpeas, is not recommended by many nutritionists that I’m aware of. But as I say, I’m not judging the grandmother for her belief that canned soup is a healthy alternative to her grandson’s current diet, because she might well be correct.
But I am judging her choice of question. Specifically this question:
“Do you like soup?”
It’s no wonder that grandson couldn’t come up with an answer.
How do you answer that question?
Certainly not with a yes or no answer.
Imagine, if you will, a scenario where I am on trial (obviously for a crime I didn’t commit) and I’m being questioned by the prosecution.
Prosecution: Mr Proclaims, do you like soup?
Me: You know that Proclaims isn’t actually my surname don’t you?
Prosecution: Just answer the question Mr Proclaims. Do you like soup?
Prosecution: It’s a simple ‘yes or no’ question Mr Proclaims. Do you like soup?
Me: Well, on balance, I’d probably say yes then.
Prosecution: You do like soup? How interesting… Do you know who else likes soup Mr Proclaims? The murderer! He likes soup. On the night of the murder we know for a fact that the murderer ate a bowl of tomato soup!
Me: How do you know that? That seems like an oddly specific thing for you to know…
Prosecution: It’s not important how we know. But we do know. And now you reveal that you like soup. Are we supposed to believe that this is a coincidence?
Me: Well it seems like a coincidence to me. And anyway I don’t like tomato soup.
Prosecutuion: Preposterous! How can you claim to like soup and then suggest that you don’t like the best flavour of soup there is?
You see the problem? “Do you like soup?” is a rubbish question. Because surely most people like some flavours of soup but very few people would like all flavours of soup. And that’s ignoring the different textures, the fine distinctive lines between soups and broths or even stews. And that’s before we get started on chowders, bisques, consommés and gumbos. It’s a minefield.
So it’s no wonder that the best response the grandson could come up with was an incoherent grunt.
And now he’s probably got a cupboard full of Heinz Chunky Vegetable Soup that he’s never going to eat.