Tinman’s weekly camera-less go at the WordPress Photo Challenge…
Catherine McAroon, known to foodies worldwide as Deli Kate, is the founder of cuisine as we know it today.
Though beautiful, flame-haired, curvy and brilliant, Kate did not have everything in life. Her family were too poor to pay for her to study Chemistry at the University of Dundee, but she used her knowledge of the subject to create a home-made dish that she called the Pot Noodle. This was a brimstone-flavoured mess with the nutritional value of tiling-grout and an afterlife of a thousand years, the culinary equivalent of having a gnome with a fishing-rod in your garden. Kate, though, knew a target market when she saw one. She’d set up a small stall on the campus at lunchtimes, and the students lapped it up. Within two months she had the fees paid.
She had planned a career in pharmaceuticals, but her life changed during her final year at the university. During an attempt to fight bacteria with toothpaste (many people, mostly toothpaste manufacturers, claim to have already done this, but don’t mind them, they haven’t) the Bunsen burner exploded, the contents hit Kate’s face like a custard pie hitting a clown’s, and when she licked her lips she discovered that she had invented yogurt. Toothpaste-flavoured yogurt, admittedly, but she soon learned to add banana or strawberries to improve the product.
She sold the patent for a spectacular amount of money and decided that someone else could cure cancer, the food industry was for her.
She married a fellow student in 1987 and briefly became Mrs Beeton (the marriage didn’t last, Mr Beeton was unable to cope with her voracious appetites), and under this name she wrote a book with serious, family-friendly recipes of solid reliable stodge.
The book sold well, but was not exactly a best-seller. She then hit upon a brilliant marketing plan. On the cover of her next book, Fancy a Nibble? was a photo of her sucking one finger and wearing a nightdress that was mostly cleavage. It sold fifteen million copies, including twenty-two to women who were actually interested in cooking.
As time went by she realised the real truth about food – not that the presentation is everything, but that the name is. A tomato will sell for sixty cents. Call it a sun-dried tomato (preferably after it has been wettened by rain-forest rain) and you can sell it for two euro. Call a lettuce rocket-lettuce, even if it has as much to do with rockets as Maltesers do to Malta, and you can charge twice the price. Call a hot-dog-roll a ciabatta and people will sell their granny to get one, although this will raise only enough money for a deposit.
She started a string of shops called delicattessens which specialised in these foods and the money just poured in. Then she had an even better idea.
In her books she began to mention ingredients which simply didn’t exist, and then invented them. A reference to “hummus”, a quick entry written onto Wikipedia and a night spent with some leaf-mould and a blender, and suddenly the world could not get enough of it. Couscous, cumin and celeriac all followed. She invented mayo (deep-heat mixed with paint), purely so people could shout “hold the mayo” in New York delis. She invented virgin olive oil, presumably olive oil that had never got off with anyone, and then extra virgin olive oil, which had never even thought about it. She invented cole-slaw, blending the bits scraped off vegetables into a jar of anti-wrinkle-cream.
She is a multi-multi millionairess now, living in a huge mansion in Inverness from which once a year she broadcasts a six-part series of recipes while wearing a bikini-top and sweat-pants.
And on Saturday nights she puts on dark glasses and a wig, and goes out for a haggis and a deep-fried Mars Bar.
She’s still a Scots girl, after all.