Sidey’s weekend theme is “revenge”…
She was his girl, and she done him wrong.
There were only two things wrong with the above sentence – (a) she wasn’t his girl, and (b) she hadn’t done him wrong. She was simply the girl who lived in the flat above who had turned down his invitation to dinner as politely as possible because, as the alphabet again would have it, (a) he wasn’t her type and (b) he wasn’t her type.
Juste de Liebig though, was a Frenchman, filled with flaming passions and steaming loins, and was already miserable through living in cold, damp England. He had taken her refusal as a slap in the face, possibly with a glove. He felt rebuffed, then felt spurned, then felt the need for revenge.
Had he been a Country and Western singer he’d have written a song about her (“her heart was as cold as the depths of the sea/her hair was the colour of buffalo-pee”). Had he been an author he’d have had her as a character who comes to a sad end, as Dickens did with his own ex, Miss Havisham (ok, I may have made that bit up). Had he been an idiot he’d have joined the French Foreign Legion.
But he was a humble chef, a walking oxymoron in fact, and short of poisoning her could think of no suitable outlet for his chagrin. Then one night it came to him. In his restaurant, Une Soupçon de Soup, he would create a truly dreadful dish and name it after her.
It would cost him his Michelin star, but it would be worth it.
Late at night, after guests and staff had departed, he would toil alone in the kitchens. He began with eye of bat and spawn of frog (you’ll find them in Lidl, between the wellington-boots and the hair-dyes). He added hair-dye, and wellington boots. He threw in liquidised liver, caramelised sprouts and some road-kill he scraped up with a spade. He added une soupçon de mud.
He boiled the mixture in a huge pot, fighting off the urge to laugh “mwa-ha-ha-ha!” as he did so, because that way madness lay.
Like Anna Pavlova, Nelly Melba and Lucy Cheeseandonioncrisps before her, Margaret Mitford (no relation to the sisters, she was one of the Macclesfield Mitfords) was to have a dish named after her, the difference being that hers tasted absolutely vile.
He called it Marmit.
It made its debut in his restaurant the following night under the title “dessert surprise”. He hugged himself with delight as guest after guest took a mouthful and spat it out in horror. Eventually a man demanded to see the chef. Juste walked happily to meet him.
“Who invented this?” the man gasped.
Juste was about to say “I did” when the ultimate act of revenge occurred to him. “It was a girl called Margaret Mitford, monsieur,” he said. I must apologise -”
“Apologise? It’s wonderful. Do you know where I can find her?”
The rest is history, or at least one version of it. Marmit was re-named Marmite and went on sale world-wide. Juste had the pleasure of knowing that ninety per cent of the planet despised it, but this was more than outweighed by the fact that ten per cent loved it. And that fact that Margaret, though she never fully understood why, became a multi-millionaire.
Juste joined the Foreign Legion. It’s what he should have done all along.