One day a large parcel arrives on my desk from a food supplier. Inside is a bag of dried lumps that the sender suggests I use to make new, cheap high protein meals.
Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) has jumped into our food chain and the food company wants me to persuade the nation’s children that it is a delicious, cheap substitute for meat, which in the future, we may no longer be able to afford.
‘This is called TVP – it stands for textured vegetable protein.’
I hold out a handful of dried, beige lumps which smell of damp cardboard.
I pass round a pudding bowl filled with larger, softer, beige lumps.
‘I’ve soaked these chunks in water and now we are ready to make a meatless stew.’
Bert as usual, is at the front of the stools round my table.
‘Looks like dried dog turds, miss.’ The class sniggers.
‘Or bits of chopped up dishcloth.’ Bert likes plain food that he can recognize and this TVP does not look plain.
‘Bert and Len. This lesson is learning about vegetarians and we are going to cook something modern for them.’
‘Again!’ Len grumbles.
They shuffle off to cook up carrots and onions in a thick Bisto gravy.
‘Now, class. we’ll stir in the pieces of TVP to make a main dish.’
They pass round the bowl and spoon a pile of the soaked chunks into their saucepans.
I chivvy them along.
‘It’s very clever, this stuff. The soya is extruded, texturised, then cut and dried into chunks. It’s used in school meals in America, and in many of their food products. And now it has arrived here.
Come on class, what shall we call this new stew?’
‘Muck’ says Bert.
‘Brown muck’ adds Len.
They don’t want to eat it or take it home, and shuffle out of the room clutching their out of date textbooks with the task of answering the impossible questions for homework.