Author Archives: Joshua Seigal


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avuncular or what?

I have a fair few uncles. My mum has three brothers – Ian, Neil and Richard. And my dad has two sisters, both of whom have husbands*. Which makes five uncles.

Or six, if you count Ben.

Ben looks like a nice, avuncular bloke, albeit with the wrong amount of melanin to conceivably be my uncle in any genetic sense. I guess he could be my uncle by marriage, or adoption. But he isn’t. I’ve never even met him. Hell, I’m not even sure if he exists.

All I know is that Uncle Ben, or some entity purporting to operate on his behalf, makes a decent packet of parboiled, microwaveable rice.

Making rice from scratch, you see, is a bit of a ball ache. Obviously I have never made it from scratch from scratch, in the sense of going to the paddy fields and husking it myself; I mean that actually going to the trouble of boiling rice oneself isn’t much fun. For starters, it takes absolutely ages. And it leaves a vaguely repulsive sticky white scum in the pan. And if you want all peas and sweetcorn and stuff in it, you have to PUT THEM IN YOURSELF! The indignity.

Unless you have Uncy-B to do it all for you, that is.

Now I’m not claiming that Uncle Ben’s Golden Vegetable rice is a great dish. It tastes like what it is – rice with vegetables. It’s not exactly ‘golden’ – more a sort of urinous yellowy colour – and it’s not especially flavoursome. A quick interweb search reveals that the dish actually has only a very modest number of additives, although one of the ingredients is genuinely listed as ‘a bit of UNCLE BEN’S® know-how’ which, on some less-than-charitable interpretations, sounds vaguely ominous and perhaps even euphemistic. It really does seem to be almost as healthy as if you’d knocked the dish up yourself, it’s just that Uncy-B has gone to the trouble of doing it for you.

Uncle Ben’s Golden Vegetable Rice is, in short, comfort in a packet. It’s not going to set the world alight, but frankly, if you are expecting macrocosmic pyrotechnics from a packet of rice, you’d best take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. It does it’s job. It’s adequate. It’s a 2:1 from a Russell Group university.

Uncle Ben’s Golden Vegetable Rice: 7/10

*or ex-husbands. Let’s not go there.





just say no

Do you want to hear the most depressing joke in the world? Here goes: what do you get if you cross a really shit pie with an undercooked, anaemic cheese omelette?

A quiche, that’s what.

If you are an elderly woman looking for an inexpensive yet vaguely ‘sophisticated’ item of food to take to the vicar’s coffee morning down the village hall, then you just about might have an excuse for indulging in this soggy, tasteless abomination.

Or perhaps you actually enjoy the texture of mashed-up jellied eyeball encased in reconstituted sawdust.

If neither of the above applies to you, then what in God’s name are you doing? Put that bloody thing back on the shelf and get some proper food.

Be on the lookout: as the festive season approaches, it is probable that you will find yourself in a situation where kids are doing quiche. You may think it looks big and clever, but it isn’t. If you want pastry, have a pastry. If you want cheese then have some cheese. If you want some bacon then have some bacon.

Quiche? You’re better than that..



I say we’re ‘up for it’; what I really mean is that I sat in my underpants at 4pm on a Sunday and spent about 15 minutes filling in an application form. We are like that kid in school who was delighted to have his crappy poem published in an anthology in which literally every other kid is published too.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is this: please vote for us, using this link: It takes about 8 seconds to cast your vote, and would really mean a lot to us here at the AFB offices (i.e. bedrooms). Hell, you can even get your friends to vote too.

If you are broadly supportive of what we do; if you have ever chuckled or smirked in agreement at one of our essays, then as I said – a votey mcvoteface would be hugely appreciated.

Peace and porridge

Josh and Gary



mmm, cardboard

I love meat. I don’t eat it anymore, because it comes from dead animals, but that is not to say it doesn’t taste nice. It is one of the mournful actualities of human existence that all the most enjoyable things are laden with immorality. Except masturbation. I fail to see how such an act can be considered immoral; it’s not like the baby-juice runs out or anything. And it’s not like, in the normal course of things, anybody is harmed by it. It is the quintessential ‘free lunch’. (Not literally, of course.)

Now, it’s been five years since carcass has passed my lips, with the exception of a much anticipated but ultimately somewhat underwhelming salt beef sandwich ‘cheat’ meal in New York at the tail end of 2015. Nonetheless, my memories are such that I am imbued with a degree of authority regarding what follows. And even if I had no such authority, so what? We live in a post-truth age, capeesh?

The subject of today’s lecture concerns turkey, and we’ll get to it in due course my pretty ones. But first I want to talk about football. Football fans can be a very witty bunch. One of my favourite chants occurs using the schema, “[referring to x] you’re just a shit y”, where x is deemed to be similar to but ultimately less good than y. An example: Carlos Tevez and Diego Maradona are both Argentinian, but the latter was much better than the former, leading fans of whichever team Tevez was playing against to chant “you’re just a shit Maradona.” Oh, the hilarity! My favourite example was when Spurs fans chanted at Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, “you’re just a sh*t Peter Schmeichel’, Peter being Kasper’s dad and a superior goalkeeper.

Back to the turkey, my friends, back to the turkey. (A phrase no immigrant wants to hear. Too far?) Turkey is just sh*t chicken. There, I’ve said it. It tastes like chicken, but is just drier and less tasty. If it wasn’t for its hallowed position at the centre of tradition, no one would ever voluntarily choose it. It requires slathering* in sauce before attaining a palatable level of moisture, and comes with so many trimmings and accoutrements that one is naturally led, with suspicion, to ask: just what is it trying to hide? A complete lack of tastiness, that’s what. It’s like when a munter cakes herself in make-up or swaddles himself in designer clothes.

I think the world would be a happier place if we did away with this turkey bollocks and just ate chicken instead. Good, old-fashioned chicken. Chicken, chicken, chicken. Seriously, man, that’s the answer: chicken. Chick chick chick chickchicken, lay a little egg for me. Think about it: would there still be wars if we ate chicken instead of turkey? Wait! Where are you taking me? Let me go! I’m NAPOLEON goddammit.

Anyway, to sum up this lecture: chicken > turkey.

Sod it all, I’ll have the nut roast.

*one of my favourite words



serves 5-6?! Serves 1 more like! (If that 1 is me)

The quest for genuinely meaty meat-substitutes is, you might think, a largely futile endeavour. Quorn steak? About as steak-like as a bathroom sponge. And veggie bacon rashers bare about as much resemblance to the real thing as Tony Blair bares to socialism. (Have I used this simile before? I’m pretty sure I have but I can’t be bothered to look through the hallowed annals of AFB.)

This is a shame as, once liberated from an inevitably unfavourable comparison with their tasty yet immoral cousins, meat-substitutes are often pretty decent on their own terms. How much more tasty, for example, would Linda McCartney sausages be if they were marketed not as sausages (with all the images of unattainably yummy pig eyeballs and anus thus connoted) but simply as, I dunno, ‘mashed vegetable cylinders’ or something. It would lower our culinary expectations, and thus enable us to appreciate the fairly pleasant taste on its own merits.

With this in mind, my expectations upon purchasing a bag of frozen Quorn ‘chicken nuggets’ was reasonably, but not unrealistically, high. I anticipated a perfectly serviceable evening meal, but was very far from expecting McDonald’s-esque levels of gustatory ecstasy. I was ready to give the whole shebang a solid 6, maybe 6.5, out of 10; a 2:1 in Media Studies; a 3-star review from Broadway Baby.

What transpired far exceeded my humble expectations. The nuggets emerged from the oven crisp, oily and golden. Penetration with a fork* revealed said nuggets to be pleasingly crispy, with a coating that slipped off like lingerie on a wedding night. And here is the fulcrum of the whole discussion: the insides were qualitatively indistinguishable from actual chicken. They were positively fowl. So all in all, what I had was basically a plate of delicious, crispy, unctuous chicken nuggets, but without any dead animal offal. Win win.

Granted, the similarity between Quorn ‘chicken’ nuggets and chicken chicken nuggets might have something to do with the fact that actual chicken nuggets themselves taste somewhat indeterminate. But it doesn’t matter; the discovery of a vegetarian item that tastes actually tastes like what it purports to represent is enough to land Quorn chicken nuggets with a 9.5/10. A First from Oxford. The fucking Perrier Award of food. Booooooom!

*sounds like a death metal band. Penetration With a Fork.



Father, I have a confession.

I have lived thirty years on this earth and up until last week I did not know that watermelon rind was edible. I can’t remember how I happened upon this piece of information, but after discovering it I have been eating the stuff non-stop. Hell, I’ve even been buying watermelon just so I can eat the rind. I munch my way disconsolately through the pink flesh just so I can get to the tough, chewy, vegetal exterior. (I suppose I could chuck the flesh away, but that would make me pretty monstrous.)

It’s not even as though I particularly like it. It doesn’t even really taste like it should be edible – it is slightly rubbery and bitter, with the faint whiff of something you’d pick up and eat in the garden. But hey – I thought it was inedible, and then discovered that you can, in fact, eat it. That, my friends, is reason enough for me to chow down like a mo fo. I even packed some pieces of watermelon rind into a tupperwear container today, and ate it on the District Line. Real men never use tupperwear! Hark at the power of new knowledge!

An analogy, I suppose, is this: no matter how little you have or how shitty your life is, imagine everything you own gets taken away from you, and then given back. You appreciate it all anew. It’s like that with watermelon rind: you spend your whole life effectively being told by your internal monologue that you can’t eat it, and then suddenly you can; those voices in your head were wrong. You are energised, refreshed by the vigour of new information and stimulation for your taste buds.

This general idea can be extended beyond the environs of Cucurbitaceae (the word lovingly cut and pasted from Wikipedia) to encompass life more generally. Your kids won’t eat their vegetables? Tell them that they are inedible, and cannot be consumed. Tell them they are naughty, dangerous, taboo. Then, a few months later, tell them that they are edible after all. Now watch them stuff their faces with broccoli like little hamsters. (Or cry after having enjoyed a month of Twixes and chicken kievs. I dunno. What do you think this is, science?)

A subtle, highly philosophical distinction needs to be made. I am not saying that banning or discouraging something makes someone automatically want it. Firstly, it doesn’t: making love to goats is banned, and I don’t want to do it. Secondly, my affinity for watermelon rind was awakened not upon being told that the stuff was inedible (indeed, I am not sure I was ever explicitly told this) but upon being told that it was, having previously assumed that it wasn’t. Suppose goatular lovemaking were legalised tomorrow: get me to the nearest goat farm!*

*I am not sexually attracted to goats. But sheep on the other hand…**

**I am not sexually attracted to sheep. But llamas? NOW you’re talking…***

***I am not sexually attracted to llamas. Toyota Priuses however? Phew!****

**** I am not sexually attracted to cars.




the absence of any Pret sandwich, yesterday

Lord knows, there’s a lot for the professional cynic such as me to dislike about Prêt sandwiches. The smug way they relentlessly proclaim their own virtue on their packaging; the fact that they are allegedly ‘handmade’ yet look and taste exactly the same in every branch from Little Twiddlington to Wankbridge (who makes these things? Robots?); the fact that their pickle is made out of mashed-up kittens.* But however annoying and inadequate Prêt can be, not having Prêt can be even worse.

Let me explain.

Many a morning I get a Prêt sandwich on my way to work, if you can call what I do ‘work’. The identikit nature of the sandwiches is indeed not conducive to gustatory excitement, but there is a sense in which this very fact suits the monotonous nature of the daily commute: you know where you are with a Prêt sandwich, just like you know where you are with a stultifying office job.* I would even venture to say that I have come to enjoy this aspect of my day: go into Prêt, pick up a sandwich, tell them that no, I don’t want coffee but that, yes, I do want a bag, attempt to use the cardreader to the left when I should be using the one to the right, ask for extra tissues and BAM! Get the hell outta there.

Eating my Prêt sandwich on the Hammersmith and City Line is one of life’s (very, very, very) small pleasures, in the same bracket, I would say, as picking out a medium-sized lump of earwax.*** Imagine, then, my veritable horror at discovering, this morning, that I had left my salmon sandwich in Prêt, after having purchased it! I found myself on the tube, with that taste you get in your mouth when you have cleaned your teeth but not yet eaten anything, sans sandwich and also sans the £3.50 I piddled away on it.

It is difficult to describe this kind of disappointment. Obviously it is not requiring of wailing or garment-rending, but nor is it the kind of thing you can just shrug off lightly. It eats away at you like a little mosquito bite****. There was nothing for it but to read my Metro. And sob.

A great philosopher once said that ‘you don’t know what you got til it’s gone’. Going into a Prêt and buying a sandwich is a fairly mundane experience, but going into a Prêt, buying a sandwich and not eating that sandwich is worse. Thus, it can be deduced that, once a Prêt sandwich is purchased, it is better to eat it than not to eat it. This is a fairly minimal standard for any comestible to reach, but by God Prêt reaches it, unlike, say, most Tesco sandwiches, which you would probably have to pay me to eat. But that, my humble readers, is a topic for another thesis.

*not true.

** I do not have an office job, but I will not let that get in the way of an apt analogy. Ooh, can you feel the aptness? That, my friend, is damn apt.

*** fuck me, that’s apt.

**** apt.