Let me introduce you to a very, very English kitchen cupboard - exactly the kind of demonstration of ordinariness of which, I claimed, in class, we tend have all too little record. The kitchen cupboard of a certain generation, I should add ... Some of the things here are faintly mysterious to me; some have possibly been here a long, long time.
Let's start at the top, with the cheerful stuff: my father's jars of homemade marmalade. They seem to be up there with a can of chopped tomatoes, and, oh horrors, one of minced beef (that's chopped beef, in the US) - probably in that kind of slimy gravy that it was served up in at school - a true horror dish.
Let's go down a shelf. A can of lentil dhal is promising, but obscure: I cannot remember or imagine my parents ever eating Indian food. My mother's curry was stewed beef with curry powder in it, and a few sultanas, served with sliced bananas in lemon juice, and, if one was lucky, some grated coconut. But it's not as depressing as a can of Eazy Fried Onions. I don't want to think about them. More canned tomatoes; canned peaches; canned chicken of some kind; canned treacle sponge pudding (that, to be honest, might, under the right conditions, be edible, like Aunty's Ginger Syrup Steamed Pudding). On the other hand, it might not. There's a can of some kind of chicken; one of marrow peas - curious things that I've never seen in the US - basically big fat starchy green peas - ; one of Heinz Baked Beanz (for how long have they actually spelt them like that?); one of cooked chipolata sausages; one - hey, here's something edible! - of tuna chunks; one of corned beef, and two of sardines in tomato sauce. There's also an improbably exotic object: a jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil. I'm unlikely ever to go near that: I have a very uncertain relationship with such objects ever since an unfortunate episode involving too much red wine and some sun dried tomatoes somewhere on the flanks of Mount Etna in 1985.
And on the bottom: some more marmalade; some miniature jars of jam (b & b style); two plastic containers of fruit in syrup; one can of Ambrosia Creamed Rice Pudding; some chutney (one jar of it home-made); a small jar of creamed garlic (!); and, yes, several packets of tea.
Happily none of this appeared on the dinner table: there, baked salmon, boiled asparagus, and boiled potatoes were followed by some Waitrose blackcurrant cheesecake.
And the sad thing is - my parents like their culinary routines, and most certainly don't want me cooking anything ...