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The Book

Out now at Amazon | Waterstones

Middle Class Handbook on Twitter
Chattering Class

Prince Harry

Even republicans approve, surely?

Microwaving tea

Recommended by scientists, apparently. Disgusting

No televised election debates

Disappointing; we were rather looking forward to May vs The Sturge


Olivia Coleman = nailed-on Future National Treasure

Spring Bank holidays

Too close together! Very bad!


“I queued for THREE BLOODY HOURS at B&Q for a new recycling bin! The entire town’s in CHAOS”


To be listened to whole on a long journey for maximum effect

Using a proper paper map

Strangely satisfying

The “Flash” Flash ad

It’s back! Possibly the best ever singing dog in an advert ever

Crap tacos

Reheated, with too much chilli: middle-class kebabs, basically

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The Periodic Table of the Middle Class
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    Entries in Maddie Y (130)


    Middle class marketing: five is the magic number  

    So, not only is five the ideal number of friends to have and the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, it seems also to be the perfect number of things to combine into one product. Where sales and marketing to the middle classes are concerned, five appears to be the magic number. It was a Warburtons “five-seed” loaf I bought recently that made me consider this. You never see a “four-seed” loaf, do you? There are always five seeds in this sort of bread. Have I bothered to look at the packet to check which five seeds they actually are? Of course not.

    Maybe that’s it. Five is just the right number: too many to bother checking out what the five actually are, but enough to feel the product is good, thorough and worthy. Three-seed sounds stingy, not healthy or impressive enough. It’s the same with those tins of mixed beans you get now, such as Napolina’s five-bean salad. Three beans would be few enough to make you question which three beans they are and if they’re what you want. Five? Probably an excellent mix.

    How did they work this out about us? We don’t know. But, don’t be blind-sighted by the “five” in the following:

    • Tesco Finest British Five-Pepper Pork Loin
      Really? Flavour from five peppers? Why? Worth questioning.
    • Chinese five spice
      Any brand. What actually are the five spices and are they really more powerful in combination than carefully chosen individual spices?
    • Sainsbury’s Five-Cheese Tortellini
      Will it really be possible to taste five different cheeses once cooked with the pasta? One would probably do.

    How to be middle class: keeping a recipe journal  

    One of my most precious possessions is my recipe journal, which my mum gave me when I left for university. To start it off, she wrote in a few family favourites which would make me think of home, plus some basic student cooking ideas; over the years it has become a diary not just of my cooking experiences but of my life, sort of, and the people in it. It is, of course, eminently pragmatic to store your favourite recipes in one place so you don’t forget them or have to remember which book they came from – but it’s also lovely. A culinary collage. 

    These are the essential, somewhat inevitable contents of a lovely middle class recipe journal – which will be naturally built up over several years. No shortcuts, please! 

    1. A few recipes copied out from celebrity cookbooks In my book there’s a recipe for spicy chicken which I’m fairly sure was by Gary Rhodes, and a Nigella salmon curry (scribbled down by my friend Rosie who cooked it for us at uni once), among others. (I think there’s some Delia in there but she’s hiding in recipes that have become trusty family favourites [see point 4].)
    2. Recipes written in by friends I’ve got a kedgeree recipe from Rosie (passed down from her mum), and a ‘chilli pot pie’ introduced by an American ex-boyfriend. It’s nice if you get the person to write the recipe in the book in their own handwriting, and even note down the date they first cooked it for you. 
    3.  Miscellaneous from TV shows and websites, eg. BBC Good Food These are likely to be print-outs stuffed in between pages of your book. You probably haven’t actually attempted these recipes yet, but they are all part of your culinary career. 
    4. Comforting, trusty family favourite Could be something as simple as ‘mum’s best ever shepherd’s pie’. I’ve got ‘cheese soufflé – guaranteed’ written in by my dad. (It was originally Delia, I think, but he’s cooked this so many times and found his own way with it, to the extent that it’s hard to tell where Delia ends and Dad begins. I imagine this is the case in many families.) I’ve also got ‘shortbread – the only recipe!’ provided by my mum. The main reason these are ‘guaranteed’, ‘best ever’ or ‘the only’ is because they are trusted and familiar within our family. Extra points if your family recipes have in-jokes in the names or descriptions. 



    Move over beer and golf: new dad motifs for Father’s Day, please

    Here we all are again, trawling Paperchase and WHSmith for a card for our dads for this Sunday, desperate to find something a little bit interesting but faced only with the usual spread of images: golf clubs, beer, ties, gardening. My problem every year is that not one of these motifs on its own represents my dad, and my relationship with him, strongly enough that he’d look at the card and think “you really appreciate me and what I’m like”. They are old, tired, dull motifs that generally just say stuff about men rather than revealing anything interesting or real about fatherhood.

    Can we please all put forward some suggestions for new, quirky, real, revealing motifs for Father’s Day cards? It’s time beer and golf stepped aside. I’d like to offer these four:

    1. Journey planning: I’m talking A-Zs, SatNavs, TFL Journey Planner, not letting you leave the house without print-outs of motorway routes and train timetables – that’s a really lovely dad-ish thing we never see on cards. 
    2. Cooking/owning the kitchen: So many dads now do a lot of the cooking at home, and in fact are in charge of the kitchen, which becomes a sort of professional cooking space. (Think of the scene about Mick’s oven gloves in Gavin & Stacey. That’s the sort of dad I want to see reflected on cards.)
    3. Cycling with kids: Enough old-style impressions of dads loving flash cars. Let’s celebrate the modern, cyclist father, complete with helmet and rucksack, and kids on smaller bikes behind him. 
    4. Festival go-ers: And lets not forget younger Dad, who can’t resist slipping on the cargo pants for the annual summer pilgrimage to V. It’s the definitive MC festival silhouette.

    “I make a mean macaroni cheese”: the truth behind a harmless little brag  

    We’ve talked already about the curious impulse to create a brand for yourself by stating what you are “all about”. For example, I could say “I’m all about gin and merriment”, by which I’d be wishing to create an overall impression of myself, much as you define a brand – writing my own mission statement, if you like. I wanted to draw to your attention a detail within this sort of self-branding behaviour: the desire to exert mastery over a particular dish or drink, by saying “I make a mean” something or other – which seems to come from American slang, similar to “bad” being used to mean the opposite.

    I’ve heard people say they make a mean roast, a mean macaroni cheese, a mean bacon sarnie. It tends to be that sort of thing – universal favourites which are thought to have a bit of a knack to them. It’s a bid to associate yourself with that thing, to make it your trademark, and to make yourself stand out. On the surface a throwaway brag, “I make a mean…” is an interesting middle class tic to watch out for in your friends, and yourself. I make a mean G&T, by the way...

    Flikr: Tarele


    What’s the etiquette around bumping into the same couple or family repeatedly while on holiday?  

    This was an excellent question posed by one of our followers on Twitter. We crammed all the advice we could into a 140-character reply, but decided it warranted a fuller investigation. Because, it’s happened to most of us and is sure to happen again. You’re on holiday and you just keep running into that family again and again, by the pool, at the breakfast buffet, in the foyer, everywhere. In the worst cases, you’ll have been on the same flight with them as well. You’re being ‘holiday-shadowed’, and it’s a bit excruciating. 

    The comedian Micky Flanagan has dealt with a similar scenario: running into a neighbour repeatedly. Well worth taking note of that. Our holiday shadowing rules follow a similar vein.

    • The first time you bump into them, just a little look and smile of recognition will do. 
    • The second time is when you’ll need to say something, just a ‘hello’ and some chat about how hot it is, aren’t the rooms lovely, etc.
    • By now, a few days in, you should have sussed out their holiday mini-routine so you can avoid them, but if you bump into them again…
    • It’s time for a jokey comment by way of acknowledgment. ‘Wonder if we’ll be side by side on the plane home! We’ll have to compare holiday notes.’
    • If you’ve only a couple of days left at this point, no need to go any further. Avoid them until the journey home. If you have more than five days left, our advice is to make friends with them pronto and ideally get sloshed with them in the bar.
    Flickr: Elin B