Friday, February 11, 2022

The Pretentious Grain


Yesterday was a new experience for me, I did something that was quite posh.

The infamous vegan steakbake.

In the UK there is a chain store of fast food outlets called Greggs. 

I’m sitting outside a Greggs right now typing this on my laptop while eating a vegan roll on sausage (not to be confused with a vegan sausage roll which is a totally different thing altogether).  It's minus 4 degrees outside, I’m snug as a bug in the car, drinking their excellent fresh ground coffee which is a third of the price of Starbucks and Costa. 

If you follow me on Facebook, Greggs features quite a lot – "I’ve just signed a new book contract for plenty money, here I am celebrating in the high life with a Greggs!" and people titter. 

Greggs has a reputation for their famous steakbake which contains probably no matter derived from any animal whatsoever. Come to think of it, it probably wasn't that much of a leap to produce the vegan sausage roll and roll on sausage. So it has a fondness in the heart of most Scots, and indeed a lot of Brits,  for providing cheap food with no nutritional value whatsoever. The reality is the chain started off as a bakers shop, doing bread and cakes then evolved into doing warm snacks and very healthy sandwiches all made on the premises. It sells much more freshly baked freshly made produce than it sells the infamous steakbake. 

The share price has rocketed since they started the vegan range.

Just to give you an idea, the coffee and the bacon roll costs £2.40. It's called the "roll out of bed roll" and it's not pre-made in a McDonalds/ Tim Hortons kind of way; the bacon is off the grill and in the bread as you ask for it. During the pandemic Greggs did quite well with a improvised takeaway service. People bought the food,  sat in their cars and ate it. Some of us have not got out that habit. It opens at 6am and it's very restful to sit here with a good coffee answering business emails knowing that the people who are going to spend their day hassling you, aren’t even out their bed yet. 

In many ways Greggs is my spiritual home.

In contrast to this, yesterday we did something novel. An old patient of mine had got herself in to a bit of trouble. She lives in the trendy west end of Glasgow where the Anderson and Costello books are set. She has a huge flat that’s probably 150 years old – the real posh red sandstone tenement where you need written permission to cough in the close. They are expensive beyond belief. 

This patient retired from being a translator with the Home Office. She speaks 4 languages fluently including Russian, and on retiring she did a masters degree in fine art and taught herself to speak Dutch so that she could read some of the original texts. Her flat was just beautiful, impressive art – all dove grey and duck egg blue... and that was the carpets. You could tell there were no dogs or children in the equation.

She lives one street away from a rather well known west end café that my characters visit twice in the last book. So as we were up there, we thought we’d stroll along and experience it for ourselves. There’s an air of pretention about every café in the west end – they can’t just say it like it is, there’s a whole degree of flaffery and twonkery involved. Like the place is empty and they have to stare at a laptop for 20 minutes before deciding that they can give you a table. 

The place was full of students who can afford cashmere sweaters and are young enough to sit on very uncomfy seats without getting a sore bum.  They talk very loudly in an accent that belongs in no part of Scotland but screams 'I’ve got money'. 

Then the menus appeared. The other half and I looked at each other and then we both put our reading glasses on. We turned the menu over and upside down and back to front try to find something that we could identify as food. It was a mind boggling array of utter nonsense – it read like a farmers seed catalogue. Lots of grains; organic grains, homegrown grains, wholemeal grains, grains with a degree in Latin. 

I saw one word I recognised. Foccacia. So we ordered that. And something else we pointed at as we couldn't pronounce it. 

So there was some bread. With a salsa dip.

We had something that was called Klinefelters ( I know that's a medical thing but the name resembled that ) potatoes which turns out to be chips (thick French fries) made from unpeeled potatoes.

There was so little food on the table we had to stop for something to eat on the way home.

That plus two Americanos came to £30. In Greggs you could have fed yourself on their very good spicy potato wedges and mayonnaise for a week and still had change for a empire biscuit. 

More interestingly what my character ordered- the avocado on toast - wasn't  even on the menu or it might have been and we just didn’t recognise it.

Me? Back to Greggs, stick with what you know.



  1. If that west end cafe is anything like those venues in "chic" US neighborhoods that view pretentious clubiness as central to their success, my guess is that its regulars are singularly insecure folk easily preyed upon by appearances and desperately in need of a straightforward hard bun roll to bring them back to their senses. Greggs rules!

  2. Hey! Take it easy on those folks. They're obviously Very Important People. You were lucky they allowed you to enter the establishment at all. What an honor! I'm sure you're treasure the memory the rest of your lives.

    Gotta run, I'm meeting Jeff at Greggs...