I like Heinz. On more occasions than I care to remember, I’ve turned to Heinz beans, Heinz tomato sauce and even Heinz tinned soups when the cupboard was bare (literally and metaphorically). Heinz has always been there for me.
So, imagine my excitement when I saw ‘Heinz Beanz Curry’ on the shelves of my local supermarket. This was going to be good.
In one can, I had the two book-ends of my culinary life: the ’70s me’ who survived on beans, and the ‘2013 me’ who lives for curry. I could hardly wait to get the curried Beanz home.
‘Heinz Beanz Curry’ also intrigues me because one of my lunchtime staples is my own, no-nonsense, homemade ‘Curried Beanz’. I pan-fry an onion and two fresh green birdseye chillies in ghee, pour over the Heinz Beanz (Original flavour!) – simmer – and serve with warm bread. It’s delicious. (In fact, it’s so good I sometimes wonder if I’ll serve it to friends as a starter. If someone can tell me the Hindi translation, I will.)
Back to my new discovery: I start to simmer the ‘Heinz Beanz Curry’, and somehow the sight of a saucepan full of bubbling haricots in red sauce brings the 70s hurtling back towards me.
From the comfort of digital, cosmopolitan, multicultural 21st-century Britain, it’s hard to remember just what a desert the 70s were in this country.
Wherever you looked, 70s Britain was a war zone. Somehow, in just a few years, we’d extinguished the beacon of 60s futuristic fashion, music and relationships for… the ‘flick parting’…. the medallion!
In years to come, I predict that open-mouthed social historians will find it beyond belief that women in the 70s of marriageable age chose to plaster their hair to the side of their head with lacquer in a ‘flick’ – like a dessicated bird’s wing stuck to a wall. Young men looking for mates, meanwhile, undid their shirts to the navel – and hung lumps of unprecious metal on their chest.
It’s a miracle that the species reproduced.
I could go on… the thuggish 70s politics, the lumpen football, the popular-music scene where The Muppets outsold career musicians. And that’s before we even glance at the tragedy that was British food in the 70s: groups of drunken British males shouting at waiters in Indian restaurants to cook them a curry with so much cayenne it would almost hospitalise them.
For those considering sawing their own heads off in the 70s, it was probably only the healing influence of David Bowie, Marc Bolan and John Cleese that kept you from the edge.
My ‘Heinz Beanz Curry’ has warmed. I try a spoonful.
Out of sheer forensic curiosity, I go back in. It’s baffling… the taste seems both over-sweet and heavy with spice at the same time. It’s like a tango where the partners are trying trip each other up, as they trade murderous glances.
As I said, I like Heinz. I’m sure they’ve spent thousands or tens of thousands of pounds researching, refining and perfecting ‘Heinz Beanz Curry’. I’m sure that hundreds of Brit’s in focus groups have told them it’s delicious. I’m sure they’re all right, and that I’m wrong. I’m sure it’s lovely.
But for me, ‘Heinz Beanz Curry’ captures the taste of the 70s. If you’re too young to remember (or you were there, and you’ve blotted out the memory) – and if you really want to know what it was like to be in a country that had completely forgotten what taste was all about – try a spoonful.