I put gravy on every single meal for a week, but would it make me as happy as a Northerner?
If this is how Northerners feel all the time then I’m good thanks
I am a proud Southerner, born and raised in London. I get annoyed when people dawdle walking down the street, I tut when morons stand on the left hand side of an escalator, I avoid human interaction on public transport at all costs.
That was until I went to uni, leaving the sunny south behind for York. Turns out everyone up North is pretty happy all the time, happier than those down south at least.
Maybe it's because of all the saying thank you to the bus driver nonsense, maybe it's because of how much cheaper (criminally cheaper) pints are up there.
If you think about it, it's almost definitely Northerners' obsession with gravy that gives them their lust for life. They smother it over everything, literally everything, and when they're not eating gravy they're tagging their friends in memes about gravy.
What's the big deal? Sure, gravy is ok, I'll have it with a roast dinner on occasion, but I don't go to bed dreaming of it, it's not the first thing I think about in the morning. It seems there's an intrinsic link between gravy and Northern happiness and I needed to find out the truth.
Therefore, the logical thing to do was to eat gravy with absolutely everything for an entire week, and see if I could hack my way to being and feeling as amazing as Northerners do all the time.
It's important to point out at this stage that my diet resembles that of a five-year-old, and that's being harsh on five-year-olds. If a meal doesn't involve bread or can be prepared by moving it from a freezer into a piping hot oven, it sits firmly outside of my culinary expertise. I thought this would make the week easier, but how wrong I was (cue tension-building music).
Breakfast: Gravy bagel
My week began with a gravy-smothered bagel. There is a very definite reason why southerners/normal people usually wait until late afternoon to have gravy, with roast potatoes or a Yorkshire pudding. It's clearly just not meant for breakfast.
The beefy aroma emanating from my plate was definitely clinging to me and my clothes. This was all a bit much for 9am. I don't generally worry about my physical appearance but I'd draw the line at people walking past me in the street, turning to each other and saying, "that kid smells like beef".
Overall, the bagel wasn't disgusting but it was also far from enjoyable. The gravy was a decent enough thickness so as not to completely perturb Northerners, but I would need many more practices to get it spot on.
Lunch: Chicken, Lettuce and Gravy sandwich
By lunch on the first day of the experiment I was already staring down the barrel of a beefy shotgun. In times of hardship, I find the best thing to do is to turn to the internet for an inspirational quote, to focus the mind on the task ahead. The Marine Corp mantra of "Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.", popularised by the Bear Grylls meme, would get me through the week, a source of inspiration for my journey north.
Roast chicken and gravy are a classic combination, so I give you the CLG (Chicken, Lettuce and Gravy) sandwich – I swear to you it will be in every supermarket meal deal soon. I boiled the kettle, numerous colleagues appeared in the kitchen and questioned what I was doing with a jar of gravy granules on a Monday lunchtime.
Like any good Northerner, I engaged them in lengthy conversation about my plan. Like any good southerner, they extracted themselves from the situation as politely and quickly as possible. This quest was not going to be without awkward situations and potential social isolation, but by 'eck was I going to see it through to the end.
The sandwich itself was actually pretty good – you can't really go wrong with meat and bread, although I would be a liar if I didn't admit the beefiness of everything I was putting in my mouth was getting to me.
Dinner: Pizza à la gravy (just how mamma used to make it)
As a veritable sad boy, there's nothing more I like to do more than kick back and relax of an evening with a frozen supermarket pizza. Instead of garnishing with chilli oil, as my metropolitan sensitivities would normally dictate, it was a splash of gravy.
Fun fact: beef on a pizza is generally an abhorrent gesture. It genuinely makes me feel ill whenever I see "ground beef" as a topping on a pizza. The gravy brought back memories of that moral abomination but overall it was as edible. As a southerner, I could n't help but add a sprinkling of oregano as well. I am who I am.
I woke up feeling horrific, still full from yesterday's initial descent into a gravy-laden abyss, so a fibrous breakfast was in order to start my day the right way.
Remember those Weetabix adverts where they show seven different options to spice up your daily dry bar of wheat-y biscuit? Well this is what the advert looks like up North, probably.
Lunch: TWO gravy sandwiches
Surprisingly, I didn't really hit it off with the Weetabix, so for lunch I stuck to the one thing I knew was at least slightly palatable. The CLG, possibly my greatest contribution to mankind (so far).
An infinite line of chicken gravy sandwiches stretched out in front of me, I considered having a little cry. My editor asked me if I was really planning on writing a piece about how I just ate gravy sandwiches for a week. I continued to consider having a little cry.
Dinner: Spag Bol
Say in some parallel, and much more rational, universe where I hadn't already had gravy with five meals in less than 48 hours, I could see myself enjoying this dish a small-to-medium amount. Expect to now see it in the next £25 Jamie Oliver cookbook where he describes it as "lush" or "pukka" or "putting a modern twist on a classic" or some other word that makes you want to drown the cretin in a vat of boiling Bisto.
Another day another meaty start. Toast, Marmite, gravy. My insides were screaming, but at least they were screaming in a slightly more northern accent.
Another gravy addition that I would genuinely do again. It just added a certain je ne sais quoi to my luxurious yet lugubrious Tesco sushi. "Toyko, meet Wakefield!" screams Paddy McGuinness as we launch our sushi-gravy pop-up somewhere in East London. He gives me a nougie, I tell him to 'gerroff-me' and push away, but not enough to actually distance myself from the big man and his warm embrace.
The inclusion of Walkers Sunbite crisps were an inspired choice, and fit the aesthetic perfectly.
Dinner: Another supermarket frozen pizza
Look, you'd be losing the will to keep up the creativity at the mid-week stage too. If you'd have cut me open I'd have bled gravy.
Remember Danny, the wannabe body builder who spends thirty seconds painfully listing out the different combinations of "fishhh…and a rice cake" he eats throughout the day? See how physically exhausted he looks by the mundane regularity of his diet? That's how I felt, except Danny was doing it to get ripped and I was doing it for content and getting fat.
Breakfast: Gravy bagel
Is the North actually that great? It's cold and you have to drive to get anywhere. Was I even feeling more northern or understanding why they get so het up about gravy? Not really, but now was not the time to doubt myself.
I imagined Bear Grylls, all smarmy about being able to kill and gut a polar bear and sleep inside the carcass to keep warm on cold arctic nights, calling me a worthless piece of shit because I didn't want to eat a gravy bagel for brekky.
Lunch: Gravy crisp sandwich
Look, I work in an office, I turn up at 9am, eat sandwiches for lunch and go home at 6pm. That is my life. Are you expecting me to drop £7 on a Pret to desecrate it with gravy? I at least put crisps in it this time, I jazzed it up a little, I was branching out.
Dinner: No gravy
I was going out for a meal and thought I had mentally prepared myself to bring a flask of gravy to the restaurant. However, peer pressure got the better of me and I conveniently 'forgot' the flask at work.
Imagine if someone turned up to a meal out with a flask of gravy, common sense dictates you instantly remove this person from your life. I couldn't face an empty funeral, me lying in a gravy boat shaped coffin, beef vapour lifting off the meaty sauce covering my body. The priest begins to question whether there is actually God, a solitary tear streaks down his cheek. This is the only tear shed at my funeral because he is the only person there.
Breakfast: Marmite and Gravy Toast
I felt like shit and no-one would talk to me because of how irritable I was. I wasn't even looking forward to finishing the week. Where was I supposed to from here? What else was left for me??
Lunch: Gravy Sushi (now available from all good retailers)
It is important to note that the person who comes up to chat to me after pouring the gravy is the only Northerner in the office. This Northerner/gravy conspiracy theory isn't bullshit, literally make some gravy and they're like moths to a flame. This is science in action people.
Dinner: Fish and Chips
Yeah bang t' fookin rights you eat fish on a Friday, except…ruddy 'ell! £10 for a fish supper, you wouldn't get that t'up north.
It was the end of the week. I was sweating beef, I couldn't remember what it felt like to be actually hungry or look forward to a meal, and I certainly didn't feel any more northern, happier, or understand the weird twisted mind of my northern counterparts.
At the end of potentially life-changing experiments such as this, you expect to take away some lessons, some nuggets of wisdom that will you'll remember for the rest of your life:
1) Gravy is ok, but as a southerner I will never truly appreciate it in the same way as Northerners do. I will never be able to experience true happiness like Northerners do and that's something I'm going to have to be okay with.
2) A human being shouldn't be able to eat like I did for an entire week and live to tell the tale. How do you Northerners do it? Some would call you medical marvels, others would say you're idiots. I say you just keep doing you.