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Monday, July 25, 2005

I learnt a valuable lesson today. Although as I speak, I'm slightly distracted because Channel 4 news are doing a report about seabirds in the south Atlantic being eaten alive by giant mice. Which is not the kind of news you hear every day.

Oh, and if you're wondering why the aubergine is saying "Oups", it's because it's French. I couldn't find one that speaks English.

Anyhoo, I went into Ipswich today in search of ingredients for two culinary masterpieces I'm planning on creating (preferably before Wednesday when Lisa arrives - there's no point cooking if you have to share it): 'Orange & Chicken Stew' and 'Beef & Aubergine Chili'. The first one's Duck a L'Orange for poor people, and the second's Moussaka for people who can't spell it.

So I drove the 11 miles to Tescos and started merrily filling my trolley with oranges and chili powder. However... I had reckoned without...

The Great Aubergine Shortage of 2005.

Tesco didn't have any. Not even the supervisor man in the cheap suit could find me one. So I headed into town. There used to be a greengrocer at one end of Ipswich town centre. I know, because it's next door to Oxfam. Unfortunately it's now a pound shop. And they don't sell aubergines.

So I went on to the Marks & Spencers food hall, which is quite posh, and just the kind of place to stock purple fruit & veg. No joy there either. So I headed off to the bank. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting to get an aubergine there, I was mainly just going to pay in a cheque, but even so, it was slightly disappointing.

So having only intended to pop into Barclays, I trudged on to Sainsburys on the other side of the town centre. And guess what? No aubergines. I'd spent an hour scouring Ipswich for eggplant, and at the end of it all was faced with the prospect of making Beef & Aubergine Chili without the aubergine. I wasn't happy.

So I headed home. Three miles from Shotley Gate is the village of Chelmondiston, a lovely place with a small amateur dramatics group and no street lights. It's the kind of 30mph-limit village that I tend to drive through at 40mph without stopping. But on a whim, I decided to stop at the Chelmondiston village store. Which just goes to show the level of desperation to which a worldwide shortage of aubergines can drive a man.

Anyhoo, you've guessed it, they had aubergines. I'd driven 12 miles into town, visited two large supermarkets, and scoured a busy town centre, and they were on sale three miles from my flat all along. I think there's a lesson there. Spookier still is that whilst I may have looked slightly stupid standing in the queue with nothing but an aubergine, the woman in front of me was buying a pot of chicken livers... and an aubergine.

As the lady on the till said to me, "Oooh, we're getting a run on aubergines!".

She was quite an excitable woman.

But anyhoo, if Chelmondiston Village Store can stock aubergines, you have to wonder why Shotley Gate Village Store can't sell skimmed milk? But still. I'd better stop now before I mention aubergines for the 15th time.