A Mouthful of Brassica… Rebranding the Cauliflower

I’d be surprised if the broad beans are still sleeping in their blankety bed after the recent furore surrounding the cauliflowers (fluffy).

Yes, all is not well on the allotment. The cauliflower has been brought back down to earth.

If ever any story were more representative of the times in which we’re living, this has to be the one.

Marks and Spencer, a retailer whose food business is shrinking as people realise there’s more to life than an overpriced ready meal, have really hit the wall with the ‘Cauliflower Steak’.

We are used to politicians showing  their contempt for us ordinary types but we thought M&S were on our side!

All the properly fitted 100% cotton bras which have cupped my breasts appropriately for much of my life!

All the duck down duvets which have kept the cold and the unwanted approaches at bay!

And the ‘Dine In for Two’ deals which have helped disguise my culinary incompetence… 

Meaningless in the light of the Cauliflower Steak!

It’s not a ‘steak.’ As many people on social and other media have pointed out, it’s a slice. A slice of cauliflower.

Nobody can justify slicing up a cauliflower, placing it on a plastic tray, wrapping it in more plastic and charging two quid for it.

It’s only that packaging that makes that slice of cauli into a thing.

Without it that cauli is just what it always was: a difficult to love mass of cruciferous veg with unsettling implications for the digestive tract. But it’s yet more hateful plastic to pollute our environment and strangle some poor, witless turtle somewhere.

I do not want a dead turtle on my conscience and neither am I prepared to enter this hall-of-mirrors world where things are not what they’re claimed to be.

That marketing department at Marksies’ over reached themselves. We are not yet so decadent surely, that we’re prepared to pay for a slice of cheap veg and a misnomer?

And let’s not make any bones about it, cauliflowers are cheap. They’ve always been cheap. On Romford market when I was growing up, the fruit ’n’ veg man who juggled tomatoes and traded near my mum’s shop would give them away at the end of the day.

Which is why Wednesday night was Cauliflower Cheese night.

We had different nights for different meals.

Every week the same.

Tuesday night was Salad Night for example. My brother’s least favourite night of the week.

Friday night was Spaghetti Bolognese (it wasn’t called ‘Spag Bol’ in those days) and Saturday was Treat Night. Which meant foods of limited nutritional value: beef burgers, Findus Crispy Pancakes, anything by Fray Bentos…

Obviously the only thing that made the cauliflower on a Wednesday evening bearable was the cheese sauce.

On a Sunday, the cauliflower would reappear, disguised in orange bread crumbs and deep fried, glowing in a thermo-nuclear way, next to the roast meat.

Again, it was the Paxo breadcrumbs that made the cauliflower edible.

Of all the veg listed in that harvest song so beloved of infants, the cauliflower has to be the least loved.

My dad was a member of a card school in the docks at one time. At the end of what he’d thought was the final game of poker, the foreman sighed, “Cauliflower tonight. Let’s have another hand.”

Who wants to go home to bitter brassica?

But right now the cauliflower is having its moment in the sun. It is the darling of vegans everywhere and touted as a new ‘superfood.’

(In my book, any food that stops you feeling hungry is a super food. If it has a fondant praline centre, it’s a super-superfood.)

Cauli is the new kale, they tell me. Good for your arteries! Great for your brain! Essential for your prostate!

The twenty-first century cauli differs from the ones we ate in the ‘70s and ‘80s because we no longer boil it. We roast it. We brown it ’til it caramelises. We add fennel and nutmeg and chia seeds and other things we were either ignorant or suspicious of back then.

Reader, I took my brassica in my hands. I sliced my (49p) cauli into ‘steaks.’ I brushed it with olive oil, lemon juice and chopped garlic and I put it in a hot oven.

My prostate has never looked better.

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  1. Memories of Cauliflower Cheese made in a Domestic Science (DS) Lesson now they call it Food Technology and not done every week. Our task was to leave the cauliflower whole as a great presentation, that’s as maybe but my poor Dad that evening discovered a lot more protein in his fourteen year old daughter’s dish, so many little slugs hidden by keeping it whole! Cauliflower Cheese for the next fifty years made by me is always small florets and the only protein the cheese in the sauce!

      1. Product descriptions can be puzzling. Occasionally, my wife’s People’s Friend or Woman’s Weekly will have adverts for mail order delivery of Sloggi ladies'”full briefs” in multipacks (white, black or pastel shades).

        Here is the conundrum: how can something be both “full” and “brief”? Sam, if you’re a Sloggi fan, can you explain in a future piece?

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