Until this week, I have given little thought to the phenomenon of the food risk. I think, if pushed, I might not even have been able to decide exactly what one was. Walking blithely over a carpet of banana skins? Being Angelica Huston in The Grifters, and getting beaten up with a bag of oranges? Or eating take-away from somewhere with an unidentifiable pole of greying meat rotating in the window?
But luckily, the Food Standards Agency has cleared things up for me yesterday, when it released its report suggesting that more of us are taking risks with our food as we feel less wealthy. We are keeping leftovers for longer in an attempt to eat them up and we’re disregarding the odd use-by date to try and save money and throw less food away.
You might think that would be a good thing, since only last month, another study (this time from the Waste and Resources Action Group) found that we were still chucking away food worth £12 billion a year. But apparently it is not: it’s a sign that we are taking our lives in our hands with that leftover pasta. It seems that many of us are using our senses – looking at food and smelling it – to decide that it’s safe to eat when it may not be.
The FSA has been quick to point out that sniffing or looking at food is a poor way of diagnosing whether it is safe to eat, since Salmonella and E.coli, for example, don’t smell bad. But apparently a third of us use the ‘If it doesn’t smell of rotting eggs, it won’t kill me - wait – is that vegetable green or mould green?’ system to decide whether something is fit to eat or not.
But since the foods we most frequently throw out are vegetables, followed by fruit and bread, this seems like quite a good system to me. A manky courgette looks manky, as does a browned and soft banana. Even jaunty broccoli goes a sad brown colour. As for bread, that cleverly grows a bluey-grey beard to tell you when not to eat it. And while I see that an aging egg is practically a hand-grenade of salmonella, even the FSA agreed last year that you could eat them a day or two after their shell-printed date, so long as you cooked them properly in a cake: no meringues or mousses, thank you.
The FSA has also noted that more of us get food poisoning in the summer, because germs grow more quickly in the warm weather, which presumably they are expecting us to have, just as soon as the rain and the gale force winds fade away. But surely my fridge doesn’t get any warmer just because the weather does: or how would the beer still be cold? Doesn’t it seem more likely that food poisoning spikes in the summer because people eat more charred-yet-uncooked meat then? I’m not ruling out the leftover potato salad as the guilty party, but the sausages do look more suspicious.
Essentially, food safety can be distilled into one relatively simple rule, which is that whatever you eat should be properly hot when you eat it (unless it is salad, or possibly ice-cream): nuke it, and the stuff that might have killed you gets nuked too.
There can be few actors who have so entirely rehabilitated themselves in the eyes of their peers and their audience as James Corden. Corden hopped from The History Boys to Gavin and Stacey, and almost universal acclaim. Then the acclaim disintegrated with some poor choices – a weak sketch show, some leaden presenting work, and the best-forgotten Brit-flick, Lesbian Vampire Killers.
But his return to the stage in One Man, Two Guvnors – first at the National Theatre, now on Broadway – was a delight, and his charm is what makes the show work, on top of an excellent script and ensemble cast. On Sunday night, winning the Tony Award for Best Actor from under the noses of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Frank Langella, James Earl Jones and John Lithgow, he seemed genuinely humbled and delighted. And so he should be: he has reminded everyone that while celebrity may be fickle, real comic talent is golden.
Lady Gaga is not just a global pop icon, it turns out. She is also, in essence, Robocop. During a gig in Auckland, she took a hefty blow to the head from a metal pole, as one of her dancers unhooked it from the set. She acquired concussion, briefly left the stage, then returned to sing sixteen more songs.
Concussion would surely have felled a lesser performer than Gaga. One of the reasons her fans love her so profoundly is because of the affection she clearly has for them. And there’s no better way to prove it than by singing through the pain.
I can only admire the rock and roll nature it all: she was brained by a piece of her own set, and it barely slowed her down. Justin Bieber, to give it context, was also concussed recently, in Paris. But he did it by walking into a glass wall, as though he were part budgie.
In a way, the oddest thing about this whole story is the statistical anomaly: what were the chances someone would clonk her with a pole at the exact moment she wasn’t wearing a giant lobster for a hat?