I've just had what can only be described as a taste sensation. I'm still rather stunned by the whole experience, to be frank. And I thought that you, dear reader, should be the first to know.
Katie is out tonight, with "the girls". The girls are a nebulous group, in that the membership varies from event to event, with a core of familiar faces. The only thing that unites them is their voracious appetite for rosé wine. I have dropped her off at Liz's house earlier tonight - later she will be decanted from the back of a Hyundai - and in her absence I'm coping for myself.
It's fair to say that I am not an accomplished cook. Not long after we'd moved in together, Katie had set me the relatively simple challenge of making spag bol. After having made what apparently is called a ragu and browned some beef mince, I was kicking back in a relaxed mood as everything simmered on the hob. Katie came downstairs to enquire sweetly about the aroma of rapidly-carbonising protein. She may even have cocked her head to one side. "What burning smell?" I replied, genuine in my innocence.
You get the point.
As I cannot live on Marmite on toast - God knows I've tried - yesterday I manfully strode the high plains of Tesco, hunting for tonight's repast. And my prey was this:
That'll be the Healthy Living Paella. All 385 life-giving grams of it. Saffron rice, peas, king prawns, peppers, chicken breast. Yum. I actually like paella quite a bit. I have eaten it fresh, in Spain, washed down by a cheeky cerveza or two. In fact, it was rabbit paella, a particular speciality of the establishment. Quite a bit like chicken, if you're interested.
Of course, my expectations were managed by the observation that this latest paella, coming as it did in a black polythene tray extracted from a chiller cabinet, was never going to be served on the Iberian peninsular. The four minutes being nuked under the microwave probably didn't exactly help, either.
But it amazed me. You know when you're eating something that tastes bad? You get it on the tip of your tongue, or maybe the back of your throat. Perhaps the smell gives the game away. But this was nothing like that all. Oh no, Jose.
This was food with no discernible taste whatsoever. I'll say that again. Whatsoever. I tried chewing it, I rolled it around my mouth, I attempted breathing in and out at the same time. Nothing, nowt, zilch. In fact, nada. I ploughed on, amazed at the sensation of having warm solids in my mouth without having anything to show for it. This wasn't just bland food. Bland food has normal taste dialled down a bit. This went past bland and out the other side - the dish had the mute button applied. In fact, any semblance of flavour had clearly been snared at birth. And all the ingredients were culprits.
King prawns. King of where, exactly - the mythical yet legendary land of Microprawnalia? And the chicken? That wasn't a chicken breast, that was the result of a flesh wound. The donor chicken is still wandering around a farm somewhere, perfectly happily, if a little slimmed-down. I've never had non-crunch peppers before. I suspect they're a product of the space race or something, a bit like Teflon or those pens that write underwater and upside-down.
And yet I finished it all. Well, I needed my 335 calories of energy, unladen as they were with any unnecessary sensation of taste. The whole healthy eating approach was, however, somewhat ruined by the big bowl of Bombay mix I took on board immediately afterwards, to help me recover from the experience.
Gordon Ramsay should have my problems.