The importance of being labelled

The importance of being labelled

This morning, my wife wistfully said she’d love to know what was in the jam we were spreading on our bread. It’s a home-made jam in an unlabelled jar, an indeterminate orange-yellow colour that definitely includes peach, but some other things as well. Neither of us can remember what, but I have an excuse: I didn’t make it.

We have quite a lot of jars like this still in the cellar. Some of them probably don’t even contain jam: until you open the jar, plum jam looks very much like plum chutney, which adds a certain “Russian roulette” dimension to breakfast.

My wife doesn’t believe in labelling anything, and that includes the stuff she squeezes into the freezer. And like most women, she’ll freeze anything left over, just in case. Peas and broccoli are usually easy to identify, but a few things defy identification until thawed and (usually) cooked.

This one fact explains why, a few nights ago, the red cabbage we had for dinner was revealed, on being served, as beetroot. That wasn’t so bad, but we have had in the past some rather more regrattable incidents, such as the goulash which was actually gravy, and — my wife’s finest hour to date, her pièce de résistance — the oddly pale minced meat used to make spaghetti bolognese and subsequently identified as sage and onion stuffing.

My wife, undeterred, still won’t label anything. Or seldom: she does label a few things when the mood takes her, but with cryptic signs so baffling, they’d flummox Dan Brown. I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to find out what’s in the half-dozen jars with “Ch” scrawled on their lids in indelible ink.