Chow mein

Back in the day – and I’m talking of the days of my youth – the big thing here in Britland and the last word in convenience and tastiness could be summed up in a single word: ‘Vesta’.

Vesta ready meals were awesome – there was curry, beef risotto, paella, chicken supreme and, everybody’s favourite, chow mein – most of which were based on the principle of ‘add water, stir and simmer’, and twenty minutes later you’d have a simply fab meal. I don’t know whether Vesta meals found their way to other corners of the globe but if not, you really don’t know what you missed. Not only were they simple enough for a complete culinary numpty to prepare, but they were great fun too, as anyone who enjoyed the thrill of watching those crispy chow mein noodles puff up in hot oil will tell you. I had my own little trick for getting the most deliciousness out of those twenty minutes, and I dipped many a slice of bread in the tasty broth that would eventually become a paella or risotto: Just too much deliciousness to wait for! You can still get Vesta meals, but it seems that they’ve had their day, and we now have more discerning tastes, but every now and again I can’t deny having a hankering for such halcyon days.

The clever thing about Vesta meals was that they were essentially a meal kit. Opening the box revealed a variety of interesting packets, each with their own printed instructions for preparation; apart from the odd knob of butter, dash of oil and water, everything you needed was in that box. A good kit, whatever its intended purpose, will contain pretty much everything you need to achieve the desired result, without the need for anything other than the most basic of additional items, and when complete will produce something that resembles the picture on the front of the box. The same is true whether you’re preparing a meal or putting together a 22″ scale model Eagle Transporter.

Kits are not only fun, allowing us to create things that we might otherwise struggle to produce, and in that particular regard they’re not just limited to the physical world – there are plenty of kits available to SL users too, although as always seems to be the case, there’s always somebody in SL who’ll take exception to any aspect of the virtual world that doesn’t sit well with their own inworld view; a particular bone of contention that seems to arise in relation to mesh clothing.

I do find it hard to understand the arguments against mesh clothing kits. I’m not so sure that they stifle creativity, I don’t agree that they are the preserve of lazy or untalented creators, and I fail to see how they are deceiving the customer. If anything, mesh kits allow those who don’t have the time or ability to create original mesh to take their place in a competitive market and quite possibly drive those who do make original creations to continue to diversify and keep the market buoyant. Creating original mesh is, I’m afraid the preserve of only a few, who do control market forces and trends, it is not an easy process and it takes a lot of time, effort and hard cash in order to succeed. Few of us are in a position to make that sort of investment, and mesh kits allow the masses to at least have an opportunity to dabble in a field that is very much monopolised by those with the talent and the time.

As for deceiving or betraying the customer, really? Surely if the customer likes what they see then they’ll buy it with little concern about the method of its construction. If you don’t like it, don’t buy – it’s that simple – and that’s also the choice you have if you choose to take a sort of moral high ground and wish to protest against the proliferation of kit mesh.

If it was that bad a thing then you have to wonder why on earth mesh kits should be available in the first place, surely it is those same talented mesh creators who have made their own designs available for others to utilise – and, if it’s fine by them, who are we to complain on their behalf?

Whether you like them or not, mesh kits are here to stay. You don’t have to agree with them, but you can also choose to ignore them, but always remember that – like my Vesta ready meals – they can also be a great starting point for those who may have the ambition, but not the ability, to make something better – but maybe, one day in the future, they might actually graduate to the real thing. Speaking for myself, I now make a pretty mean risotto and chicken supreme. Although, I have to say, I don’t think I’ll ever beat those crispy noodles!

s. x

For your garlic flavored steak I’d suffer nightmares
For your mashed potatoes, I’d even dig the dirt
For your roast beef, I’d even get a haircut
And to keep the larder full, I’d even work
Pete Townshend – Cookin’

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