Now look, some things matter and some things don't. By which I mean, of course, that some things matter to me, and since this is my column in which mattering to me is the sole criterion for mattering at all, things that matter to me matter.
The idea can be expressed in Latin: si Josepho coelo magni momenti est. Which translates literally back as: "if to Joe then to the heavens of great significance is." And if you don't think that's poetry I despair of you and if you think that's the end of showing off for today I pity you.
Anyway, to the matter that matters. I was taken out to dinner at a restaurant on that popular alternative occasion the other day. And there were carrots.
Now, I like a carrot. And the sort of carrot I like - well, let's start with the sort of carrot I don't. The sort of carrot I don't is the truncheon carrot, the stock feed carrot, the old bastard, half a kilo or so, more brown than orange, with a split down the side like a wound from which its carrot life has leaked. Fie to the truncheon carrot.
Fie too to the diced carrot. The diced carrot sings of the sort of institutions that have linoleum on the floors and where if you open any cupboard door in any corridor at any time you find a mop, a pail and bleach. The diced carrot is the emblem of illness. And the body duly rejects it. Throw up on the linoleum and the diced carrot is always there, rectilinear and unaffected, begging for the mop.
I also cannot abide - though I struggle to justify this animadversion (see showing off above) - the carrot chopped into carrot coins, as found in the sort of stews that are described as hearty in the sort of magazines that should not be dropped on the foot.
Which leads us to and leaves us with the sort of carrot I do like. And the sort of carrot I do like is whole and small and young and fresh and sweet and all the other Anglo-Saxon monosyllables that Chaucer used to describe the pretty milkmaids that his brutish men like the reeve and miller longed but failed to get their fat old hands on.
In the supermarket, whole, small, young, fresh, sweet carrots come in bunches (which is one of the two ways you can distinguish them from Chaucer's milkmaids) and they have plumes of feathery leaves still sprouting from their heads (which is the other). To pick up a bunch by the feathery plumes is to feel spring-favoured and well. They gladden.
Cooking such carrots is that meteorological simplicity a breeze. You chop off their heads. You chop off their wisp of a toe. You boil or steam them for 15 minutes. You drench them in butter. You salt them and you pepper them. You drench them in butter again. And then you eat them. And they are simply splendid. They sing in the mouth. They are carrots as God conceived of carrots. They are the carrots of Plato's cave (which would make a fine title for a thriller, but I have first dibs on it. If six months from now you haven't seen The Carrots of Plato's Cave in the bookshop window, with my name and the words International Bestseller plastered on the glass, feel free to steal it).
Now that is all there is to know of carrots. Like most truth it is neither complicated nor mysterious. One does not need to be a chef to know it, but one does expect a chef to know it. However, dot dot dot.
At the restaurant to which I was taken as a guest (and where the wine was so stintingly poured that I had no choice but to get up mid-way and buy myself a bottle, the price of which, but no, I sew my lips together and return to the matter in hand) the carrots were catastrophic.
They were the right carrots - whole, small, young, fresh, milkmaidy etc. But for one thing they were roasted. And for another and a worse thing, they were presented with an inch or so of their feathery tops still on.
Why? Come on. Give me one good reason. Yes, I have seen this before in restaurants but that doesn't justify it. A crime imitated is still a crime.
I watched my fellow diners. Every one of them cut the top off the carrot before eating it. They did, in other words, the chef's work for him. So why were those carrot tops there? I'll tell you. Pretension, for one. Chefiness for another. And worst of all, vile show-offery (in Latin, ostentatio horribilis).