Where I’m from is not who I am

Posted: February 19, 2012 in Politics
Tags: , , , ,

Have you ever had a Parmo?

The chances are that you haven’t. It’s a Teesside thing to start with and I know of people who have lived here for years without ever having eaten one. I can’t blame them.

For those of you from outside of the area, a ‘parmo’ is a huge bit of chicken or pork (but usually chicken), covered in breadcrumbs and bechamel sauce which then has cheese melted all over it. If you envision a slab of chicken and cheese about the same size as a pizza, you won’t be far wrong.

Like I say, I know of a lot of people who refuse to eat them. It’s entirely understandable since the entire calorie content of one of them is easily above the recommended daily allowance. Plus, many people eat them after they’ve been drinking all night, so their calorie intakes end up shooting through the roof.

Those obesity statistics are beginning to make sense now, aren’t they?

As for me? Hell, I love the things. They might be a massive globdule of fat and calories, but I think they’re god-damn tasty and I like that they exist. I especially like that I like to eat them.

But that doesn’t mean Teesside should be adopting them as a cultural identity.

It’s hard to be from an area nobody really cares about. We’ve all had someone say to us at some point that we sound like geordies or thought that we ARE geordies. Those of us who have pointed out the difference will have realised that nobody cares about the difference other than us. We don’t count.

I understand that frustration, I really do. We’re bereft of any cultural identity because we don’t really have a culture. Middlesbrough was created to serve the steel industry and when the industry was cut back on, we were left to fend for ourselves by a government that never cared.

That’s not a political party point either. Successive governments have failed to tackle the problem. We have a generation of people that will likely have to move away from the area if they want to find decent jobs. What will that leave Middlesbrough with? Well, obviously, the people who couldn’t be bothered and decided to make do.

I would love Middlesbrough to prove everyone wrong. I really would. I love this town. I love the history and there are a few things I love about the town currently too, but for the most part we are a town that consists of people who are satisifed to ‘make do’.

This is why some people thought that having an X Factor winner would somehow put Middlesbrough on the map. This is why some people mention that the Sydney Harbour bridge wouldn’t exist without Teesside steel before they think to mention anything that’s happened in the last year. This is why some people think that a slab of processed meat covered in cheese is a substitute for identity.

I have seen people say that local people are too thick to think of anything beyond ‘duh, parmo’. I don’t agree with that logic. Whilst I don’t doubt that there are those who will fit that description, I know people from outside the area who have told people to buy a parmo whilst they’re visting. No, I think the real problem is actually worse.

It’s laziness.

Before anybody gets up in arms, I don’t mean physically lazy. What I do mean is that I think some people are too lazy to think for themselves. I think that people can’t be bothered to ask themselves why.

Why would having an X Factor winner help the area?

Why do we promote the history of the area before the present?

“Why?” is a very important question. Possibly the most important question we can ask anybody. It’s the first question we learn when we’re young. Partly because it annoys our parents, but mostly because when we’re young we want to know how the world works.

Even as I write this I can hear people formulating responses to those questions above. The reality is that neither of the points listed will harm the area. A local person doing well should get credit, and the history of the town should be acknowledged. But neither are going to help make the town something it isn’t to people who don’t live here. Doubly so in the case of the history, because everybody already knows what we were.

I don’t think this is just a local issue. I think it’s a reflection of our national society as a whole. It’s just that it’s easier to spot on a local level, especially when you have a group of people seemingly intent on adopting a type of food as a symbol. So let’s ask one more question.

“Why do people eat a piece of processed meat covered in cheese?”

Because it’s tasty.

But that doesn’t mean it should be used as a cultural symbol for Teesside. And if you think it should, I have one question.



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