My most interesting food-based concoction: ‘Aldi Bags Al Fresco on Spikes garnished with Ants’

The Irish Times: We Love Food – Patrick Freyne, features writer

Patrick Freyne: a dollop of Heston Blumenthal with a smattering of Apocalypse Now

Patrick Freyne: a dollop of Heston Blumenthal with a smattering of Apocalypse Now


I’m not usually associated with high-concept recipes but I have had my Heston Blumenthal moments. The most interesting food-based concoction I ever made was something I call “Aldi Bags Al Fresco on Spikes garnished with Ants.” If I say so myself, it was a triumph, and I wasn’t even aware I was making it.

You see, to create “Aldi Bags Al Fresco on Spikes garnished with Ants” what you need are some Aldi plastic bags, some spikes, a nearby anthill and a mentally-fragile friend.

When did I invent it? Well, it was 1995. Jam and Spoon were storming the charts. Beverley Hills 90210 was going into its fifth and best season. And I was spending the summer in the recently reunified Germany with two friends, Friend A and Friend B.

We were living in a camp site in Bremen and trying to find paid work. We didn’t have much money, so once a week I would go and purchase food in bulk at Aldi. This was my job. Friend B had a problem with my methods.

“Patrick, the food is swarming with ants,” said Friend B. “I can’t eat stale food swarming with ants. I’m really hungry. Please can we buy the food more frequently so that it’s not so ant-covered and stale?”

“The ants make the food crunchy,” said Friend A, whose job was shoplifting t-shirts. “It’s protein.”

“Buying the food is my job, Friend B,” I said. “You concentrate on your job. [Friend B didn’t really have a job]”

As the weeks progressed, Friend A and I gorged on stale bread and Aldi food (“cow-flavoured substance” was how one of the labels translated into English). It was all covered with ants. Friend B became hollow-eyed and skinny and prone to gentle moaning. Eventually in his food-deprived state he had a brainwave. He would protect the food from the ants by deploying a series of wooden spikes around our tent on which he would affix our full Aldi shopping bags (it made our living space look a bit like Kurtz’s compound in Apocalypse Now).

The ants would not be able to climb the sticks up to the bags of food unless ants were somehow able to walk up vertical surfaces by means of hook-like claws. Oh wait . . . ants do have hook-like claws and like nothing better than to walk up vertical surfaces. It’s kind of their thing.

“The food is still covered with ants!” cried Friend B in despair.

On the plus side “Aldi Bags Al Fresco on Spikes garnished with Ants” was an outsider art triumph.

I decided to take full responsibility for it.

After all, it was my decision to stock-pile the ant-covered food that ultimately broke Friend B. “You won’t even give me possession of my own nervous breakdown!” he wailed. We were asked to leave the campsite the next day, because of, you know, all the deranged spikes, rotting food and ants.

This story is sadly completely true.

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