Friday, January 17, 2020


Photo by Luna Goodyear Smythe

If Santa’s going to bring you a stocking filler, what could be better than a large quantity of potato crisps? And if they come in an elegant tin, then so much the better.  Of course it would be a mighty big stocking that could accommodate such a tin but that’s the magic of Christmas innit?

It’s a serious business, as you see from the photo above at the top, but open the can and things cheer up considerably.

These in fact are Spanish crisps or, to get bilingual, ‘patatas fritas’ and they’re fried in 100% olive oil (aciete de olive) – there’s sea salt in there too.  In general I think the best crisps (chips) are fried in lard and usually come from Pennsylvania (op cit elsewhere in this blog) but the Spanish result is pretty great; light and crisp (as is only right) and very satisfying, by which I mean that you don’t have to eat a ton of ‘em to feel satisfied (depending, naturally, on how easily you’re satisfied).

The company that makes them is Bonilla a la Vista.  Their website says ‘DEVOTION IS OUR MAIN INGREDIENT - Bonilla a la vista is always with you during your daily moments of enjoyment: after work with your friends, with some beers at the pub, during a youngster’s birthday celebration, when you sit in the sand and feel the sea breeze after a session of surfing… special and unique moments.’

I shall keep that in mind after my next session of surfing.  In the meantime, this is a picture of their factory, a little less artisanal than I’d imagined, but evidently none the worse for that.

Also it appears that Bonilla a la Vista has friends all over the world, or at least in South Korea.

Monday, January 13, 2020


Even the most jaded, sensation-seeking omnivore (that would be me) has to draw the line somewhere, and I think the eating of our fellow primates is as good a place to draw it as any.

And so I was vaguely alarmed, if not really all that surprised, to learn that The Beatrice Hotel, in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo had been offering on its menu ‘bébé chimpanzé fumé.”  24 hours notice required and about £27, a pop.

This is apparently illegal because the chimpanzee is a protected species in the DRC.  In fact it’s illegal ‘to hunt, injure, kill, sell or buy, gift or detain’ a protected species of animal or plant, and a criminal complaint has been lodged against the hotel by a local conservation group.

The hotel management blamed it all on a cook who’d made a ‘mistake’ and the generally expressed sentiment is that it’s those darned Asians who are driving the trade, but this isn’t 100% convincing. 

Adams Cassinga of the group Conserv Congo was quoted as saying that at any given time in Kinshasa there are at least ten great apes for sale; though I think these may not all get eaten.  But he also says that red-tailed monkeys are butchered in hundreds every day as ‘bush meat.’

 Although I have no intention of eating chimp, or any other kind of bush meat, I did start to wonder what it tasted like.  Presumably the smoking changes the flavour a lot, but I did find on Quora, a man who goes by the moniker Jonny Shortcake (possibly not his real name) who says he had monkey meat when he was Marine Corps in the Philippines undergoing jungle survival training.  He doesn’t say what kind of monkey he ate, but having captured one they boiled it he concludes ‘all I can say is it’s tough and chewy it’s not unlike squirrel.’  Which, of course, begs another question.

In any case, I’m somehow glad to know that it doesn’t just taste like chicken.

Above is a chimp smoking as opposed to being smoked.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020


Man, you know the party’s over when it’s past twelfth night and all you have in the house by way of snacks are ‘Pigs in Blankets’ flavoured crisps and special festively packaged mini twiglets.  Though admittedly there are times when you want the party to be over.

Saturday, January 4, 2020


There was a lot of stuff in the media over Xmas about the Queen being a martini drinker. This seemed somehow cheering, though it was all a bit of an echo chamber; the information bouncing around between English tabloids, Vanity Fair, Food And Drink, and  Business Insider and others. 

‘Royal expert’ Ingrid Seward was quoted as saying said: 'I think the Queen likes a martini,’ though I’d have expert a royal expert to be less tentative. So I tried to find a picture of her majesty sipping a silver bullet.  I haven't found one yet. There are a zillion pictures of her drinking champagne but not a martini in sight.  (Gosh, the queen does have big, manly hands).

She apparently has the martini with dinner, which may possibly be the reason we’re not allowed to see it.  Let me explain. 

My contacts with the royal family, surprisingly, are not quite zero: I was once introduced to the Duke of Edinburgh at a reception and dinner for the Greenwich Festival.  He seemed a man of some charm.  I assume he was gritting his teeth throughout the episode, but he hid it perfectly.

I can’t remember whether or not I saw him with a drink in his hand, but I do know that when it came time to eat he and the other VIPs (though I suppose nobody was more ‘I’ than him), went to a table on a dais and screens were drawn around them.  The word was that royals were not allowed to be seen eating.  I have never heard this from any other source but on that night it certainly applied.  And if the queen has her martini while eating dinner that may explain why we’re not allowed to see it..

Still, keeping up family traditions here’s Charles drinking a martini in a gin distillery in Northumberland at11 o’clock in the morning.  That’s the royal spirit.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


Like I said, I went to Cornwall, and had a Cornish Pasty in St. Ives.  This one:

The ‘L’ in the pastry stands for lamb, and I know that lamb is not an authentic filling for a real Cornish Pasty. The shop where I bought this one also sold steak and stilton pasties, which I thought sounded OK, but would have been even less authentic.

But this was the least of it – other shops were selling unthinkable variations: Red Thai Chicken Curry!  Chicken, Bacon, Chirizo!!

Later that same weekend, eating at the Seven Stars pub in Stithians I was hoping a Cornish pasty would be on the menu, so I could order one for compare and contrast purposes.  I was disappointed but settled for the turkey and ham pie, which was no less of a pasty than some of those others.

Still I think the real culinary adventure I had in Cornwall was buying a Cornish Hogs Pudding from RJ Trevarthan, Wholesale Butcher and Livestock Hauliers.  And for those who like to know about local sourcing and provenance, the label even had details of where the hog was slaughtered – at the Roskrow Abattoir, Roskrow, Penryn.

When it was cooked, the hogs pudding looked like this:

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Hands across the religious divide, in Premier Halal Butchers in Walthanstow.

Thursday, December 5, 2019


If you’re like me, by which I mean (among other things) not Canadian, you may not be familiar with the taste, the look or even the name of Labrador Tea, Nordic Juniper, Crowberry, or Cloudberry. These are Canadian Botanicals, and now, to a strictly limited extent, I’m familiar with all of them.  These along with some other things – Wild Rose Hips and something called Artic Blend - are ingredients in Ungava Canadian Premium Gin.

There was a little cardboard sleeve around the neck of the bottle I bought, telling me about those botanicals, along with some tiny black and white images.  Here they are in colour: see if you can tell which is which. 

Ungava is, apparently, an Inukitut word meaning ‘towards the open water’ and Ungava was a district in the Northwest Territories subject to changing boundaries and administrative status.  It no longer exists as far as I can tell, though there’s still an Ungava Bay.

The gin is incredibly yellow – hence a prime candidate for ‘a yellow, a mellow martini’ (per Ogden Nash) even without vermouth.

Though, just in case, Ungava also make a Vermouth called Kayak.  It contains, you guessed, Canadian botanicals.