Wednesday, January 10, 2018


I’ve said it before, so it must be true: the Japanese (perhaps surprisingly) know a thing or two about sausage.  So finding myself in a branch of the Nijaya Japanese supermarket t’other day I couldn’t stop myself (and honestly I didn’t try to stop myself) buying a pack of something named Seasage.

It’s an unlovely word, indicating sausage of the sea; so a fish sausage. Nothing very outlandish about that per se, but the list of ingredients detailed in the English label stuck on the pack was somewhat surprising.  Not all of it - fish meal, kelp soup stock, fish broth, tuna fish oil, seafood extract – they were all to be expected, I suppose.

But then albumen, rice bran oil, kamaboko (that’s a version of surimi, processed seafood, so not all THAT surprising) then something called fermented seasoning and konjac powder. Konjac, or konjac root (aka devil's tonguevoodoo lilysnake palm, and elephant yam) is apparently used as a vegan substitute for fish flavoring, kind of redundant in this case you might think, but it also finds its way into appetite reduction nostrums – it supposedly makes you feel fuller sooner.

And how did my seasage taste?  Reader, they tasted amazingly, and again perhaps surprisingly, of pretty much nothing whatsoever. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018


My parents were not great drinkers.  They weren’t religious.  And they weren’t Irish, although there was some Irish ancestry on my mother’s side a couple of generations back.  Nevertheless they spent most Saturday nights at an Irish Catholic Club in Hillsborough, in Sheffield.  I suppose they went there because the rest of my mother’s family did, and some of them were great drinkers.  Below is a photograph of a large slice of the family in the club.  Does everybody’s past look like a Martin Parr photograph?

Anyway, I have been thinking about this as a result of rereading Flann O’Brien’s At Swim- Two-Birds.  I first read it a very long time ago but it’s much as I remember it, even if I like to think I “get” it rather better now than I did back then.  It is terrific.  Here is a picture of the author, drink in hand:

Here in At Swim-Two-Birds the hero describes his first experience with alcohol:
“It was my first taste of porter.  Innumerable persons with whom I had conversed had represented to me that spirituous liquors and intoxicants in general had an adverse effect on the senses and the body and those who became addicted to stimulants in youth were unhappy throughout their lives and met with death at the end by a drunkard’s fall, expiring ingloriously at the stair-bottom in a welter of blood and puke.”

But then on the next page, “On the other hand, young men of my acquaintance who were in the habit of voluntarily placing themselves under the influence of alcohol had often surprised me with a recital of their strange adventures.  The mind may be impaired by alcohol, I mused, but withal it may be pleasantly impaired.”
         Which pretty much covers it.

I also dug out this picture from the family vault:

My nan is the second from the left in that picture, and she’s the only one I recognize.  I don’t know where they are – a school?  Milk 32, Dinners 28 - what on earth does that mean?  And I have absolutely no idea who your man in the middle is, but you can see the map of Ireland in his face, can’t you?  Sometimes your past resembles not so much a Martin Parr photograph as an episode of Father Ted, note the sandwiches.

Friday, January 5, 2018


Yep, it's Shrimp & Grits "smoky bacon and greens, blistered tomatoes, grilled corn, beer blanc sauce" and yes, there's a grits cake lurking under that foliage, at Public School 310, in Culver City, on Culver Boulevard, right opposite the hotel where the Munchkins stayed when they were filming The Wizard of Oz.

Best thing about Public School: the menus look like school exercise books:

Wednesday, January 3, 2018


Sweet sticky wreaths made by my friend Elina (a version of rice crispy treats but made with cornflakes and food coloring):

Scallops, all the way from Hokkaido (and just another reason why I want to go there):

Yin and yang, innit?

Saturday, December 30, 2017


So here, if the online caption is to be believed, is Kim Jung Un, in a potato flour factory.  Turning potatoes into flour doesn’t strike me as the very best thing to do with a spud, but I accept that there may be a cultural gap between the Supreme Leader and myself.

And there's still a bit of a gap here with Miss Idaho 1935, unnamed alas.  Since it’s just a photo op I don’t suppose she’s going to do anything at all with the potatoes.  They’re there to preserve her modesty, if not necessarily her dignity.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


The pre-Christmas Blue Points:

The Christmas Day gimlet:

The Boxing Day goose sandwich.:

Is it bad and wrong to prefer Christmas leftovers to Christmas dinner?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


I don’t suppose many people go to Palm Springs specifically for the sandwiches.  They go for the desert air, the sexual fluidity and the mid-century architecture. And evidence suggests that quite a lot go for the kind of brunch that comes with “bottomless mimosas” – at least that’s available in multiple places.

       And in truth I didn’t go to Palm Springs for the sandwiches either, but you know, when I’m in my “Sandwich Man” phase, if I see a sandwich on a menu I’ll order it – that’s the kind of maverick I am.

And so, it being Christmas, a turkey sandwich seemed in order and I had mine at the International House of Pancakes (471 S Indian Canyon Drive).  You know, that name really disappointed me when I first came to America – I imagined they would serve pancakes from all over the globe - banh xeo, tagenites, dosas and what not: I was wrong).  Still the sandwich came, and it looked like this:

The IHOP website says, “In this sandwich, bacon & turkey breast are BFFs. Carved roasted turkey breast is served with our hickory-smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato & mayonnaise, all on magnificently marbled rye.”  Well, only up to a point.  There was, and I hesitate to say this, too much turkey, so much that it overwhelmed everything else.  In fact I think somebody in the kitchen had gone a bit festive.  The image on the menu looked like this:

There was also a “Tuna, Artichoke, & Provolone Cheese Panini, served with garlic aioli dip” at Lulu California Bistro (200 South Palm Canyon Drive).  Lulu currently has the longest menu I’ve ever seen in a restauarant.  The place changes hands once in a while.  It used to be a retro ring-a-ding-ding cabaret spot -– Nancy Sinatra once performed there – I wish I’d seen that.  The sandwich looked like this:

But a Palm Springs trip is nothing without a visit to the Sherman’s (401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way) a Jewish Deli where on this occasion, I had, and it was a first for me, a pastrami sandwich but with latkes instead of bread.  Oh boy.  Looked like this:

One of the great features of Sherman’s is the wall of fame you pass on the way to the restroom, full of signed pictures.  It enables you to say you’ve eaten in the same place (though not at the same time) as Barry Manilow, Adam West and Neil Diamond.  David Lee Roth is there too, just out of frame.  A small pleasure, but a real one.