Sunday, May 29, 2016


I was reading an old copy of the London Review of books, in which contained a Christopher Turner review of a book titled Pornotopia; An Essay on Playboy's Architecture and Biopolitics by Beatriz Preciado, who I understand has now transitioned to become Paul B. Preciado.

The review contained a quotation form the Playboy philosophy, about the extent to which the playboy is an indoors kind of guy.  "We like our apartment. We enjoy mixing up cocktails and an hors d'oeuvre or two, putting a little mood music on the phonograph and inviting in a female acquaintance for a quiet discussion on Picasso, Nietzsche, jazz, and sex.”  I can’t believe that even Hugh Hefner wrote that with a straight face.

That of course sent me to look at some back issues of Playboy stored in the Nicholsonian Archive – specifically January 1980.

I can’t pretend that I ever bought Playboy for the articles though there’s a pretty good interview with Steve Martin in this issue, and fiction by Roald Dahl and John Le Carre.  In fact it’s hard to see why I ever bought it at all.

But on this occasion, I read it in order to mock the advertising.  Especially the drink advertising: an easy target I know but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.  Consider this one:

Those two people do look fairly happy with life happy and their booze.  The small print in the ad tells you not to waste your time adding vermouth – which I suppose is just a way of telling the aspiring playboy that it’s perfectly OK to drink neat gin.  And there is an olive in each glass, which I suppose indicates sophistication.

Now the couple above look even more sophisticated, though to my eyes they look a lot less happy, but that may be because they’re sitting in an empty restaurant and nobody seems to have offered them a drink.   And on second thoughts the hostility in their eyes is perhaps supposed to be smoldering sensuality.

Now, look at the ad above: say what you like about Champale there is at least some indication of racial integration in the ad.  They’re also drinking outdoors, which we’ve established is not very Playboy.
And finally there’s this, the Thermos Bartender.

Press the top and out squirts some liquid, go pick the symbolism out of that one fellers.  What you seem to get, if this picture is to believed is a martini, not shaken, not stirred, but pre-made and stored in a very unattractive 70s-style flask.  The drink looks kind of warm too.  But I suppose you could use it outdoors if you wanted to.

Mr. Hefner, drinking Pepsi, I imagine.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Only obsessing slightly over the movie High-Rise. Of course, famously we know about eating the dog and the “bottle of sparkling wine” smashing onto his balcony from above.

Above is Charlotte Melville in the movie, the dropper of the bottle, I think, played by Sienna Miller.  I guess she’s drinking a martini, though I’d have thought that was pretty unusual in London in 1975, even at swanky parties in Brutalist tower blocks.

Meanwhile, up on the top floor of the building Ann Royal, played by Keeley Hawes, the wife of the building’s architect, finds a more convincingly seventies drinking vessel.

And here is the best JG Ballard booze image I’ve ever seen.  I found it floating around on Pinterest – it says “saved by Kim Heybourne” but I don’t know if he or she devised the image.  I want one.  Now.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


In general I don’t have much nostalgia for the food I ate growing up.  Mostly I think that’s because I found it pretty terrible even at the time.  Little food snob that I probably was, I knew that a steak and kidney pie in a tin wasn’t good eatin’. 

But suddenly I was hit the other day by a great yearning for Patum Peperium.  Fellow deracinated Englishman Nigel Richardson, of Austin, put something on his Facebook page about it and I got all Prousted up.
Patum Peperium calls itself a gentleman’s relish, which I think is overstating the case a bit – it’s a savory spread, butter and anchovies mostly, but there’s also rusk in there, and miscellaneous herbs and spices that add up to a “secret recipe” first devised by chap named John Osborn in 1828 when he was living in Paris.

I can’t tell you at what point in my life I discovered the stuff – I’d guess it was after I’d finished college and was living on my own in London.  I can’t say it was a life-changing discovery but it was pretty good, though in fact I hadn’t thought about it in years.

Now I had to have it, so I ordered a couple of pots of the stuff from England, and although I feared the customs folks might impound it, my order in fact arrived sooner than expected.

The first thing that seemed to have changed was the pot – it used to be porcelain, now it’s plastic – there are people on eBay trying to get a hundred and fifty fifty quid for the old pots.

There are also fancy porcelain ones that have sporting scenes and transport and characters from Dickens, but that’s seems to be trying too hard for the gift market.


I opened up the pot, was amused to see the serving suggestion that it should be used VERY SPARINGLY – who could disobey CAPITAL LETTERS?  Though the fact that it’s made on an industrial estate in Kent seems a bit less gentlemanly.

Anyway, it was good - umami coming out the wazz.  If anything it was a bit less intense than I remembered, but that may be because of my shell-shocked taste buds.  And it seem more solid too.  But no complaints at all.  And of course if you put in on buttered toast you’re having butter with your anchovy butter.

But I am left thinking that secret recipe or not, the entire contents of the pot couldn’t cost more than a few pennies: – a man with a moderately well stocked kitchen cabinet could surely make a stab at recreating it. Perhaps the real secret is in the rusk.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


You know, I don’t really think that Beyonce likes Guinness.

And actually I hope that Helen Mirren doesn’t like Budweiser, because I’d like to think she has more interesting tastes.

 And frankly I find it hard to believe that Nina Simone was much of a fan of Champale, because I find it hard to believe anybody has ever been much of a fan of Champale.

On the other hand I do believe that Jayne Mansfield liked a drink.

As did Joan Crawford.

And Debbie Harry.

However as far as I can tell (and I stand to be corrected) nobody has ever have used Jayne Mansfield, Joan Crawford or Debbie Harry to sell booze.  Which may be only to say that Jayne Mansfield, Joan Crawford and Debbie Harry have never allowed themselves to be used to sell booze.  Although in each of those cases they’ve happily shilled for something else.  Discuss.