Friday, January 26, 2018


Do you remember where you were and what were you were doing at the very moment when you heard that Mark E. Smith of the Fall had died?

I do, and now I’m writing it down so I won’t forget.  I was having lunch in the Thai Patio Restaurant, 5273 Hollywood Boulevard, in LA’s Thai town, and I was sharing a plate of boar in chili sauce with my pal Anthony, and the news alert came up on his phone.  The boar stew looked like this, and it was pretty good:

We drank some beer in honor of Mr. Smith.  I was going to say, "It’s what he’d have wanted" but I don't suppose he'd have given a toss either way, and we’d probably have drunk it even if he’d still been alive.  

Monday, January 22, 2018


There’s an episode of Jerry Seinfeld’s series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, in which he takes Judd Apatow to a diner in LA.  Apatow eats a burger, thereby slightly subverting the title of the show, and afterwards he says he's glad he doesn't know how they got to the diner because he'd be back there all the time eating burgers, and this would in some way be a bad thing.

Well, of course, we all understand that this is just showbiz chat and flutter, but the fact is they’re at the 101 Coffee Shop on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, and EVERYBODY in LA knows it and knows how to get there.  It's right by the 101 Freeway!

And the real reason they know the place is because it appears passim in the movie Swingers.  It’s the place where Vince Vaughan does a lot of sitting and talking and acting and, you know, being Vince Vaughan.  It's been refurbished and hispered-up since then, however.   It also appears in Entourage apparently.

More than that, it’s a place that I go to fairly often for lunch, though never for dinner.  And I’ve never had the burger, but the French dip sandwich is perfectly good. 

But for me the best thing about the place are the pictures on the wall; anonymous vernacular snapshots bought at some garage sale, I imagine. 

I wonder if the people in the pictures know about it.  I assume not.  I wonder if some of them are even still alive.

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 Nijiya 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: