Sunday, December 30, 2018


Look, here in the Psychogourmet Test Kitchen we are not body fascists and we’re certainly not body-shamers.  We like our pies, and we could all afford to lose a good few pounds.

So when we see (above) a picture of the winner of the World Pie Eating championship, held in Wigan earlier in December – that’s Martin Appleton-Clare who ate a chicken pie in 19.58 seconds - we’re far too accepting to question whether his vocation might be having an unacceptable effect on his body.  We know that every true champion puts his or her body through unimaginable stresses. 

To be fair, the runner up Ian Gerrard – the one above on the left - looks as though he may have suffered even more than Martin Appleton-Clare:

Compare and contrast with Sonya Thomas, of Alexandria, Virginia, AKA The Black Widow. 

She’s the winner of multiple eating contests, holder of multiple records, including eating Nathan's hot dogs,  eating five and three quarters pounds of deep fried asparagus in 10 minutes, eating 43 soft tacos in 11 minutes, and eating 65 hard boiled eggs in 6 and a half minutes.  All of these sound like very hard work and the hard boiled eggs just sound like absolute torture. 
         Even so, Sonya Thomas weighs 100 pounds and is 5 foot 5 inches tall.  Just sayin’.

Friday, December 21, 2018


"Surrender at the bar."  The story of all our lives. Well not all of them, obviously, but you know what I mean.

Sunday, December 16, 2018


About a million years ago I worked in Harrods.  I didn’t work in the food hall, though I’d have liked to, but I spent a fair amount of time there, skiving off from the furniture department where I supposedly didwork.   I hung around looking at food.  The fish fountain was pretty amazing, a lot of fish arranged into a kind of sculpture. I always wondered what happened to the fish at the end of the day.  I always suspected it just got thrown away, which seemed very wasteful, but maybe the staff got to take it home with them.  

That, in an inverse sort of way, was what happened in the cheese department. If you went there first thing in the morning, before the store was open, the guys were preparing the displays, trimming pieces off the big slabs of cheese, making them neater, so they looked more presentable and desirable.  Then they’d put the offcuts in a bag and sell them to staff for next to nothing.  If they liked you, they’d even cut off big chunks of perfectly good cheese and put them in the bag too, and sell them to you for the same low price.

I don’t know if any of this still goes on. I went into Harrods at the weekend, and I didn’t see the fish fountain but the place was so packed I was lucky to see anything at all.  The cheese department had changed out of all recognition but it looked pretty good. 

However there was one new development that we’d have laughed at back in the day, and I’m still prepared to laugh at it today – the Vegetable Butchery.

I know I'm not the first to observe the absurdity of this, but you do have to wonder what thought processes were employed to arrive at that name.  And what names did they reject? Vegetable Monger? Vegetable Brokerage? Ludicrously Overpriced and Fussily Arranged Greengrocery Department? 
          The girl behind the counter had the decency to keep her eyes downcast.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I was thinking about Enid Blyton, the way you do.  When I was a kid I really used to enjoy her books even though they depicted a world that was very strange to me.  That may have had a lot to do with the English class system.  And now I wonder if it was the strangeness that I actually enjoyed.
I do remember the characters were always having picnics – our family never had picnics. This illustration by Eileen Soper seems to say it all:

Today, of course, I do wonder what was actually in those sandwiches.
And then this picture popped up on Facebook, posted by Howard Rodman.  It’s by Berenice Abbott, and shows McSorley's Ale House, on East 7th Street, in Manhattan. 

The thing that really caught my eye was that sign on the wall offering sandwiches for ten cents and fifteen cents, with no mention of what was in them.
         McSorley’s is still there and I did go there once in the 1990s, I remember that across the street there was an empty lot with rats running all over it, and there was a white DeTamaso Pantera parked in front of it. The latter was far more suprising than the former.

And I managed to find this more or less contemporary photograph of McSorley’s. The sandwiches have gone up in price but at least they tell you what’s in them.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


My pal Joanna and I were in the Pembury bar, in Roux at Parliament Square, a ritzy watering hole if ever there was one, and not my usual stomping ground, but since we're being Christmas, every London pub was exploding with people, most of whom it seems only ever go to a pub once a year, so the Pembury was the quiet option, though it wasn't quite as quiet as it looks in this pic from their website:

The cocktail menu featured a James Bond Vesper Martini – that old cookie - in this case “Sipsmith Gin, Belvedere Vodka, Lillet Blanc,” though as any fool knows, the modern version of Lillet Blanc is made to a different recipe from the one Bond would have known.

The Vesper cost 15 quid which seemed pretty steep but that’s how it is with ritzy watering holes, and given that the non-alcoholic "One For The Fox" which either contains or consists of “Citrus Agave” cost £12, our Vespers could conceivably be thought of as bargains.

The drinks came and they were perfectly decent, good enough that we drank them and then tried to order two more.  However, the waiter told us they’d run out of Lillet – by which I suppose he meant that we’d just drunk the last of it - but that we could have a version made with vermouth instead of Lillet so we had that.  And they were perfectly decent too, though in smaller glasses, even if the pour may have been the same size.

Next day I was walking down Kings Road and came across a shop selling classic James Bond posters, like this one for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

I don’t remember if George Lazenby drank cocktails as 007, but even if the film ruined him, he did at least get a gig selling Kronenberg.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Did I ever tell you my George Bush quail story?  If I didn’t, it goes as follows.

I was at a media lunch given by/for Steve Rinella, when he seemed to be on the verge of becoming a celebrity chef, and he served up a big tray of quails.  They’d been given to him by some guys who ran a fancy shoot in the American South, and the story was that George Bush junior had been down there and these were the quails he’d shot.  Obviously he didn’t want to take them away with him on the presidential so he left them behind to be given as a souvenir to the some lucky person – “as shot by the president.” 

Rinella was that person but he pointed out, and it was obviously true as I ate them, that these quail had not been shot at all – they didn’t have a mark on them. and had presumably been farm-raised but then presented to Bush as “evidence” of what a great shot he was.

The quails above are not those ones. They come from R & E Family Butchers of Leys Avenue Letchworth Garden City.  I can’t tell you where they come from but they too had not a mark on them, and they were bigger, juicier and tastier than any quail I ever had in America.

At R & E Family Butcher I also picked up a leaflet for their Christmas Hampers, which had this remarkable illustration on the front.  

 I have no idea where that illustration comes from either (drawn by the butcher’s daughter perhaps), I thought there was something a bit Eric Stanton-ish about the dad, but a reverse image search didn’t produce anything very telling, though it did bring up this stock image titled "Buy my Dish of great Eels."

Near enough.