Wednesday, January 29, 2020


Since you ask, it’s a 'Curds Croust Miss Wenna Cornish Brie' – ‘mellow smooth and creamy with a delicate velvety rind’ according to the label, though I thought it was a bit bland.

Monday, January 27, 2020


Since you ask, it's  a Cropwell Bishop, Shropshire Blue, 

made by Hamish Johnson,  Unit 51 Martlesham Crescent, 

IP12 4SD.  It's a Stilton.  I thought it tasted of ammonia, but 

that my have more to do with the storage than the actual 

quality of the cheese.

Monday, January 20, 2020


I’ve been reading Alice in Wonderland, more correctly Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  I’d like to be able to say ‘rereading’ but I can’t really, because I’ve never actually sat down and read it from beginning to end.  I suspect not all that many have.  It's one of those books where people pick out their favorite bits.

And it seemed to me that it was food, food, food all the way – the Madhatter’s Tea party (obviously), the Lobster Quadrille, the stolen tarts, the treacle well, the mock turtle, Father William and his goose, 

and of course all the drink me business, and the eating of the mushroom that made Alice change size.  

No doubt this must say a great deal about Victorian tastes and desire for food but I’m not absolutely sure what.  Presumably Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell were well-fed at a time when not everybody in Britain was.  It seems to be rubbing it in.

To be honest with you I was reading Alice with a plain text in one hand and Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice in the other.

Much has been said, some of it by me, about the problems of annotation, and Gardner’s special problem as an American explicating for other Americans is that he explains a lot of stuff that doesn’t need explaining for an English reader.  And inevitably there are some things that could do with a lot more explaining.

And one of these things is the Cheshire Cat.  Gardner says ‘We know that Cheshire cheese was once sold in the shape of a grinning cat. One would tend to slice off the cheese at the cat’s tail end until finally only the grinning head would remain on the plate.’

Well, do we know this?  I certainly didn’t.  A lifetime’s obsession with cheese, with Cheshire as one of my favorites, has never brought me this bit of information.  And in any case I can’t picture this cheese cat, was it moulded in three dimension?  It certainly sounds like it from Gardner’s description, but how many cat moulds would a cheese maker need in order to produce them in any quantity?  It's not like a butter mould where you can press one out and move on.  Or was there a whole class of 19th century English cheese carvers?

A root around in the books in the Psychogourmet Library, and indeed the internet, reveals nothing whatsoever about this cat-shaped cheese.   Alan Davidson in the Oxford Companion to Food  has a lot to say about Cheshire cheese (Domesday Book, Gerard, giant American 300 pound political cheeses) but nothing feline.

Anybody got any views or further info on this?

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.