Thursday, February 27, 2020


If it’s a Sunday afternoon and a man is in possession of sherry, gin, prosecco, an egg, and a copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book, there’s nothing to stop him following the recipe for a White Slave cocktail, a drink that wasn’t in the original 1930 edition, but can be found in the 1965 version.

The instructions say use equal quantities of sherry, gin, prosecco, and the white of an egg, and then ‘Shake well in ice and strain into a medium-size glass.’

Well, this is madness of course.  Shake prosecco ‘in ice’ and you’ll get an exploding torrent of prosecco. So I shook the other ingredients and added the fizz at the end, which any sane person would do.

It wasn’t bad at all, if not especially enslaving.  However, and this is something I don’t say very often, it could have used a little bit of sweetness, no doubt from the sherry.  I used amontillado – partly in honour of Edgar Allan Poe - but I might have used something less dry.

I don’t suppose white slavery is better or worse than any other kind of slavery, but – while being very respectful - I did give a thought to Tom Bullock, the legendary black bartender at the St Louis Country Club, in Missouri, not a slave at any time as far as we know, but author of The Ideal Bartender, published in 1917, 13 years before the first Savoy Cocktail Book. I wondered whether he gave a recipe for a White Slave – but no.  It would have been very surprising if he had.  

His book however does have a recipe for the Diarrhea Draught (which I must say I read at first as  Diarrhea Delight, but that's me all over): and I suppose it's a cure rather than a cause of diarrhea, but I haven’t made one as yet so I can't be absolutely sure.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020


My favourite ever receipt from a supermarket, in London.

Thursday, February 20, 2020


I went to the exhibition at Somerset House titled: Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi curated by Francesca Gavin, which according to the publicity is celebrating ‘the remarkable mushroom, and all the progressive, poetic and psychedelic wonder it evokes’ – i.e. it seemed to be heavily directed towards fans of ‘shrooming, though in fact when I went there quite a few mothers and children, ‘Oh yes, little Fiona just loves psilocybin.’  For obvious reasons I didn't photograph the children.

         The exhibition also, and I’m quoting here, shows ‘ground-breaking experiments in design, textiles and architecture that utilise mushrooms in exciting new ways – from upcycled agro-waste to sustainable shoes made with mycelium.’ I’m no fashion maven but if the shoes in the exhibition are anything to go by, it may take a while before they catch on.

         Fortunately there was art too, lots of ‘emerging artists’ I’d never heard of but also work Cy Twombly, Beatrix Potter, Carsten Höller (who made the mushroom suitcase above), and quite a few others including Takashi Murakami.  

Want to see a picture of me standing next to Takashi Murakami?  Of course you do.  I'm the one on the left.

There were also books in display cases which I always like, 

and this included a copy (actually an artist’s proof) of Mushroom Book, actually more or a folio, by John Cage, Alexander H. Smith, and Lois Long.  Since it was only an edition of 75 this is, as they say, ‘a rare chance to see.’

And frankly I was glad for the presence of Mr. Cage, (I pretty much always am) because given the rest of the exhibition you might never have known that mushrooms were things that people actually eat for food.  Cage used to forage for mushrooms and sell them to fancy New York restaurants.  He even appeared in Vogue with his recipe for ‘dogsup’ – a version of ketchup with mushrooms (type unspecified) brandy, mace, cayenne, allspice and other good things.

I came out of the exhibition wanting to have my consciousness expanded but more urgently with the urge to buy and cook some mushrooms; which I did.

Now mushrooms, as you probably know, are low in calories and fat, and cholesterol-free, they’re rich in copper, potassium, magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins, and antioxidants such as selenium and glutathione. Now I’ve never met anyboy who said, ‘Mmm I’ve really got a hankering for selenium and glutathione,’ but possibly such people exist.

I bought some brown and white shimeji, they were from China, and enoki, they were labeled ‘product of Korea’ - south, I’m assuming.  Did I feel guilty about their lack of localness, well of course I did.

I fried ‘em up with garlic and rocket, and stirred in some cooked gnocchi and a bit of grated cheese – and they weren’t bad at all, though when I do it again there’ll be a LOT more garlic, and perhaps a splash of psilocybin

Friday, February 14, 2020


Since you probably aren’t going to ask, it’s ‘Jane Jane’ Prepared Rolled Squid,
made by the Shin Ho Sing Ocean Enterprise Company of Taiwan.

The ingredients are squid, sugar, salt, lactose, vinegar, red pepper and Preservative E200.
       Of these flavours the most dominant by miles is the sugar.  In general I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I definitely don’t want my to squid to taste sugary, but in the name of orientalism I snaffled it down.  Ah international cuisine – bringing nations together.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


It’s an Ossau Iraty from the Largeveau Dairy, by way of Marks and Sparks:  ancient, Franco-Basque, make from sheep’s milk.  The packaging tells us it has a ‘nutty flavour which develops in the mouth.’ Now, I may be naïve in these matters, but y’know that strikes me as the very best place for flavour to develop.

Monday, February 10, 2020


I had lunch t’other day in the Bibendum Oyster Bar in London, day with my literary pal Kirsty Allison. 

This is Bibendum (not my picture):

This is Kirsty Allison (my picture):

We didn’t have oysters, they were a bit pricy, and they’d run out of the cheapest ones – from Maldon; although since Maldon oysters are what I buy many weekends at my local farmer’s market I’d have been a bit reluctant anyway. 

I had fish and chips and they were very good, I liked the curl, though not quite as good as Ms. A’s soup of the day which was fantastic – though I forget what was in it. Jerusalem artichoke, possibly.

The restaurant is currently run by Claude Bosi who is a very big deal – French, much travelled, lots of Michelin stars - and there are many rooms in his mansion: i.e. inside the big Bibendum building. 

He runs a tight ship – check this out from the website (and admittedly this applies to the fancy restaurant upstairs, not to the more modest the oyster bar):

“CANCELLATION POLICY: In the event that a booking is cancelled with less than 48 hours notice, a cancellation fee of £85 per person for lunch or £115 per person for dinner will be charged to the card provided at point of booking. PLEASE NOTE: In the event that the party arrive at the restaurant as a smaller group than expected, we reserve the right to charge for the missing guest(s).” 

Jeez.  I’d think this is the kind of malarkey that might make a person hesitate ever to make a reservation at said restaurant, but what do I know?

Above is a picture of me at the end of lunch with a cup of coffee, and I include it not because I particularly like to show my face (and what exactly am I doing with my face?) but because of that olive tree behind me.  There was a sign on it saying it’s for sale – though no price is given, nor any details of how you might get it home – perhaps Mr. Bosi would give you a hand loading it into the back of Subaru.  Perhaps, if the price was right.

FYI, the olive tree pictured at the top of this post is not at Bibendum, it's in my own back garden..

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Mmmm ... SMEARY

Since you ask, it’s truffled Taleggio, bought from the Solo Cheese stand at the farmer’s market in Manningtree. Taleggio is, apparently, a ‘smear ripened’ cheese, traditionally matured in caves and washed with seawater once a week to prevent mould as it forms its crust.  All the sources comment on the fact that it has a strong smell and yet a mild tangy, creamy taste.  Sometimes sources get it about right.

Thursday, February 6, 2020


The local farmers’ market has lately been selling some big potatoes – 5 for £1.50.  I bought some, obviously.

There’s no arguing that they’re big but they’re just awful.  I was going to say the tasteis just awful, but there really is no taste.  It doesn’t seem to matter what you do to them – mash, roast, fry, whatever  – they continue to taste bland and watery.  Sure, you can pile on the salt and pepper, add the butter, the cream, the goose fat; but then, at best, they just taste of salt and pepper and so on.  Still they do make for a reasonable photo–op

Of course I didn’t grow these monsters and by many standards these aren’t even all that monstrous at all

Above is Mr Peter Glazebrook with a potato he grew in 2010.  It weighed 3.8kg and appeared in the Guinness Book of Records.  I’ve long admired Mr Glazebrook who’s produced all manner of mighty vegetables, though of course I don’t know how his potato tasted.

And  even so it’s perfectly possible to imagine bigger potatoes, and many have, like this:

and this: 

and this:

Sunday, February 2, 2020


Here is Herman Melville in Moby Dick: ‘Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.’

OK, I understand the metaphor, but in what conceivable sense do oysters observe the sun?  Even in 1851 when Moby Dick was published, it must have been common knowledge that oysters don’t have eyes with which to do any observing.

But then in The Walrus and the Carpenter, 1872, Lewis Carroll gave them hands and feet, and I suppose ears.

"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."

And here’s Raymond Chandler writing in what I think is a faux-self-deprecating way about his first novel The Big Sleep, 1939 ‘My story is just another detective yarn that happens to be more interested in people than in plot, to try to stand on its own legs as a novel with the mystery a few drops of Tabasco on the oyster.’

 And here is the person I consider to be the greatest literary oyster eater: Isaak Dinesen, 

who accrding to legend consumed only oysters, grapes and Champagne, which I thought wouldn be the worst diet, though apparently not - at the time of her death she was suffering from malnutrition (and a few other unpleasant things as well) 

She did write however, in ‘The Deluge at Nordeney.’  

“Do you know a cure for me?"
"Why yes," he said, "I know a cure for everything. Salt water."
"Salt water?" I asked him.
"Yes," he said, "in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”

The last of these is also the brine in oysters.

Saturday, February 1, 2020


Since you ask, it’s a standard Asda supermarket ‘Blue Stilton – Strong & Rich. Wonderfully intense and meltingly creamy.’

No provenance – no reference to artisans and affineurs, to happy, environmentally-friendly cows, but I thought it wasn’t bad at all – more convincing on the intensity than the creaminess, but I’m not complaining – hey, it comes from Asda.