Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Thursday, September 22, 2022


 It was Stephen King’s birthday on September 24th– he was 75.


This is the trim and attractive (and possibly lean and hungry) picture he has on his website, taken by Shane Leonard.  Not a bad looking 75 year old:


The story goes that back in the 80s King porked up and was his doctor told him to lose weight.  Like any decent novelist he decided to turn his experience into a novel, in this case Thinner, written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.


The plot as I understand it (I mean I haven’t read the book, though I do have some vague memories of seeing the film on TV) involves a fat lawyer who runs over and kills an old Romany woman. He gets away with it because of his connections but the woman’s father puts a a curse on him and he starts to lose weight regardless of how much he eats. This is a still from the film:

If you could patent that curse you’d have yourself a helluva start up


Anyway, I only knew it was Mr. K’s birthday because the blessed Anne Billson posted on Facebook these two fine images she took of Mr. K reacting to a fish paste sandwich at Brown’s hotel. (Thanks Anne).



He might have been happier with some of this:

Wednesday, September 21, 2022


 It was the weekend of the Queen’s funeral and I was in Felixstowe eating fish and chips in a pub.

I wish the pub had been called the Prince of Wales, but it wasn't. I’m not eating two platefuls – the other belongs to the photographer – Caroline Gannon. You probably worked that out.


Previously, between the Platinum Jubilee and the funeral I ate this Coronation Chicken sandwich, in Dedham.  It was good, if slightly over-toasted.

On the weekend of the Jubilee itself I was, partly, in a pub in Hoddesdon with winsome men of a certain age (though younger than me – Simon Poulter and Dr. Pete Gomes), and if the picture is to be believed I made do with a glass of lager.  Photo again by Caroline Gannon.

And today, as the memory fades, the local Co-op has started selling mince pies.  It’ll soon be Christmas.  Life, and the monarchy, goes on. 

Sunday, September 11, 2022


 Following up from the previous post, I’ve been thinking about mushrooms.  

actually think about mushrooms pretty regularly.  Mushrooms are (very 

often) on the ground to begin with, so the five second rule obviously 

doesn’t apply there.  On the other hand, not all mushrooms are to be 

snatched up and eaten.

My friend Nick who used to be a hospital administrator, tells the story of a family – mother, father, two children - who came to the hospital complaining of stomach pains.  They’d been out foraging and had eaten some dodgy mushrooms. They were admitted to hospital – AND ALL FOUR OF THEM NEEDED LIVER TRANSPLANTS!!


This has made Nick, and me too, very wary about eating mushrooms in the wild.  I have a couple of books that supposedly help you identify them, and I’ve even played around with an app, but I remain unconfident about my identification abilities.  This, of course, has nothing to do with them being on the ground.


Above is one of the more melancholy photographs I’ve ever taken – at the seaside in Walton on the Naze.  This sad ice cream was just lying there on the stepped parapet at the seafront.  You know there must be a backstory, very possibly one involving some unhappy and disappointed child who dropped it.  Unless maybe the child was peevish and discarded the ice cream while having a tantrum. Also, I admit, the ice cream isn’t quite on the ground, but it’s definitely heading that way.


And just so you know that the food gods are there to punish you if you start feeling the slightest confident, yesterday afternoon, I knocked a tub of cream out of the fridge and onto the floor.


I know there’s no use crying over split milk, but couldn’t an exception possibly be made for split cream?

Thursday, September 8, 2022


If you walk about ten minutes due south from where I live you come to a 

small public orchard, or anyway a small group of apple trees, planted I 

suppose in the interests of saving the planet. And there, at this time of 

year, on the ground are hundreds of apples that have fallen off the trees.  

I’ve been known to gather up a few of these wormy old fruits to put in my 

compost bin, and I’ve picked a fair number of apples off the trees and 

eaten them.  They’re crisp and a bit sour, and just the kind I like, though I 

couldn’t tell you the breed.

This reminded me of a recent walk I did, I did not very far from home, around some potato fields, where a good many discarded or rejected potatoes by the potato harvester machine, and could be snatched up from the ground, and they were, by me and my walking companions. Not the potatoes in this picture, obviously.


And OK, you may say, ‘Well of course there are edible things on the ground where you live, in a very slightly rural bit of Essex.’


And this is true enough, but a couple of weeks ago I was in London, in Spitalfields.some and there were ‘windfall’ potatoes to be had right there on the ground.  I imagine they’d fallen off the back of a lorry but they looked perfectly edible (apart from the odd one that had been run over) though I admit I didn’t swoop down on them.

And then, because I go around taking pictures of these things,  I remembered this perfectly good looking piece of bread, close to the rear tyre of a pickup truck in Los  Angeles. They have everything in that city!  But again I didn’t forage it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022


Want to see what my stew and Yorkshire pudding looks like?

Well, what harm could it do?

Friday, August 19, 2022


 No doubt, like me, you’ve been reading about the efforts to get young people in Japan to drink more alcohol.  And no, I have no idea what the guys the picture below are drinking. Milk?  Ouzo?


Well ere’s my plan – reduce the price!


My local supermarket had a couple of bottles of Adnams Jardín Mexicano Gin on sale, ‘reduced to clear,’ down from £32.95 to £17.79. Of course I would never have bought it at 33 quid but at £17.95 I thought it was worth a punt.


The label says, inscrutably, that it’s an ‘Avocado and botanical gin’ and that singular through me for a while. Just the one botanical?  But the Adnams website explains that it’s made with juniper and angelica, so far much as expected, but then, ‘There are also warming notes of cinnamon from Cassia Bark, a punchy woodiness from the Mexican herb, Epazote and a smoky hint of Chipotle Chilli in the background. The addition of Coriander leaf and Mexican Oregano (which is related to Verbena) and Lime Peel created the underlying citrus freshness, much like that found in Mexican salsa.’ 


A first taste test suggest they may be exaggerating its specialness - though I think I detected some hotness - but it tastes fine and hey, it’s alcohol and it’s cheap (ish).

Tuesday, August 9, 2022


I’ve often mocked the idea of the ‘sandwich recipe.’  I mean, you take some food that you like and you put it between slices of bread and that’s really the only recipe you need.


And yet and yet … this hasn’t stopped me forming (even curating) a small collection of sandwich books – many of them American, so there’s a lot of recipes for BLTs, Reubens, Po’boys and so on. And to be fair there is the occasional recipe in these books that I couldn’t imagine inventing, let alone eating, such as, in Sandwich Exotica, ‘the peanut butter-sardine and potato salad-lettuce on rye.”


So when I saw in the local charity shop the Encyclopedia of Sandwichesby Susan Russo, photography by Matt Armendariz, how could I resist buying it?


It’s American again – and contains such gems as how to make a ham sandwich – bread, ham, mustard or mayonnaise. Yes, really.


But hold your horses - there’s a recipe in there for a potato chip sandwich (that’s potato crisps to the British) which the author describes as ‘a crunchy salty guilty pleasure.’  I don’t generally do guilt when it comes to food, but in fact the potato crisp sandwich does strike me as slightly shameful.


But here Susan Russo comes up with a variation I again would never have dreamed of – ‘creamy peanut butter, 2 slices of white bread, 4 to 6 dill pickle chips, a layer of your favorite plain potato chips.’


Well that sounded kind of dubious, so of course I had to make one.  I wasn’t sure I’d ever had a dill pickle chip so I used sliced pickle gherkins.  And I would probably have used crunchy peanut butter but the recipe called for creamy, so I went with smooth.  And I didn't have any acceptable white bread.


How was it?  It tasted just fine.  But I do wish I’d used white bread, and I think it would have been better if I’d used twice as much of all the contents.  All my own fault. We never stop learning about the sandwich. 


Monday, August 8, 2022


 You know how you could sell more booze round here?


Fill the bloody glasses!


This was at 5th View which is on the top floor of Waterstone’s bookshop in Piccadilly, an  improbable little watering hole that I’ve been going to for a few years.  Books and martinis go together (obviously) and the martinis used to be better than anybody has a right to expect in a bookshop, especially since they do a ‘two for one’ deal.


But last week there was something not right.  The staff seemed harassed and sullen. I said I wanted the 2 for 1 but could I have one now and one later, so the second one wouldn’t get warm?


Nope.  I had to have 'em both at the same time because of ‘staff shortages.’


Since there were 2 of us drinking this wasn’t a great problem, but really - sullen and harassed is no way to serve a martini.  And if you ask for olives you don’t want lemon peel – but I just didn’t need the angst – and I’m sure the staff didn’t either.

Monday, August 1, 2022


 I like Sarah Lucas’s art, and I like the idea of Sarah Lucas.  

I was once eating lunch in St Johns restaurant and I noticed this incredibly charismatic woman sitting a few tables away.  There seemed to be nothing very remarkable about her and yet she was incredibly compelling. I suppose that’s how it is with charisma.  It was, of course Sarah Lucas.  This was long before she was nearly as famous as she is now.


So last weekend off we went to see her piece Sandwich, one of 20 works around the City of London, part of the annual ‘Sculpture in the City’ programme.


On the train to London I read Private Eye and Sarah Lucas had made into Pseud’s Corner (tis a consummation devotedly to be wished) with this description of the work in question:

“Sarah Lucas’s recent large-scale sculpture, Sandwich, 2011-2020, stands in opposition to traditional public sculpture. Its horizontal configuration opposes veneration and pomposity through its prosaic absurdity and functional accessibility. Mining at themes of British culture, Lucas ambiguously transposes the humble sandwich on a monumental scale with a metaphoric and literal sense of hyperbole; simultaneously satirizing and celebrating the commonplace foodstuff as a proletariat symbol. The material austerity of the work in concrete, elevates and inverts the object’s ordinariness with irreverent humour.”


The Sculpture in the City website says “© Sarah Lucas, Courtesy Sadie Coles HQ, London” but I don’t know if Sarah Lucas actually wrote that. I hope not unless the pretentious art-speak nonsense is also part of the joke.


Anyway, Sandwich is indeed austere – which I liked – just a plain concrete thing and you couldn’t guess what was the filling was.  And of course I thought about the recently late Claes Oldenburg’s Giant BLT, 1963, which which looks like this: 


It’s colourful and overstuffed, with the filling spilling out.  And maybe that’s Sarah Lucas’s point.  The American sandwich is an exuberant and extravert thing, while the English sandwich is plain and muted. 


And the great thing about Oldenburg’s Giant BLT is that it’s made up of various components (just like a BLT in the real world) and these components have to be put together again whenever the sculpture’s moved and reinstalled.  Isn’t that kind of wonderful?


And it so happened that later in the weekend I was passing an Aldi supermarket, and I went in and they were selling pre-packed BLTs, so in honour of dear departed Claes, and partly in honour of Sarah Lucas, I bought one.  It looked like this (not a work of art):

But it really didn’t taste bad at all.


Friday, July 22, 2022


 If you find yourself in the caff at the Cambridge Botanic Garden and you're allergic to gluten, sesame, dairy, nuts and pork, then you'd probably be better off not ordering the Parma ham, pesto, cheddar and rocket focaccio sandwich.  Just sayin'.

The one in the back is feta and spinach - slightly safer.  If you're looking for safety in your meals.

Friday, July 15, 2022


 You recall me banging on a few posts back about Raymond Chandler and 



I can’t think of Chandler without also thinking of PG Wodehouse – two men who performed miracles with the English language while remaining not quite English and not quite American. Hell, they even went to the same school – Dulwich College - though not quite at the same time.


And therefore it will come as no surprise that Wodehouse thought and wrote about sandwiches, as in this passage from ‘Jeeves and the Old School Chum,’ the ‘old chum’ being Bingo Little:


‘If young Bingo has a fault, it is that, when in the society of a sandwich he is apt to get a bit rough. I’ve picnicked with him before, many a time and oft, and his method of approach to the ordinary tongue or ham sandwich rather resembles that of the lion, the king of beasts, tucking into an antelope.'


Predictably I can’t find a picture of PG tucking into a sandwich, but there’s this:

And, of course, there's always this:

Saturday, July 9, 2022


 I’ve been reading Georges Perec’s, ‘Attempt at an Inventory of the Liquid and Solid Foodstuffs Ingurgitated by Me in the Course of the Year Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Four,’ first published in 1976.

And a fine French inventory it is, containing, among many others, Coquilles St-Jacques, two chateaubriands, one jellied daube, 22 dishes involving rabbit, and he scores 75 cheeses, though he doesn’t list them all.  He also has ‘two stewed rhubarb and quetsch.’  I’d never heard of quetsch but apparently it’s either a kind of plum and/or a kind of Alsatian plum brandy.  


Did I have food and drink envy while reading?  You bet.


In the days of social media many of us, one way or another, make inventories of our lives. My plan in this case was to count up how many different things Perec ate in 1974, then I could calculate how many of those things I’d ever eaten in my entire life.


But arriving at a number for Perec is hard.  Some of the language, and of course I’m reading in translation, is strangely ambiguous.


For instance he states ‘eight pâtés’ but then he makes a list of pâtés – ‘one duck pâté, one pâté de foie with truffles, one pâté en croute, one pâté grand mere, six pâtés des Landes.  Now this adds up either to 5 or 10, possibly to a grand total of 18.  But if it’s 5, then are these included in the original eight?  And if that’s the case then what were the other two?  Why leave them unnamed?


It doesn’t get any simpler with sandwiches which he lists as ‘six sandwiches, one ham sandwich, one rillettes sandwich, three Cantal sandwiches.’  Again – you do the maths.  Is this 6 or 9, or possibly 11?  He is a literary tease.  And who knows if any of this inventory is actually true?


My own yearly inventory would include hundreds of sandwiches.  I have one for lunch pretty much every day because it’s easy.  Of course I miss one or two but there are sometimes breakfast sandwiches and even the occasional sandwich for dinner.  I don’t think Georges Perec would have envied me one bit.


This is the closest I’ve come to a picture of Perec ingurgitating: