Thursday, December 28, 2023


One year, when I was a kid, I was ill on Christmas day morning; nothing really alarming and with no obvious cause, but I was feeling totally out of sorts.

My family used to spend Christmas at my grandparents’ house. Various aunts, uncles and cousins lived very near by - and over the course of the morning quite a few of them trooped in and stared at me and said how ill I looked and how they hoped I'd be able to manage a bit of Christmas dinner.  And one uncle said, ‘Well perhaps he’ll be able to have a bit of turkey, even if he can’t manage all the trimmings.’


And this dismayed me because when it comes to Christmas dinner I liked the ‘trimmings’ much more than the turkey. It was the stuffing and the cranberry sauce, the pigs in blanket, and of course the roast potatoes, that really tickled my fancy. 


Well the years have gone by and my feelings about the trimmings haven’t really changed, but fortunately since my mother’s no longer in charge of things I don’t have to eat turkey.  This year’s bird was a mighty duck, from Creedy Carver of Devon – ‘reared for flavour’ – well, why not?


The inamorata and I worked diligently, and you know, it all went as well as it possibly could have, and I ate it with enthusiasm; duck, trimmings and all.

And as you may have spotted, this year the trimmings  included red cabbage.


Oh yeah, and there were martinis too.  We didn't have those at my grandparents' house.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023


Choosing a name for your line of food products can never be easy.  But if Peel Pal is the number one choice, you have to wonder what was 'number two.'  You see what I did there?

Sunday, December 17, 2023


If Blogger’s counting system is to be believed, this is my 1000th Psychogourmet blog post, to which ‘OMG’ seems a very reasonable response.


It all started when I said to my American book editor, Geoff Kloske, the man who edited The Lost Art Of Walking, that I thought I might like to write a non-fiction book about food, and Kloske said, ‘Well, get famous first.’ So I wrote freelance articles about food and food matters for the New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, the Daily Telegraph, Gastronomica, Gourmet and others, and I started this blog.


This all went perfectly well, but I didn’t exactly become famous for it, I mean not Nigella Lawson famous, but then who the heck is?


Nevertheless, famous or not, somewhere along the line blogging about food seemed a reasonable and enjoyable end in itself, and so here we are at post number 1000, and to celebrate, here’s a noirish picture of a pleasant old geezer pouring martinis in the comfort of his own bar.  

Photo by Caroline Gannon

Tuesday, December 12, 2023


 I am, of course, a fan of Bette Davis: what sentient human being isn’t?  Well, Faye Dunaway probably isn’t, but that’s a different story.


And it so happened that the free library in my local train station had a copy of This ’n That, a 1987 book attributed to Bette Davis and Michael Herskowitz, a second volume of autobiography that’s a sort of update and recap.  (You can find the Faye Dunaway story in there.)  So, of course I snaffled it up, not least because it contains this picture, which is very probably my favourite ever photograph of martini drinkers:

The book also contains a description of what, in other circumstances, I might have thought of as a perfect mother and daughter relationship. Bette says, ‘I would come home from the studio when B.D. (that’s the daughter, Barbara) was growing up, and from the minute I came through the door, no one spoke.  B.D. had a drink prepared for me.  I would sit down, finish the drink, and that would relax me just enough to be ready for a conversation.’


Sounds fine to me, though B.D. did write a couple of unflattering tell-all books about her mother, and now, as Barbara Davis Hyman, is a pastor in Charlottesville, Virginia.  Go pick the bones out of that one.


This ’n That also contains another very impressive martini picture of Bette drinking with Kim Carnes, of 'Bette Davis Eyes' fame.  Oh boy!

Friday, December 8, 2023


 You know, if I didn’t read Caitlin Moran’s Celebrity Watch column in the Times every Friday I’d be even more out of touch with the modern world than I currently am.


Thanks to today’s column I’m now aware of something called The Broctail, the invention of one Jack Sotti who’s sometimes described as a London cocktail guru, which is apparently a thing.  The Broctail looks like this:


It involves blanched florets of tenderstem broccoli shaken with tequila, lime juice, olive oil, sugar syrup and ice, so it’s basically a magararita with a bit of veg in it.  Why not a Brocarita? 


Caitlin who refers to me (and a few others) every week as her ‘dearest reader’ suggests a development of her own – the cabbagetini. A bunch of booze with some cabbage in it.  And I tried to think of what might be usefully added to a cocktail, any cocktail,and I thought whimsically and improbably that maybe some mushrooms would do the job.  

Man, am I late on the scene.  The internet is awash with mushroom cocktails of one kind or another, most of them involving some fairly run of the mill concoctions with a slice of shiitake or lion’s mane tossed in, but this one in ‘Barrows’ Intense’ actually uses cognac, orange liqueur, lemon juice and savory mushroom syrup.  The Mushroom Cognac Crusta.


   I didn’t know there was anything such thing as mushroom syrup although I was well aware of John Cage’s Mushroom Dogsup: as opposed to catsup – get it?  His recipe involves mushrooms, ginger root, mace, bay leaf, cayenne and black pepper, allspice and brandy and should apparently be kept a year before using.


You might think the presence of brandy would indicate that it’s some way towards being a cocktail already but Cage’s recipe only calls for one teaspoon per half pint, which is not going to get the job done.  But put it a dirty martini or a Gibson, and you’d definitely have something worth drinking.


John Cage obviously regarded mushrooms as a serious business


Though he could see the funny side.

Thursday, November 30, 2023



The first time I had a margarita I thought somebody was having a laugh, either that or they were trying to poison me.  It was in a bar in New York, and I was with people I didn’t know very well, and I couldn’t believe that any sane person would put salt around the rim of their glass.  


Well the years go by, our taste buds change, and these days I think the salt is the best reason for drinking a margarita.  I mean I like the tequila, I like the lime juice; I could totally live without the sweet sticky Cointreau or Triple Sec, but I absolutely couldn’t live without the salt.


Psycho-pic by Caroline Gannon

So finding oneself in Macayo’s in Scottsdale, Arizona, and attempting to go very slightly native, what could be better than a coupla margaritas and a giant bowl of nachos?  Very little. Macayo’s looks like this.


And then a couple of weeks later, in the bar of the Leopold Hotel in Sheffield, England a margarita was again to be had. It looked like this:

smaller and perhaps a little more intense than it’s American cousin and far more expensive ounce for ounce, but still very definitely with the salt.


The Leopold Hotel looks like this:

Saturday, November 18, 2023


The inamorata and I have been on the road in California (briefly) and in Arizona (mostly).  We didn’t expect it to be a foodie trip (which was just as well) but of course we did a fair amount of eating and drinking, not least these salt and vinegar flavoured crickets, bought in the gift shop of the Phoenix Botanical Garden.  


They were fine, because most things in this world taste fine when seasoned with salt and vinegar, but I don’t believe I’ve yet experienced the authentic taste of a cricket.


We had, perhaps surprisingly, a pretty good Reuben sandwich at the Space Age Restaurant in Gila Bend.  The sandwich looked like this:

The restaurant sign looked like this:

That's  a lot to live up to, but they just about managed it, Reuben-wise.


But the golden food moment came at Applebee’s in Yucca Valley.  The food was much as you’d expect.  I had the Texas Shrimp Bowl which was OK, 

but what made the meal special was the name of the waiter.  The bill told us he was ‘Joseph K.’


as in ‘Somebody must have been telling lies about Joseph K,’ the opening line of Kafka’s The Trial.  If somebody was telling lies about our waiter, it wasn’t me.  Our Joseph K was big, bearded, attentive, and he did everything right, even if he looked nothing at all like Anthony Perkins who played Joseph K in the Orson Welles movie of The Trial.  

Still, you can’t have everything.

Thursday, October 26, 2023


 Dwight Garner, who is one of the good guys, has written a book about food, drink and reading.  It’s called The Upstairs Delicatessen.

He was my editor when I reviewed for the New York Times Book Review, and although we had lunch a few times, I don’t recall us ever drinking martinis, which is relevant because has just published an extract from Dwight’s book which they title ‘Dwight Garner on the Long History of Writers and America’s Greatest Invention, the Martini.’ I can’t find a picture of him with a martini.


Of course I’m devastated not be included in the list of literary martini drinkers but many of of the usual suspects are there - Eliot, Mailer, Hitchens, Highsmith, Roger Angell, Field Marshall Montgomery, et al.  I can’t find a picture of Monty drinking a martini either.


One thing that surprised me in the article, though not absolutley totally, was the news that Kenneth Tynan, inspired by Alan Watts, ‘had his girlfriend inject the contents of a large wineglass of vodka, via an enema tube, into his rectum. “Within ten minutes the agony is indescribable,” he wrote in his diary. His anus became “tightly compressed” and blood seeped from it. It took three days for the pain to abate. “Oh, the perils of hedonism!” he wrote.’

This is interesting to me chiefly because a long time ago on the Greek island of Samos, I met a group of Americans, some of whom had been in Vietnam, and despite having what seemed to me fairly generous war pensions, they found it too expensive to drink Greek wine in bars or tavernas, and so they tried the intra-anal method, or so they said.  They said it was very effective if you wanted to be falling-down drunk (as they did) and all perils aside, it was cheap.

Dwight says in his article that he makes his own martinis every night at home, and adds ‘If you want to go broke quickly rather than slowly, drink your martinis outside the house.’  This is certainly true and I like to think I construct a pretty good home-made martini, and I certainly do a more generous pour than you get in most bars, but somehow the experience is never quite as good as when you’re in a dark American bar with a friendly (or even surly) bartender.










Friday, October 20, 2023


It was the inamorata’s birthday so naturally we went for dinner at St. John. We started with martinis of course. They looked like this:


This pic and the others (apart from the Hepple Gin bottle) by Caroline Gannon.

Our waitress said they were made with Hepple Gin, which she described as ‘an unusual choice’ though it was her choice rather than ours.  A little research reveals that among other ingredients, Hepple Gin contains savoury lovage and bog myrtle, and I can safely say that I’d never tasted bog myrtle before.


And then it was business as usual, though not exactly as usual. I mean when the first starter on the menu is ‘Pig's Head, Radishes and Sorrel’ you know at least one of the things you’ll be ordering.  It looked like this:


But old habits die hard, and so for a second starter we had ‘Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad’ which I think I’ve had every single time I’ve ever been to St John.


But this time, in a moment of mid-martini inspiration, I saw the architectural and sculptural possibilities of the dish, or anyway the remains of the dish.  I made a Bone Henge.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023


 A few years back I bought a cookery book titled One Knife, One Pot, One Dish. It was by Stephane Reynaud who I’d never heard of at the time – though he looks a cheerful enough fellow

And I certainly didn’t know he ran a restaurant in Shoreditch named Tratra, though I gather it’s now closed.


Nevertheless, the concept of one knife, one pot, pot dish sounded and continues to sound like a great idea.  The problem with the recipes in the book was that many of them involved ingredients that I’m unlikely to obtain in my current place of residence, despite there being a reasonable local butcher and a decent fish man who comes on Saturdays. I’m talking about things such as beef cheeks, pork cheeks, oxtail, veal shoulder, veal knuckle, speck, shadefish (no idea what that is), bintje potatoes (likewise). 


But the idea of the one pot dish never quite went away and so at the weekend having a bought a chicken and wanting to do something easy and mildly interesting with it, I chopped it up, marinated it, and in due course put it in an oven tray along with with potatoes (not bintjes) and some sprouts and then roasted the heck out of it.  Does an oven tray count as a one dish? I’m not sure but it worked pretty well.  And it looked like this:


To be fair, the end result isn’t a million miles away from Reynaud’s ‘Footy Chicken,' though that involves ketchup and a jar of chilies, but I only found that out afterwards.


Anyway, once my chicken was eaten, the carcass made a chicken stock.  Some left over potatoes and sprouts were added and liquidized, and there you have a very acceptable soup.

 I suppose this is in fact two dishes, and making the stock and the soup required a saucepan too, so in the end it may be two dishes, two pots, but still just the one knife.  Not such a catchy title, I know.


Thursday, October 5, 2023


It was in New York that I learned to sit at the bar and drink. It’s not a thing you want to do in most English pubs because you get jostled by customers trying to attract the barman’s attention, and then they spill their beer over you as they carry it away once they’ve been served. But finding ourselves in Sloane Square, and seeing a watering hole called The Botanist (a small chain priding itself on its ‘elegant atmosphere’) that had a couple of empty stools at the bar, we thought what the heck.


It looked pretty much like the image above and those empty stools are the very ones we sat on, though the picture is from a website called


The cocktail menu looked good and so we ordered two Sipsmith Gin Martinis.  That didn’t seem too much to ask but it was.  There was none behind the bar, and some lad was despatched to the cellar but came back empty handed, so we had to settle for a Sipsmith Vodka Martini.  Who says I’m afraid to try new things?

The ritual of the martini-making was everything you could have asked for, and our barman certainly had a sense of the occasion – no cocktail shaker for him, more a sort of glass vase. 


And the resulting martinis were absolutely fine, if expensive and a bit small.  But heck, we were in Sloane Square.


You will have noticed that the drinks were served on black napkins, ‘Black Napkins’ being a composition by Frank Zappa which I always use to say I wanted played at my funeral.  Or if not that, then perhaps Zappa’s ‘America Drinks and Goes Home.’