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Showing posts from June, 2011

Fear and fried chicken

Chicken was something I only ever saw whole. My mother didn’t buy chicken breasts, thighs or wings. Is it possible they weren’t readily available in the 1960s? After all, chicken was the luxury dish back then, before factory farming had kicked into full gear, and reserved for Sundays. Beef was more likely to be the mid week joint, a topside or silverside slowly roasted and thinly sliced. And takeaway food tended to be restricted to chips, fishcakes and rissoles so my first encounter with Kentucky Fried Chicken should have been more rewarding, for its novelty factor if nothing else.
The first KFC opened in Preston in 1965. I’m unsure of its arrival in Wales; perhaps the bearded face of Colonel Sanders and the distinctive red and white stripes had already made an appearance between Swansea and Cardiff but it was the 1970s, and in England, before I got up-close and personal with one.

Summertime. And the living...

1. We lived 200 yards from a flat, sandy beach in South Wales so, unlike other families who set off for seaside resorts and holiday camps when the summer holidays arrived, we packed up the Hilman Minx, and later the Austin 1100, and set off to rural caravan parks in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall. We visited the coast, but our home was among trees, early morning dew on the grass, whitewashed toilet blocks. Watchet, Tavistock, Looe. The names of these towns are a mantra to conjure memories: fishing for crabs on an old stone harbour wall, the smell of plastic rain coats, watching my parents dance in the clubhouse. Round and round they go, smiling and flecked with light from the glittering mirror ball suspended above the dance floor.
The texture of summer: the raised bumps of prickly heat on my arms. Its taste: a scone spread with strawberry jam and clotted cream.
2. One summer in the early 80s, when I was living in Jersey in the Channel Islands, Sue and I piled into her yellow MG, caught th…

Entente Cordiale, Appropriation and Apple Tart

My French friend, Kate, is telling me about a spat she had with an inexperienced barman at the swanky Les Belles Rives in Juan les Pins who had run up to her with l’addition even though she’d only walked 100 yards away from her table, leaving her bag there, to take a photograph. ‘I thought this was a 5 star establishment,’ she said. ‘In a 5 star establishment the bill is always delivered to the table.’ Kate is all of five foot tall but she can wither someone who crosses her in less than five seconds and the barman couldn’t grovel an apology quickly enough. It’s a good story. But then she goes on.


In the late 1960s Port Talbot council began a regeneration project that would make it almost impossible to recognise the town centre by the mid 1970s. The building of the M4 flyover in the limited amount of land between the sea and the town’s three mountains, Mynydd Margam, Mynydd Emroch and Mynydd Dinas, had already meant the disappearance of a number of landmarks, including Capel Moriah, Vivian Square and Carmarthen Row, and in 1971 most of what was left of the old town was demolished so a modern indoor shopping centre could be built in the neo-brutalism style that scarred so much of the country at that time.
My memories of the town post 1971 are vague even though I didn’t move away until 1978. When I think of the town it’s always the old town that comes to mind: the market building, Oliver’s shoe-shop in Water Street where my mother took me to buy my school shoes, the short cut past the back of the Walnut Tree Hotel to the corner of David Evans on the High Street, the bridge over t…

Little pieces of home

When you’re away from home, in a different country, is there a food you miss?
Here in France I miss British sausages, a good quality Cumberland or Lincolnshire cooked until the skin starts to crisp and caramelise and served in a hot dog roll with fried onions, ketchup and mustard. Or on a nest of mashed potatoes with onion gravy and peas. Or sliced into a sandwich of thick granary bread with brown sauce. Or cold the next day, snaffled from the fridge and eaten between the kitchen and whatever room I’m heading for.
When I leave France I will miss their unsalted butter, beurre doux, that I like to spread onto French bread and eat without anything else at all so the delicate, creamy depth isn’t lost. Perhaps the only thing that doesn’t overpower it is a ripe summer grown coeur de boeuf tomato sprinkled with salt. And I will miss the bread.
Is there anything you think you’ll miss so much that you pack it in your suitcase when you travel?
My niece and her husband are coming to stay for a week…