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Showing posts from December, 2011

Relax, enjoy.

The fridge is brimming with free range chickens and vegetables and enough Tesco Finest Wild Mushroom Filo Parcels to feed a small army. Some things are worth doing yourself (garlic and herb roast chicken and potato and celeriac dauphinoise), some things aren’t (stuffing little squares of filo pastry for hours).
Christmas is low-key at our house. We stopped buying ‘presents for everyone’ years ago and that makes life much easier. Unless 1) you can afford it, and 2) you know that someone wants something particular then Christmas presents can be a debt inducing, stress filled, disappointing activity and finale.
My present to the four people I’ll be eating with on Sunday will be a walk around the apple orchard to see the bouquet of pheasants (I just checked that on Google!) living in the wild there, followed by an afternoon of home cooked food (mushroom parcels aside), lots of laughter with a log-fire and a sparkly Christmas tree. I love Christmas trees. But real Christmas trees not joking…

Eating with Real People

Steak and roast chicken, savoury sausage and baked salmon, wine and puddings, maple fudge and a custard slice. It has been a week of eating. When I arrive at my home town of Port Talbot in South Wales, within minutes of getting off the train, it’s the first thing I organise, and then organise again. And again.
Actually, the custard slice was only half a custard slice. I shared it with my sister at CafĂ© Remos on Aberafan Beach after we’d spent a couple of hours walking around the western perimeter of the council estate where we both grew up. My new book, Real Port Talbot, will include memoir (my own and others’) as well as local history and the only way to see an area, to notice what remains, and to remember what has disappeared is to walk it. Even if the wind threatens to take off the top layer of our faces as we turn the corners of the ‘colour’ streets near the beach. And, appropriately, it’s in Scarlet Avenue that my sister confesses to forgery.
‘I only had one ticket for the Naval …

The cooked and the cruel

Where does the love of food end and cruelty begin? I’m sure there will be different boundaries among us, and contradictions too. I’ll start with myself: I will only buy free range eggs but I ate foie gras several times during my four years in France. I refuse to buy the battery chickens from the supermarket but I don’t question the source of the pork in Tesco Finest Cumberland Sausages.Actually, that sounds more like hypocrisy than contradiction.
I am reading Breakfast with Socrates by Robert Rowland Smith, a series of philosophical commentaries on the ordinary content of our day to day lives, from getting ready to go out, sitting at a desk, going to a party, to falling asleep at the end of the day. In the chapter, ‘Cooking and Eating Dinner’, he describes the French penchant for ortolan, a ‘delicacy’ I’d never heard of that has been illegal in France since 1999, although the laws have only been properly enforced since 2007. I should warn you that it doesn’t make for easy reading:
The …

Buffets and fiction can change your life

I am reading A.D.Miller’s Snowdrops and now I never ever want to go to Moscow. I know it’s not a Rough Guide; it’s not a Lonely Planet traveller’s insights. I know it’s fiction, a story created in the author’s imagination, but its descriptions and portrayal of people and everyday life are so convincing.
In an interview on the Man Booker website, Miller says:The kinds of crime that the book describes, the pervasive corruption it depicts and the awful vulnerability of anyone without powerful connections are real, as people who have spent time in Moscow will recognise. The details of the Metro, the dacha, the night-life and so on are, I hope, true to life.
No hoping needed. He has absolutely nailed ‘true to life’.But apart from the off-putting crime and corruption, the blood-letting bureaucracy and the cold that freezes the hairs in your nostrils and glues your mobile phone to the palm of your hand, there’s the food:
On the desk was the kind of Russian party spread I always dreaded, as ined…