Tag Archives: Food

If the answer is tax

Just taking my usual Sunday meander through the frothing unreality of the Tellytubbygraph. I see Vlad Putin being lauded as the current object of the UK medias eleven o’clock hate as they try to stir up the populace. The herd of elephants in the room of course being EU intervention in Ukrainian affairs and massive skimming from pipeline contracts by Ukrainian politico’s. Which monies somehow never got back to the Ukrainians, while certain of their politicians became billionaires. Mm-hm. Over here in Canada, the local Ukrainian population are being heard muttering over their plates of Perogies about how the more things change the more they stay the same. Pass the sour cream. So it is with us ex-pat Brits.

At the moment the current UK media bogeyman is not salt, alcohol, tobacco or fats but sugar, which is found in just about every processed food there is. No surprise there, then. Sugars of one form or another are part of the elements of life. Monosaccharides (Simple sugars) include Glucrose, Fructose and the sci-fi sounding Galactose. Disaccharides (Complex sugars) include Sucrose, Maltose and Lactose. Most plants, as I recall from various biology courses I’ve taken, have a certain amount of sugars tucked neatly away in their edible parts. Starches (Polysaccharides), like the ones used in all those ‘Healthy Option’ ready meals as filler are little more than complex sugars.

So the dilemma for the ‘tax everything’ brigade becomes what sort of comestible will be sugar tax exempt. Of course those poor people need their lives regulating by their elders and betters, they’re such children don’cha know. So which foodstuffs need taxing and by how much? My goodness, what a target rich environment.

Okay, so where will all this new tax revenue go? Back in the pockets of the poor, who will grow more numerous as the tax rates increase, said revenue first having been heavily skimmed to pay for new, personnel heavy government departments to oversee ‘fairness’ and sending out ‘revenue neutral’ cheques? Maybe into the UK’s ‘wonderful’ NHS, the one you don’t want to end up in the care of lest your intimate details are sold to marketing companies and your elderly relatives starved or neglected to death? Whilst ensuring sufficient Management for ‘compliance’ with increasingly engorged cobweb encumbered databases of rules and regulations. Top rates must be paid to the managers of course to get the best ‘talent’, even if their only real talent is managing to navigate the HR departments Byzantine recruitment process. A new tax would come in handy to fund them, and their new staff no doubt.

On the face of it, this is a great idea. Tax sugar because it’s so unhealthy. Reduce consumption, cutting obesity at a stroke, and the costs to the NHS will go down. Fewer sick people to treat, right? Simple, elegant, and logical. Ah, but what was that shadow? The law of unintended consequences is lurking in the wings, awaiting it’s entrance in a puff of smoke, bringing chaos and confusion to the lofty utopian plans of the puritanical tax advocates.

It’s not a leap of genius to see that governmental costs (and hence the cost of living) will have to go up because now there will need to be an extra layer of compliance and enforcement for each new tax, easily gulping down the tranches of revenue thus garnered. Unfortunately the overall tax take will reduce because of the tax inflated prices, meaning that government has to borrow to fund these new government departments for command and control. Higher taxes and borrowing act as a brake on the economy, further lowering the tax take and therefore moving more people into the ‘Poor’ category, requiring more government intervention. Requiring more taxation and borrowing, yah-de-yah, etcetera, etcetera. The money has to come from somewhere. Maybe ex-pats savings. Damn those soon-to-be-poor rich bastards, eh? Just don’t forget to tell your influential friends to start moving their money before the new regs come in. Those middle class bitches can take the bite. Again. Those pensions are unsustainable anyway. By the way, where did all these new poor people come from? Anybody know?

Excuse me, I have a boat to buy, boarders to repel. All that jazz.

A deeply philosophical question

There is a branch of 18th century philosophy that asks the question; “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Originated by Bishop George Berkeley in his “A treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

Today I have been reminded of this question in an empirical manner. My version of this deeply meaningful question reads; “If a baking potato explodes in the oven, will anyone hear it?” To which the answer is a conditional “No”. The conditional statement being; “but only if the cook is not in the kitchen at the time.”

The rest of this philosophical monologue will be taken up with a much greater question; “If indeed a potato has exploded in the oven, how long does it take to clean up afterwards.” Investigations are ongoing.

In a word, Genius

Well now. Here’s a classic example of the law of unintended consequences coming out for a quick dance of joyful mischief.

Girl Guides in the USA who raise funds to go to camp or for their troupes by selling the traditional range of Girl Guide cookies have been setting up their stalls outside the new Cannabis shops currently springing up in States where cannabis has been legalised. A perfect example of the market in action if ever I saw one, but who saw it coming?

Really it makes perfect sense. The ‘Munchies’ are a well known phenomena of cannabis use, and to cater for that appetite on the part of those Girl Guides carries with it the mark of sheer genius. Marking them out as smart kids who will go far. The girls in question saw a need and catered to it, incidentally making piles of cash for a cherished cause.

Unfortunately this does have a dark side. The next thing you know is that there will be Girl Guide gang wars. Hot competition between cookie sellers over favoured locations. Perhaps Bake sale gang bangers might try to horn in on their action resulting in female fisticuffs breaking out over the frosting and heaven knows what else.

More seriously there’s going to be hot (Groan, sorry) competition over the super profitable pitches for hot dog stands or fast food restaurants close to these new Cannabis shops. Talk about a licence to print money. Maybe even tie-ins. I mean there’s an opening for a whole new set of menu selections at every fast food joint in the country. Do you want fries with that?

Oh my giddy aunt. That has just cheered up a very snowy evening.

Culinary roulette

About to prepare supper last night. Opened the fridge door to a whole host of leftovers. Not in amount, but variety, certainly. Chinese (Takeaway Cantonese & Szechuan) from Friday night. Home made Chicken Tikka Marsala from midweek, and half a portion of my signature beef stew from last Sunday. “Waste not.” Said my other half from over my shoulder, giving me a cheeky grope.
“Seriously?” Said I. I mean I’m used to pulling culinary rabbits out of chefs hats, but this left me challenged.
“Sure. I trust you.” She said. Foolish girl.
“Right.” I said doubtfully, and retrieved the ziploc (Think ‘Tupperware’, only more effective) boxes. To be honest, I should have given this stuff to our in house recycling unit (the dog), but I don’t want him hooked on my curries. That could get expensive. I already have to almost fight him off with a spatula each time I make a traditional English beef stew.

Thinking about it, I haven’t indulged in this form of culinary roulette since my bachelor days. Some might call it ‘fusion cuisine’ because failures in preparation can have the same effect on your digestive system as a thermonuclear test on a deserted Pacific atoll. I’m almost tempted to refer to this practice of reheating leftovers as ‘zombie cooking’ because you’re trying to breathe new life into the dead.

However, I raided the spice cupboard for extra garlic, chillies and ginger, added some extra basmati rice and used the microwave of full nuke prior to pan use, ensuring the foods temperature got high enough to make life very unpleasant and short for any pesky little bowel blasting bacteria. The end result? Not one of my proudest essays into the realms of cuisine, but edible and nourishing. Perhaps even unique. Three completely different styles of comestible should have been big time yuk, but somehow it all worked. Just don’t ask me to do it on a regular basis.

One of my errands before going to this evenings job is to stock up on fresh groceries.

Ten? reasons to hate and love Christmas (Redux)

I know I said I was gone forever, but the time of year has come when it must be said once more. Less than a month to go again and I’m seriously tempted to renew my membership of the Ebenezer Scrooge appreciation society. Bah! Humbug! If this offends, tough. Should objectors wish to drive a stake through my black and sardonic heart, I’d like to say the only steak I want anywhere near said muscular pump is a nice thick rib eye with a smidgeon of external charring and light pinkness enlightening its centre. Possibly even with a little Dijon Mustard. As it passes through the upper reaches of my digestive tract, having left fond memories with my taste buds, naturally.

The festival itself I have no quarrel with; good old hijacked midwinter solstice feast that it is. A time of good food, wine and forgiveness to celebrate survival for another year. Good will to all? Within reason, of course, and certainly not all of them. I’m not going to be nice to the cretinous, no matter the time of year. Heavens to Murgatroyd Cowboy, one has to maintain some form of consistency. What really turns my normal sunny disposition to that of lemon sucking misanthrope is the insistence that everyone has to join in the ‘fun’; when ‘fun’ entails leaving drunken saliva snail trails over the nearest total stranger. Good grief! If nothing else it’s all so damned unhygienic. Not to mention more than slightly creepy.

With this in mind I have compiled ten major issues about Christmas which every year threaten to turn Mr Nice Guy (Me) into a raging homicidal psychopath who’s just got his chainsaw out of the shed for a little pre-festive flesh trimming.

First; Date. The date and the association with Christianity is incorrect. 25th December is the wrong date for Christians to celebrate Christmas. It’s an historical fudge, a compromise between 6th December, 19th December, 22nd December, 7th January or 25th January depending upon which Christian / Pagan sect you belong to. As for the year, if you’re a Christian, about as close as you’ll get is six years either side of 0 AD; and that’s just from official sources.

Second; Presents and shopping. This asinine insistence that you have to drive yourself into near bankruptcy giving overpriced, unwanted gifts to everyone you know. This may sound like heresy and probably is; but I would rather have no gifts at all than a gift without a genuine kind thought behind it. I especially don’t like being dragged in and out of the same five or six stores four times each only to find that we could have bought everything on line. I could have been doing something interesting for heavens sake.

Third; Enforced jollity. There is no greater torture to a civilised mind than forcing another human to ‘enjoy’ themselves against their natural volition. My personal standpoint is that I am quite capable of being happy without outside interference thank you very much. My major dread is that in the near future the PC Thought Police will deem it a crime not to be smiling and joyful at mandatory times and places. Perhaps in this age of mass surveillance and facial recognition technology, such edicts may become camera enforced. Like with bus lanes. Not smiling enough? Your penalty notice is in the post. Ironically giving you less reason to be happy than before. Incidentally, has anyone tried to be artificially happy and smiling, at least for any length of time, when they really don’t want to be without extreme chemical assistance? That way lies madness. Horrified shudder.

Fourth; Inappropriate headgear. The wearing of fluorescent antlers, tinsel and artificial fur bobbled conical hats three sizes too small, not to mention those inane ‘jester’ style confections made of poor quality red, yellow and green felt with bells on. Apparently there’s some strange, arcane folk belief that wearing such headgear actually makes everything you say and do amusing. Such as telling unfunny jokes, committing random sexual assaults or urinating in the street. Trust me, it doesn’t work. Strangely enough, recent scholarly research has conclusively proven that the majority of people donning such headgear instantly turn into annoying pillocks. Forcing your dog / cat / pet tarantula to wear any such item should instantly engender an instant charge of animal cruelty punishable by thirty strokes of the cat (A bad tempered feral Tom, for preference. One tail, twenty claws.) Re the headgear, perhaps some sort of open season / bounty system could be arranged with local hunters.

Fifth; Alcohol. Actually this is a bit of a moot point. I am greatly in favour of some forms of alcohol as it is a great social lubricant (I said SOCIAL. Honestly, some people.). A good pint, bottle of wine, or warming Single Malt in good company is wonderfully relaxing. Sometimes I can be very friendly with an entire bottle of whiskey all to myself. This is something anyone can do anywhere. Sometimes its nice just to hide in the den with a good book, headphones on and some rock music blasting any potentially festive thoughts from seasonally stressed synapses. However be warned; excessive consumption not only damages your liver and wallet but may turn you into another dribbling maudlin festive idiot.

Sixth; Office / work related parties. Or as Oscar Wilde might have said had he ever been forced to attend; ‘The unattainable pursued by the unlovable’. Watching what you drink in case you say exactly what you feel to / about your boss or other influential colleague; no matter how incompetent / unpleasant / overbearing they might be. I detest such events and whenever invited to ‘socialise’ in this fashion with workmates make a creative and plausible excuse not to be there. Ones I’ve found that work very well are; Emergency engagement with family, as far from the event as possible; sick and very rich relatives are always a good one. Short and untraceable illness like a 24 hour dose of food poisoning. Domestic emergency requiring your urgent presence at home – all of these are good (Spousal corroboration is prerequisite for the last). One cautionary note, use a different excuse every year or be labelled ‘Anti Christmas’ and find all those more important invitations disappear. Unless you’re going to move on anyway. In which case – Just say no. What are they going to do in these circumstances? Fire you?

Seventh; Christmas lunch. All that hard work put in to produce a table groaning feast to be met by refusal. For example an announcement by your wife’s sister / daughter (insert own preference here) that she’s become a Vegan without telling anyone; then flounces off when you, quite reasonably, refuse to specially cook a nut roast for everyone at five minutes notice because she can’t bear to be within fifty yards of that poor murdered Turkey. Another might be the kids whinging that they want to go to Burger MacWossnames for a “double death by cholesterol and fries”; refusing to eat anything green that hasn’t got four kilogrammes of sugar in it. I think Christmas lunches should be all ticket, invitation only affairs. RSVP Like a posh dinner party. If you want to be there, be there. If you don’t – don’t, and no social stigma should attach.

Eighth; Christmas Television. Especially those vomit inducing saccharine Coca Cola adverts. The endless mind strangling TV repeats of Christmas specials of ‘Only Fools and Horses’, and what’s going on in Emmerdale Enders. ‘The Sound of Music’ again. ‘Celebrity’ Christmas specials. Thank God for DVD’s. Don’t even get me started about Hogmanay specials. All I want from New Years Eve is a hot toddy, an early night and a clear head on a crisp winters morning, enjoying the peace and quiet.

Ninth; Christmas Songs. All of them. Especially (In no particular order) Slade’s ‘So here it is Merry Christmas’, Band Aid’s ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time’ and Aled Jones ‘Walking in the air’. When you’ve heard them sung extremely badly four or five hundred times by drunken cracked voices at up to half past four in the morning, you’ll agree all modern Christmas tunes should be banned by international treaty. I maintain that Christmas songs are crimes against humanity, and perpetrators should be tried at the Hague before being imprisoned for mass musicide. This goes for New Year celebrations as well; if I had a time machine I’d go back and shoot Robbie Burns dead before he could pen the words to ‘Auld lang’s syne‘. Posterity forgives the odd dead poet.

Tenth; Carol Singers. Not proper Carol Singers like in church choirs, they’re actually fairly pleasant and welcome in small doses. I’m talking about the avaricious little sods who turn up on your doorstep for a quick bit of extortion a month before the official date. I think we’re all familiar with this subtype of troglodyte; expecting you to give them money for an abysmal and desultory one chorus rendition of ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’ when half of them don’t know the words and the rest are miming. Some years ago I handed out some warmed over vegetarian mince pies to the last lot who dared darken my doorstep, and joy of joys, haven’t seen any since.

Eleventh: Christmas lights. Well this is more ambivalence than dislike. Done well, hey, fine. It’s your electricity bill. Done badly, with lots of cheesy illuminated Walmart Santas, Snowmen and Reindeer, urgh. Seriously. It’s embarrassing. Don’t do it. Likewise decorating things that aren’t yours. No please. If your sense of taste is that stunted, it’s wise not to show it off in public. People will only point and laugh.

The above list is nowhere near definitive as I’m sure many of you can come up with your own reasons for wanting to spend your midwinter holiday overseas. The nicest Christmas day I ever spent was alone with my wife in Barcelona. Messing around in near deserted streets like a couple of school kids and getting soaked in a torrential downpour. No cooking, no turkey, wonderful Irish coffee in a bar where the staff were grooving energetically to Ricky Martins ‘La vida loca’ full blast on the sound system. Ganneting a quarter kilo of ‘Chocolat Naranja’ between us while drying out, watching an unfestive CNN News in the Hotel room. No tinsel, no tackiness and a thoroughly civilised time was had by both of us. A close second was a Spa break in BC having a (Sort of) merry detox with several bottles of eminently quaffable 2009 Quails Gate Proprietors Reserve pinot noir. No TV, in room Jacuzzi and no bloody tinsel. Bliss.

Gravy snobbery

Hereby hangs a tale and a cookery conundrum; how do you make gravy? Traditional rich thick gravy. Not so thick as to stand a spoon up with, but not so runny it’s more like dark water. Simple question isn’t it? Hey, no problem, use the dripping from the meat, a little Bisto and corn starch mixed in cold water and liquor from boiling the spuds for mashing and no problemo, right? Perfect every time.

I happen to like gravy made in this fashion. Great when the dinner choice is traditional English meat veg and potatoes? Just the ticket every once in a while, yeah? Some good old fashioned British style nosh for a change. Gravy made heavy on the onions for serving with Sausage and Mash, or with a pinch of garlic salt to add an edge to chicken or pork. It’s grrr-eat! Or not. However, chacun a son gout. Each to their own, right?

This evening the Sticker household was faced with a dire emergency. A cataclysm threatening to dwarf that bit of inclement weather over the other side of the continent by a factor of 12. No Bisto gravy powder; and I wasn’t going to hike 15km along rainstorm darkened rural Canadian roads to the nearest stockist just for one five dollar packet, or 25km to the nearest stockist of overpriced British products. Think of the carbon footprint dahlings! I thought in my naive optimistic way I’d just fire up the ‘pooter and find a recipe on the jolly old interweb. Job done, brownie points in the offing, another expats hurdle overcome. Yay. Piece of cake. Or not.

Typed the search term “Home made gravy browning” into the mighty Google and was promptly brought up short. Some of the recipes were along the lines of “Roast corn starch in oven for two hours at high heat until dark”, or “Caramelise sugar in an old pan you don’t particularly like, oh, and don’t forget to leave your windows open” which almost made me reconsider cooking roast chicken for Sunday supper. Some of the recipes I came across were far too cumbersome and time consuming. On the cookery forums I also found some snotty types saying that they only cooked ‘Au jus‘. Yes, I really needed to have some sauce snob clogging up the forums when I was trying to find a recipe or some helpful hints. If you don’t know how to make gravy, then what the fuck are you doing telling someone who does want that specifically British sauce about your preference for ‘Au-fucking-jus‘ on a thread asking for recipes? The sheer, looking-down-my-nose-at-you-cos-Delia-don’t-do-it-that-way ignorance of some people, really. Like those sanctimoniously superior people whose response when asked a simple question is to tell you that what you want isn’t what they would do – so you shouldn’t. WTF?

Good gravy, for those of you not initiated into its intricacies, is an art that Michaelangelo would have carved paeans of stone to glorify for eternity, had he not been a renaissance Italian, and therefore ignorant of such a delicacy. Smooth slippery simplicity made wonderfully glutinous and conjured mid to dark brown to accompany Roast Beef, Chicken, Pork, Venison, Lamb, Sausage, Moose, Elk or whatever. It is a particularly English taste, and one I’m proud to cater for, even though it took years for me to perfect my technique. Both stepkids specifically love my Onion gravy, and Youngest has made it known that when she becomes disgustingly rich, she will have me kidnapped and set to work as her personal cook. Or else set up home close by in order to have my small culinary expertise on tap. By such things are the bonds of family strengthened.

Yet this isn’t telling you how I resolved my gravy powder less condition, does it? O-kay. Unfortunately I had cleaned the meat pan after breakfast, and had no cooking grease left. So; I took a rasher of fatty bacon and grilled (broiled) it until there were a couple of teaspoons of bacon fat left in the pan and the rasher was a dried husk of its former self. Then I took a teaspoon of cornflour and mixed it with enough cold water to form a smooth, milky liquor in the sauce boat. Next step was a couple of dashes of Worcestershire Sauce and Soy sauce to darken the cornflour and water mix halfway to the desired state of brown. Next, I stirred in some hot water from cooking the vegetables and, decanting the mix into a small saucepan, let the sauce thicken on a low heat. Potato water is good for this, being slightly starch heavy, but can result in excessive blandness. So I mixed in some liquor from cooking the green vegetables. Finally, I added the bacon fat and seasoned very carefully to taste, stirring constantly to keep the lumps at bay until it had thickened to the desired consistency. The end result was a slightly more aromatic than usual sauce, but was consumed with gusto, and English style (No milk) mashed potatoes, roast chicken and mixed veg. Re-sult!

Some Australian and New Zealand cooks, so I am informed, use half a teaspoon of Vegemite, but I find that gives the end result a slightly odd flavour for my palate. The same for stock cubes. I really don’t like gravy made with stock cubes, I feel they overpower the taste of your dinner, and produce watery gravy anyway. My personal preference is for something with a bit more body, because runny gravy gives me PTSD-like nightmares of school dinners past, from which I sometimes awake sweating and screaming. The trick here is balance. Good gravy should not overpower the roast, like some sauces do. Its purpose is to accentuate, and add a rounded, softer edge, not to swamp. Unless it is particularly good gravy and carries much of the roasts flavour anyway, in which case, mine’s a pint.

Fortunately, Canada is a civilised country and good gravy is generally not hard to come by, even over here on the hippy drippy wet coast. The Quebeckers (bless ‘em) even invented Poutine, which is French Fries with lashings of cheese curds and thick gravy. But on the cookery forums, oh my goodness, there’s more controversy over gravy than global warming alarmism, the pro and anti camps are so polarised. For heavens sake it’s just a bloody sauce!

Yet I find in my search for Bisto-less gravy the mirror for much that is wrong in the world. When you go looking for advice, there is too much telling you what you should want, and too little telling you how to do what you want the right way. Sometimes I feel it’s like going into a cigar store and asking for a fine Havana, only to be offered a lecture on the evils of smoking and handed a pamphlet on Cancer awareness with a pack of nicotine flavoured gum. Or, if you like, entering a liquor store and asking for a 15 year old fine Malt Whiskey only to be handed half a pint of Soy Milk and a stern imprecation about the evils of alcoholism. Both of which, if anyone is interested, I would consider a casus belli. There are people in this world who really should know when to butt out. The only problem is that far too many appear entrenched in positions of public trust, snouts firmly wedged in the taxpayer trough, narrow minded eyes on their pet causes and regarding all else as a threat. Perhaps we could do with a cull.

In the meantime, all I have to say to such people is this; you can stop me having gravy with my fortnightly English roast when you can pry the sauce boat out of my cold and dying hands. To me, saying ‘Au Jus’ is the only way is just another way of declaring your culinary incompetence.

Is organic orgasmic?

Okay, a quick declaration of interest here; I don’t have an axe to grind one way or the other. I grew up on home grown food. Vegetables from our garden (in season), home reared chickens traded for favours or work done and I must say thrived on it. Some of it was flavourful, rich and much nicer than mass market store bought, but the quality was uneven, and you occasionally had to mind not sinking your teeth into a juicy apple or pear and having to spit out half a mouthful of Codling Moth larvae. Or tuck into a nice fresh green salad to experience the minor horror of half a caterpillar gently writhing on your fork tines. Maybe having to cook the chicken until it was slightly dryer (Or adding butter under the skin to keep the flesh moist) than fashionable to ensure the many bacteria that flourish in domestic fowl do not end up giving you a bad case off the trotsky’s. So yes, I grew up on organic food and know the meaning of the old country saying. “Eat a peck of dirt before you die“? A ‘peck’ being a dry measure of two imperial gallons, or just over 8 litres. That’s a lot of shit to hide in a sandwich.

Yes, but is ‘Organic food’ better? That’s the million dollar question; and my answer is you get what you pay for. Top notch non pesticide tainted grub is very good indeed, but because less of it, proportionally speaking, is fit for market. Pound for pound it costs way more to produce. Which is why ‘organic’ food stores charge like a Rhinoceros with a bad migraine and a psychotic hatred of 4×4′s. Apart from hiking their prices skywards to cash in on the middle class guilt factor.

So when one report says Organic food is no better than more mass produced foodstuffs, buck for buck I’d have to agree. When another report claims that organic food is way better for you than the mass market stuff, I’d have to hang a big “Not so sure” sign on it. Average quality organic, I can tell you from first hand experience, is not better for you, apart from occasionally acting like a vaccination against all the ‘natural’ pests we are heir to. Specifically letting your body get used to toxic bacteria and material in the ‘organic’ foodstuff by exposing you to low level doses like happens with vaccines. It’s all about exercising the immune system. If the foodstuff concerned doesn’t have this slightly icky quality it is most probably no better for you than its mass market equivalent. I derive my proof from the adage; “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Organic food has no more vitamins or mineral content worth writing about, contains no more calories or anything significantly pound for pound, and although the expensive stuff sometimes tastes much nicer (Providing you prepare it right) with major emphasis on ‘sometimes’, you are still paying for a premium product which proportionally speaking takes way more resource in terms of land to grow per unit produced. I won’t say it’s bollocks, but for me, organic food has never lived up to the hype. Even though I grew up on home grown.

As for ‘organic wine’; from the samples I’ve tasted, I’ve rarely been anywhere near even mildly impressed. In fact, if I’m at a function where such beverages are offered, the car keys will magically spring into my pocket, and I will politely demur on the grounds that I do not, under any circumstances, drink and drive. Whether I’d agreed to be the designated driver or not.

Organic meat is a conundrum; but quite frankly you’ll get the same result if you feed, say pigs, windfall apples in a farrowing pen, or let them root for apples in someone’s orchard or after a potato crop has been raised. It’s the feed that gives the flavour, and ‘cardboard’ meat as found in many supermarkets is more down to the quality of feedstuff than whether antibiotics and chemicals were used to ensure the animals were healthy right up to the moment of slaughter. I grew up in the English countryside, and many boyhood hours were spent watching livestock and listening to the farmers who raised them. Amazing what you pick up if you learn to just listen.

I’ve had my doubts about this Organic malarkey for a long time, mainly on the grounds that the overblown claims of health benefits had a phony ring to them. I spent a couple of years in Marketing, so am quite aware of grandiose, even spurious claims are made over any product. So it is with organic foodstuffs.

To conclude; is organic food orgasmic? Well, I hate to say this, but not so’s you’d notice.

Anyone with me?

Took a break over to Canadian wine growing country in Kelowna earlier this week and had a rather grown up time sampling the local nectars.  Canadian wine is growing up fast, and Okanagan wines are improving rapidly.

However, this is not the point of my post.  Today’s little gripe is about the noise levels in bars and restaurants.  Unlike many, my life has its own soundtrack, which is muted and inclined towards pleasant conversation and listening.  To this end I’m running out of places I want to spend my money, specifically bars and restaurants.   Two nights ago I went into a fairly upmarket waterfront place and almost walked straight out again because the owner and staff seemed to want to work in a Disco.  The staff were great; attentive and pleasant.  The food was reasonable Canadian fare.  Not up to French standards, but that’s another story.

Call me an old fart if you like, but I like to be able to hear myself think when I go out for a meal.  I like not to have to strain in order to hear what my server is saying as they reel off the list of ‘specials’ in that delightfully practiced way of North American restaurants and diner staff.  I like not having to raise my voice to be heard over the ‘Thump-thump-thump’ of some dumb fuck headed rap number making the air pulse in my delicate shell likes.   I like conversation and good company over the artificial noise some people need to keep their brains from working.

Are there any restaurateurs out there who can justify deluging our ears with a torrent of crap on the false premise that it creates ‘ambiance’?  Just let me know the name of your establishment and I solemnly promise never to darken your doorstep or spend my money there.  Please communicate; I’m sure there are a lot of others who would like to do the same.

I would wear earplugs like HM the Queen at the Paralympics opening ceremony, but then I would be unable to hear what my dinner companions are saying, and that would be impolite.

A short interlude

Not really the time or inclination to blog recently. The awful reality is that an old family friend is, not to put too fine a point on it, dying. Cause; Mesothelioma (Cause, Asbestosis) probably contracted as a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. So we’ve been spending quite a bit of our free time visiting, doing the shopping, running other errands for his wife (Who doesn’t drive) and reading to him, as he’s too weak to hold a book.

Nothing too strenuous, just a bit of Kipling, Frost, Robert Service. The more ribald the better. Although I have to tone the funny stuff down sometimes as the poor chap’s only got half a lung left, possibly less according to his Doctor. I don’t want him to die laughing because of something I said or did. Not that laughing is such a bad way to go, but I don’t think I could forgive myself if I was the cause. Besides, he and his wife helped us a lot when first we arrived in Canada, so we feel that we have a bit of a moral debt to discharge, and too little time remaining to do it in.

Considering the life the man has had; WW2 saw two of the ships he was on torpedoed and sunk; Distinguished Service Order; lost in the Arctic for ten days while surveying for Decca radar, travelled trans Canada any number of times with a Radar training unit. Yes, he is a ‘real’ person, and when he dies I will publish a link to his obituary if it’s available online. Although for our old family friend I think that’s pretty much certain, and if not I’ll bloody write it myself. Such people should not slip from memory so readily. They are too rare.

Watching someone die slowly is not exactly my favourite pursuit, so to lighten my glumness (and Mrs S’s), I’ve been scouring the Interweb for ‘cheer-us-up’ recipe’s. Stap me if I didn’t hit paydirt. Perfect chip batter in a simple, quick and easy recipe. See the youtube clip below. Just tried it out on Snapper and Pacific Cod fillets, and believe me, the result is light, tasty portions so easy even I can get it right every time. Much better than store bought, and rivalling most chip shop batter I’ve tasted. Try it for yourself.

Don’t forget, the water should be properly chilled and the mix thoroughly whisked for lightness. With only a handful of decent Chip shops on the Island, sometimes the DIY method is the only way.