Frivolous non-food post

My good buddy Caitlin, an Alaskan who is so horrified by Sarah Palin that she is seriously considering emigrating (rather than doing what the rest of us are doing and merely mocking her by dressing up in an overpriced red suit, beauty queen sash, shotgun and beehive for Halloween – possibly with a back-to-front B adorning our right cheeks), has tagged me for a meme. I don’t usually post at weekends, but this was sufficiently diverting that I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I have been asked to identify six things about myself. Now, I think you’ve all found out far more about me than you want to know thanks to that interview last week, so I’m giving you six things which are about myself in the strictly locative sense. I do have a study upstairs, but shamefully, most of my work gets done on my laptop, on the sofa in the living room, where I’m currently procrastinating over a magazine article about Mumbai. And on that sofa (and the side table next to it) are:

Plush suction-cup Catbus (from Studio Ghibli’s wonderful My Neighbour Totoro, one of my top three movies ever. Pay little attention to this – I have the taste of an 80-year-old, so the other two are Singin’ in the Rain and Gone with the Wind). Note the plush testicles. And the sandy-toned fella top right.

Here he is again – this is Mr Raffles, or at least part thereof, up close, ‘cos he’s also within two feet of me. Note the withered, empty (and yet delightfully furry) scrotum. Dr W couldn’t look him in the eye for about a month after this.

A bottle of Angostura bitters. I have been making pink gins. Give me a break – it’s Saturday.

One box liqueur chocolates. Empty. See Saturday comment above. (And note also depressed Mr Raffles, bottom left, who has just has his inadequacy pointed out to the whole Internet.) That’s Dr W’s bare foot top right. Ew.

Gargantuan Las Vegas mug. It contains cherry juice (I’m done with the gin now). It’s a superfood, don’t cha know.

This year’s poppy, bought this afternoon. Please think about buying one too.

There are rules and everything appended to this lot.

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

I’m not very good at rules and I like watching memes die, so I’m only tagging two people here – GSE, who is the UK’s best lunch companion, and Garfer, who says he wants to kidnap me in a helicopter. Have fun, fellas.

Omnivore’s hundred

I’m distracted today – I’ve been waiting for the plumber to turn up for the last three hours. To pass the time, I thought I’d participate in the most recent foodie meme that’s been doing the rounds. Andrew from Very Good Taste has come up with a list of 100 foods he thinks every omnivore should eat in their lifetime. I’ve eaten everything that’s marked in bold on the list – crossed-out foods are foods I am unlikely ever to find myself putting in my mouth, and those in normal type are foods which I’ve merely somehow failed to try. So far.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J; sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (see – there is something I’m squeamish about after all)
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine – not yet, but I’m going to Montreal later this month, where I intend to bathe in the stuff. (I finally ate Poutine in September 08)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores (I finally ate S’mores in Jan ’09, in Portland. And darned delicious they were too.)
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost (can you even buy this outside Norway?)
75. Roadkill (I have a very healthy fear of liver flukes)
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie (I also have a fear of transfats)
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam (We used to be served spam fritters at school, and I’ve not eaten it since.)
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor (I’m allergic. Lobster Thermidor is more likely to kill me than Fugu is.)
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I’ve tried all but nine – and should have got the number down to eight by October. Update Jan 2009 – we’re down to seven! I already have a list of Montreal’s top poutine joints in my notebook, ready for deployment later this month.

How did you do? Andrew is inviting everybody to take part:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your

Self-indulgent non-food post

The Great She Elephant has tagged me with another meme, and it’s nothing to do with food. (This is an excellent thing; usually I have three or four recipes cooked, photographed and scribbled down in rough ready to blog, but being ill a couple of weeks ago and very busy last week has reduced the size of my…foodstack to only one recipe at the moment.) Given that this post is about me and not about dinner, here’s a rare photograph of me without any food. (There is potential that I am plotting to eat the orchids in the photograph later.)

GSE, who knows me very well, has asked me five probing questions. If you’d like me to ask you some similarly probing questions for you to answer on your own blog, please leave a comment. (Lorna over at Biographia Literaria actually emailed me to ask to take part while I was busy answering these – Lorna, I’ll let you know when your questions are ready!)

1) Who is your favourite/least favourite celebrity chef and why?
Favourite is easy – I don’t know whether Jeffrey Steingarten counts as a chef, but he’s far and away my favourite food writer. Foodwise, I love Michael Mina (American celeb chef). I mourn the demise of Two Fat Ladies. One fat lady is nothing like as good.

Least favourite is also pretty easy. When I was eighteen, I won a food writing competition with Carlton TV, and got invited to the London Restaurant Awards as part of the prize. You can get a flavour of what a very long time ago this was from what I wrote about; those days, sushi on a conveyor belt was considered glamorous and exotic, and worth writing a long screed on. Bruce Willis was the guest of honour, having just opened Planet Hollywood.

The awards ceremony was seething with celebrity chefs. Raymond Blanc kissed me on the lips. I discovered that although he was very short and smelled of garlic, I didn’t mind at all. Anthony Worral Thompson was surrounded by big blondes. Some woman from Eastenders didn’t eat anything, but sat in the toilets dabbing foundation on her face and sniffing all evening. Stephen Saunders (pictured on the right – now proprietor of a restaurant in Newmarket where I had a downright bad meal last year) was spectacularly and upsettingly sleazy, and won my personal Most Badly Behaved Chef award. Last year, I learned that as well as being responsible for serving me a godawful meal, Stephen Saunders is also responsible for these (not safe for work!) photographs, under his pseudonym Steve McQueen. Those at work and therefore not able to click are missing nude women balancing pumpkins on their arses, doing suggestive things to marrows, wearing parma ham hotpants and using their pudenda as fruitbowls. Stephen Saunders – you’re my least favourite celebrity chef.

2) Could you help me track down a recipe for Slovenian cheese roll pancake dumpling thingies?
Amazingly, yes. Many thanks to You can find the recipe for sirovi štruklji here.

3) How many full bottles of fragrance do you have and which are your five favourites at present?
GSE and I both collect perfumes, although she is probably a little more rabid about her habit than I am, having dedicated space in her fridge for certain very special perfumes. There is dedicated space in my fridge for cheese and emergency chorizo.

I currently have 87 bottles not counting decants (although some of these are duplicate bottles of particular favourites which have been discontinued – I have five bottles of Guerlain’s Meteorites and two of Guerlinade, from before they’d announced the decision to keep selling it in the Paris boutique). My current five favourites (this took a lot of soul-searching) are: Guerlain’s Apres l’Ondee, The Different Company’s Bois d’Iris, Guerlain’s Mitsouko, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Dzing!, and Diptique’s Philosykos.

4) Do you say No2ID and why?
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. (There are so *many* things Benjamin Franklin says better than I do.)

ID cards are a dreadful idea. They won’t work for any of the purposes the government has rolled out (which include preventing illegal immigration and terrorism); identification doesn’t prove intent. They won’t prevent identity fraud – what better tool for the identity fraudster than a single database of all the people in the country? They won’t present a greater obstacle to people-smugglers than passports and visas already do. They turn the citizen/state relationship on its head (I should be able to ask a policeman for his papers – he should emphatically not be able to ask for mine). The cards themselves are the least of the problem – the giant database they’ll necessitate is a horrific idea.

Some people have very good reason for wanting to obfuscate their identity or location. These people include those on witness protection programmes, people escaping domestic abuse, asylum seekers being pursued by aggressive foreign governments, investigative journalists…the list is enormous. When a database is accessible by staff in banks, doctors’ surgeries, the police station, lawyers’ offices, Government agencies like the CSA, pharmacies and so forth, the sheer number of people using the thing increases the probability that one person whose intentions aren’t good and lawful will be able to access it.

Don’t get me started on the Government’s awful track record with IT projects, the fact that biometrics aren’t a proven technology, the costs or the compulsion aspect. The whole thing’s a fascist mess, and anyone with any imagination would be barking mad to vote Labour in the
next election. Please consider having a look at NO2ID’s website and signing up to their email newsletter.

5) What is Dr Weasel’s best quality?
I’m a very lucky lady – I’ve got a fantastic husband who has a bundle of best qualities. Dr Weasel is intimidatingly smart, thoughtful, kind, honest, handsome and generous. He buys me flowers every week, does the washing up and the vacuuming and buys chocolate éclairs when I’m feeling sad. He’s incredibly hardworking, and takes his responsibilities at work, at the university (where he’s Director of Studies in Computer Science at a couple of colleges – told you he was intimidatingly smart) and at home very seriously. He’s as messy as I am, doesn’t object to my perfume habit, and tells me he loves me every day. I love him too.