Wednesday, August 31, 2005

food for thought

remembering well damonline's anti-gastro pub rant a few months ago, i thought it might be interesting to read this guardian article about the predominance of ready-made, boil in the bag ingredients in use in restaurants...

In a moment of unbelievable jamminess, I landed a job as a restaurant reviewer this summer (see gloating passim), and I have been considering some of the meals I ate in a new light after reading this. Laura, Queen of Trains, reminds me of one meal at a very successful bar/restaurant, run by a phenomenally successful restaurant group. A 2-course meal, which cost about £70, offered us the following:

- an antipasti plate
- tuna carpaccio
- venison in red onion marmalade
- some other bollocks i now can't remember

The antipasti plate must have cost about £7, and for that we had some very nice bits of meat and olives (also, pesto dressing full of pinenuts, to which L is allergic). The tuna carpaccio had been molested by pepper, totally overwhelming it; and to continue the metaphor, the venison had been indecently assaulted by the red onion marmalade.

it's the last of these ingredients which gives me cause for concern - the stuff was so salty that i had to scrape it off the meat in order for it to be edible. i certainly gulped down wine as i ate it, and left a reasonable amount. i mean, that's salty - this is me, someone who likes to use two oxo cubes and drowns food in gravy you could stand a spoon in.

can it be true? was it just some ready made mix? perhaps i'll never know, but i can tell you something - i wouldn't spend my own money on going back there.

another recurring theme of my restaurant reviews was just how many defiantly mediocre places there were out there. eating out, especially in london, is pretty damn expensive and should i stump up £30 upwards for a single meal, i want it to be good - friendly service, nice atmosphere, clean linen and tableware, and interesting, thoughtful food.

gastropubs, it has to be said, are a particularly bad offender. i am a huge cheerleader for them - the gastro revolution means that pubs have really opened up to women and families, and are no longer smoky, axminster-carpeted dens where you stick to the floor. for this i am grateful. but really, so many of them serve utterly predictable menus (possibly, i now realise, because they are all shopping at the same ready meal supplier). is it too much to ask to be a bit bolder than thai fishcakes and sausage and mash. and no, finding the most ludicrous novelty sausage filling (rabbit's ear, hemp and cumin, and the like) does not count.

also, is it just me that reads the word 'shiite' as 'shite' consistently? certainly makes iraq's daily round of pain, rebellion and explosion more fun! this morning, for example, i read on the wire a hell of a lot of stories about "STAMPEDE AT SHITE BRIDGE".

ps - a personal appeal. laura, if you're reading this: don't browse anymore train websites. you'll go blind.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

jeremy clarkson: i wish he were my wife.

(think this is disturbing? check out the website it came from.)

the location: a pub. the time: this evening. the contentious remark: "jeremy clarkson is such a cock." the reaction: "WHAT? I LOVE HIM!".

a chance utterance from the grinch caused a storm of outrage in the famous cock pub (ah, what irony). while we could all agree that richard hammond is everything you could want in a man (funny, enthusiastic, and above all, compact) mr clarkson sharply divided opinion.

let me come clean: i am firmly on the pro-clarkson side. i don't know why - i am an ardent feminist (ok, i try to be) and he is a self-confessed chauvinist. i don't drive. i worry about global warming. i would never buy a 4 x 4. if we ever met, he would deride me as a wishy-washy sandal wearing goat herder, and i would call him a twat, because i wouldn't be able to think of anything funny to say.

i think the reasons for my love are two-fold. one, there is the pretty widely held female view that the bigger bastards men are in their professional lives, the more they are pussy-whipped at home. it's pretty unfashionable to believe that very 'together' men need someone to hold their hand when they load the dishwasher, and certainly not founded in any demonstrable fact, but i believe it.

as does jeremy. i refer you to his magnum opus, 'the world according to clarkson', where he argues that courts should always award residency in custody cases to mothers. 'to fathers, children are fun, to mothers, they're a responsibility' is the gist. so there.

two, there is the sad but undeniable fact that women love a bastard. god damn, it's irritating, but it's so easy to be taken in by the 'only you can see my soft centre' schtick. you feel so special, you may even (NO! the horror!) think you can change him.

anyway, i'm sensing that drunkenness is impairing my ability to make a coherent case for the clarkson defence, so adieu until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

absolute power

i beg your attention to recommend an extremely good tv series, which has one more episode left to air on BBC2, this Thursday. It's called Absolute Power, and could be lazily described as 'Yes Minister enters the PR age'.

It's absolutely cracking, and yet you could easily miss it as you fall asleep during the millionth joke about women being shallow on the Catherine Tate show. It's stars Stephen Fry, who I would happily watch reading the phone book, but here he's given some cracking lines. You know how mellifluous he normally sounds? Well, he's dug deep in the bank of mellifluousity and found a little bit extra to portray Charles Seymour Prentiss of the Prentiss McCabe PR agency, possibly the most unprincipled person on TV. (Insert your own joke about a Z-list celebrity here).

His partner is John Bird, who knows exactly how to pitch his performance as an unostentatious but excellent foil to Fry's showier wit. The satire is razor-sharp, and it pulls off the rare trick of having lead characters who are thoroughly unloveable, and yet - somehow - you want them to succeed. Everyone plays the game - the politicians, the celebrities, the 'media personalities', the businessmen - and without morals the only thing that matters is style.

in case you're not convinced, here are some sample tableaux: Bin Laden's nephew tries to buy British Airways; an artist makes his living selling his own bodily fluids (yes, even that) and America hires Prentiss McCabe to revamp it's image, leading an advert which states, "If there has to be a superpower, aren't you glad it isn't Switzerland?".

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

things i have recently discovered

1) it is very easy to lose sight of your principles when you have no money.
2) terry pratchett is an amazingly good writer. anyone who mocks his books because they are 'fantasy' is a cultural snob, who probably pretends to like jazz because they think it makes them look intellectual.
3) i am quite a boring person. i no longer want to stay up past midnight, or go to loud pubs where people shout at each other about what club they are going to next.
4) martin amis has been allowed to get away with some completely pointless novels. i refer you to 'other people', and the four hours of my life which i spent waiting for the denouement. i can now never recover that time.
5) i want to be 21 forever, it's the perfect age, full of promise and gilded with opportunity. at 22, i might actually have to start delivering results.
6) my housemate is a demented fool, and i am seriously considering posting all 6 pages of his hate mail to me on the internet. cruel, but fair.
7) i want to go travelling. i will never have enough money to do this.
8) lots of amazing gossip which i am not allowed to tell you. ha ha.
9) the idea that things are cheaper 'oop north' is a cruel fiction. just ask my bank balance.
10) you should always have ten things in a list like this, even if it starts to peter out at the end.

Friday, August 05, 2005

two weeks down, thirteen to go.

just as it says on the tin, i've been here for two weeks, and now discover i'll be here until the end of october. eek. still, the training is good and i'm now overwhelmed by the possibilities of news - and thinking more and more that i'm not cut out to be a writer.

my friend laura, who is the world's most organised person, has been taking a masters in business at the same time as starting her first job. that seems pretty attractive - for the next few months i will have a lot of free time and not much to do, so why not learn about stuff I have never looked at before?

apart from that the only other thing that i've noticed is how great it is to be on an even keel emotionally. this year has not been my favourite, shall we say, and i'm really appreciating my isolation from all the people and things which have been bringing me down. chief culprit would have to be my soon to be ex-housemate, who wrote a 6-page letter to another one of my housemates about my behaviour. it's a hoot, and i have no qualms in reproducing a section, his redress to me calling him self-righteous.

"Unfortunately, the unavoidable fact here is that I am explicitly reproaching somebody for a lack of morality, and so by definition I have to be acting 'self righteously' - the equivalent would be a criminal claiming that the judge in a trial was acting 'self righteously' - sometimes it just has to be done."

as my other housemate has eloquently annotated it: twat.

anyway, i saw my ex-boyfriend from my last year of university before i left for yorkshire, and we got on like a house on fire. time is a great healer, it's as true as it is cliched - i remembered why we got on in the first place, not why it all broke down (to be fair, a mixture of apathy and incompatible politics). i'm hoping that having this space will mend a few more of the 'broken' relationships which niggle at my life like ulcers... i'm one of those people who can't bear to leave things unresolved.