Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Good Craftsman Never Blames His Tools

Ah the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowds. Despite the gaseous turmoil within, testing my intestinal fortitude to it's limit, this old stage trooper pulled through. You know what they say, once a luvvie, always a luvvie and all my training at RADA* certainly came flooding back. Yes I was very happy with the delivery of my rant for Rude Health at the Real Food Festival a couple of weeks ago. The subject of which was a tirade against inanimate objects in my kitchen that I personally hold responsible for past cooking disasters and misdemeanors, the usual kind of stuff that I bang on about in this blog. So I basically talked about incidents involving fish slices, pasta machines and *sob* my beloved chicken brick. Yes, you've heard it all before but if you would like to listen to me vent my spleen then follow this link and scroll through the list of culinary luminaries, you find me in there, somewhere. Please note, the sound is a little muffled, it's not just the quality of my diction so you may have to turn it up. To 11.

I have to say it was really good fun and hats off to Rude Health for pushing forward this idea of bringing speakers to the fore at festivals to mouth off and rant and rave. A lot of the speeches, though humorous and irreverent, delivered underlying important messages about food and I think that also reflects on Rude Health with their approach to the delicious breakfast cereals they produce. Issues concerning the environment, sustainability and our personal well being as consumers should be addressed but we don't have to be po-faced about it. So kudos to Rude Health for their spunky attitude and thanks for the goodie bag.

As for the festival itself, well the shame is that I didn't really take that much in. Prior to my rant, I spent a good while wandering around like a tit-in-a-trance, trying to focus on my performance. And then afterwards I went straight onto fudge packing duty at the Yum Yum Tree Fudge stall where I agreed to help out owner and fudge maker extraordinaire Lily Turner (her cousin is some miscreant called MiMi). That was good fun too and took me back to my days of working on a curtain stall on Romford Market - "there you go love and look, I've slipped an extra couple of yards of voile in yer bag, you lucky, lucky lady". After a short spell on the stall I made the assessment that, by and large, a lot of people just go to these things for an enormous picnic, wandering around for hours continually stuffing their faces on tidbits rather than actually coming to buy anything. One guy came back to the stall 4 times to gorge himself. 4 times! And didn't buy anything! I almost felt like chasing him and rifling through the greedy git's pockets. After doing my bit for Lily, I did have a quick scoot around again and bought some lovely Belgian beer from the guys at Daas, who incidentally sampled me with plenty of dutch courage before my rant. And I also bought some beer from a very laid back guy from Grain who quite possibly had sampled too much of his own dutch courage throughout the day. And I bought some chervil, sorrel and parsley from a guy who didn't know what he was doing, he was just manning the stall for his mate.

So there you go. I went to the Real Food Show, ranted, packed fudge and walked back out at the end of the day with pots of herbs, boxes of cereal and bottles and bottles of beer. Admittedly, the atmosphere at Earls Court was a bit flat that day but that was probably down to a hangover from Election Night. I would go next year though and take the time to have a closer look around. And maybe next time I'll have a go at the grazers, who do nothing but eat and drink samples, all day long. You know who you are.

Top of the bill

Dutch Courage

Lily and her Yum Yum Tree Fudge

A very big cow

*For RADA, read Drama degree at Nene College, Northampton. Very prestigious.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Brian Is Gonna Get It

This morning I woke up full of purpose, thrust and vim with one clear objective on my mind, today was the day that I was finally going to cut the small lawn in our front garden. Personally, I find mowing the grass one of life's more tedious chores especially since I own an ancient Qualcast hover mower that seems to fold blades of grass neatly in half rather than actually cut them. With rising anger and frustration, I often give in to a propensity to start grinding the machine into the turf, teeth gritted as my arms shake violently, sending clumps of soil flying into the ether. The end result is usually akin to my Dad's attempts to cut my hair with a pair of blunt scissors when I was younger, a patchy morass of bald spots with the odd tuft springing up here and there. But the job had to be done and I've been putting it off for too long so I gave it a good crack early this morning. Because my mower is so rubbish it doesn't collect the grass so after the exercise, I had to stoop down and collect the long green sheaves with my bare hands (oh woe is me). As I was doing so, with each sodden handful I kept finding a snail nestled within and we're not talking about babies here, we're talking big, juicy, fat gastropods. I suppose that this shouldn't have come as a surprise given that the Bank Holiday had just past with the usual deluge of rain. Actually I think I was more perplexed that so many survived the onslaught. But as I stood there cradling a slimey sucker in my hand, two thoughts then came suddenly pinging into my brain. The first being that I should really invest in a decent lawnmower that saves me the job of bending over and my poor back. And the second? Well of course I started wondering what it would be like to eat them. The snails that is.

You may or may not know this but the petis gris or escargot that gets served up in French bistros across France and the rest of the world is none other than your regular Helix aspersa. That's the common brown snail to you and me and I've often thought about gathering some to cook at home so this seemed like a marvelous opportunity. I've garnered some information from the internets and the whole process looks to be quite simple. The most important thing to do is to make sure you purge* them and in particular make sure that they haven't ingested any pesticides. If they have taken anything toxic on board they will die within a day after collection which seems to be an easy indicator. If they don't die then they will happily survive on a diet of water which will clean their systems out and after four days will be ready to cook and eat. However you can also carry on feeding them on herbs and cornmeal for up to two weeks to fatten them up. You then put them on a water diet for two days for a final purge. This is what I have read anyway.

At the moment I've got a dozen Brians tucked away in a large Tupperware box (with air holes) in the shed, lounging around on a bed of lettuce and water. I'm not entirely sure what route to go yet, the four day liquid diet or the 2 week super sizing but when I had one last peek before leaving for work, at least 4 of the blighters were engaged in some kind of carnal activity. I think they know the end is near and making the best use of their love darts in an orgiastic frenzy. Well you would wouldn't you if the world was nigh. I shall let you know what I do with them but if in the meantime anyone has any tips or words of wisdom, I shall be very grateful.

A dozen escargot s'il vous plait

Brian #1

Brian and chums are gonna get it

*purge = make sure they have a good ol' crap