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Deep South America – Meat, meat and more meat

12 Nov

I really love chopped pork sandwiches

What did I expect from a roadtrip around the Deep South? Elvis, fried green tomatoes, Blues, smoky smudgy BBQ, jazz, Southern Hospitality, Honkytonks, mint juleps, NASCAR, Spanish Moss, Coca-Cola, Jack Daniels, juicy crawfish and a lotta lotta hog. Well, my boy Josh and I found all of that and more.

And yes we found some of the most finger-licking, lip-smacking, tummy-rumbling meaty goodness ever. Brace yourself. Your waistbands may expand just reading about it.

In Atlanta we drove to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack where we smelt the sweet, smokey BBQ before we wrapped our mouths around it. Fat Matt’s was everything a rib shack should be: a grizzled cool-ass band were playing blues inside the shack and we sat out front in the warm evening sun where for about $5 we got ourselves a chopped pork sandwich with a side of chips.  The pork was soft, juicy and drenched in the finest BBQ sauce I’ve ever tasted. Simple, unfussy but uncommonly good, topped off with a chewy, sticky pecan pie, Fat Matt’s had us begging for more.

Another night in Atlanta we did a Drive-in double.  Before heading to Starlight Six theater to watch a movie under the stars, we visited Varsity, the World’s Largest Drive-In Restaurant.  To cries of “What’ll ya have?” and “Have your order in your mind and your money in your hand” we didn’t even have to stretch our legs and get out of the car as the bell-hops came to our window to take the order.  Deciding between “Walk-a-dogs” (hot dogs), “gussied-up-steaks” (hamburgers), and a “bag of rags” (fries) was pretty tough but I had greasy fries, pimento cheese burger and a frosted orange.  Stretching out in our hire-car and listening to the yawn of the 7-lane interstate outside of the window we chowed down on our dinner smiling all the time before tucking into fried pies in apple and Georgia peach.  Cheap, fast and wholly unique, I can see why two miles of hot dogs, 2500 pounds of potatoes are fried, 5000 pies and 300 gallons of chili are made from scratch daily!

Greasy goodness

From Atlanta we motored to Savannah, described as “a pretty girl with a dirty face” , the historic city drips with Spanish Moss, aches with mystery and sexiness and is studded with 22 beautiful, green squares.  We wandered from the Thunderbird Motel from square to square and then straight to a bar where we drank craft beers and rum and got tipsy like a true Savannah-ite.  Before sipping Key Lime Margaritas and Sparklebomb cocktails we had a sumptuous dinner at B. Matthew’s Eatery where Josh ordered a curried fish soup he quickly declared the best soup he’d ever eaten, and we noshed sweet potato fries and more pulled pork sandwiches (sorry, I just couldn’t help myself) and shared a British style bread pudding, yanked-up with a Bourbon glaze.  The waiters there were incredible, the bar historic, the riverfront location amazing.  They’re meant to do a mean brunch too.

Before reaching Nashville we drank sodas in the Smoky Mountains, sniffed sour mash at the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg and ate she-crab soup and fried green tomatoes in Charleston (at the institution that is Hyman’s next to a table where Vanilla Ice once dined. Oh yes.) but the siren call of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash couldn’t evade us for long and soon we were tapping our toes to Bluegrass and dreaming of a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Hawt Hawt HAWT!

In Nashville we made like ‘Man Vs. Food’ and went to Prince’s Hot Chicken, a tiny faded shop-front home to cayenne-rubbed hot chucks fried to juicy perfection and served on a slice of white bread with a side of pickles.  A local legend, the shack serves mild, medium, hot and (what must be blisteringly) extra hot chicken to lucky locals.  We grabbed a giant soda and I ate until my ears rang.  The skin of the chicken was fiery hot, but smoky and good. Inside the bird the white meat was soft and soothing.  God only knows what would have happened if we’d ordered anything hotter than a medium.  Tears certainly.   As soon as he started eating his chicken Josh looked distinctly worried.  He gulped hard and stared ahead. “I don’t know if I can eat this” he murmured plaintively before breathing hard and ploughing on.  And we did it, we cleaned the plate. We may have been sweating and shaking slightly but we did it and it was incredible.  An experience like no other. Wowzers.

On to Memphis where asides from an emotional trip to Lorraine Motel to learn more about civil rights, a night’s sleep in the Peabody hotel where we saw those famous lobby ducks and a trip to Graceland to see just how Elvis lived we ate the finest freaking ribs ever. Yes, ever.  At Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, located in a downtown alley as it has done since 1948 and serving up 5 tonnes of their ridiculously fine dry rub ribs each week, this was heaven on a plate.

Damn fine ribs, yes sir.

For $17.50 you get a full rack and for $14.50 a small order. Along with BBQ beans and creamy slaw, this was show-stopping eating.  Smoky, sweet and with juicy tender pork falling from the bone, the ribs looked colossal on the plate but were soon seen off.  And you don’t need to take it from me, oh no, Bill Clinton, Justin Timberlake and Al Green love these ribs. The Rolling Stones got sticky fingers here.  Unbeatable.  As is Memphis.  From hollering at the microphone Elvis and Johnny Cash sang into at Sun Records to boozing your way down Beale Street and lunching at the Arcade Diner – this place has soul.

We checked out of the classy Peabody Hotel and jumped in our little Blue Nissan, put Memphis Slim and Howlin’ Wolf on the radio and raced past huge white cotton fields in Mississippi (until we were stopped for speeding by the Police) and then cruised more leisurely to  Clarksdale, the home of Blues.  Here we stayed in the most beautiful and atmospheric Shack-Up Inn, listened to sweet guitar and raw Delta Blues and resisted the urge to write on the walls at the Ground Zero Blues Club and I tried tamales for the first time ever.

At the intersection of Highways 61 and 49 where Robert Johnson was said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange to become a famous Bluesman,  there is a sign of a happy pig in a bowtie.  This is Abe’s BBQ shack which has been open since 1924 and serves smoky pulled pork, vinegary slaw and slow burning tamales, they are cornmeal and hog wrapped in corn husks and boiled before you unwrap and discard the leaf wrapper and dig in. Weird at first but slow burning indeed.  I can see why Robert Johnson wrote a song about them.

Smiling Hog

Before heading home we had a few crazy days in New Orleans, where we ate beignets and drank strong coffees for breakfast,  wandered amongst the beads and balconies of French quarter,  stroked snakes and made wishes at the voodoo temple and avoided the drunks and strip-bars on Bourbon Street.  We ate gator and drank hurricanes.  Wandered along the Mississippi and slept in a haunted house.  On Frenchman Street we ate till we burst and drank killer rum punch. We toured the swamps and saw alligators and turtles and felt the sun beat down and the sultry wind in our hair.

It was an incredible, delicious trip.  We met the friendliest people, listened to the most awesome music, drank delirium-inducing cocktails and filled our bellies with Lowcountry cooking.  I cannot wait to do it all again.

 

 

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Eating our way around Zakynthos

14 Jul

Shipwreck Beach

γειά σου! I’m back in London after two hot, happy and tasty weeks in Zakynthos – a beautiful Greek Island surrounded by warm turquoise waters – where I holidayed with my fiancé and his family and where I tried and failed to play enough ping-pong to account for the millions, nay trillions, of calories I hoovered up every day. 

Very nearly every day the sky was a deep, cobalt blue and the sun beat down and tanned our skin, causing an explosion of freckles and light streaks in our hair.  Throughout the island, the trees burst with bright purple Bougainvilleas, palm trees swayed in the breeze and the branches of olive trees held swallows and swifts, whilst figs and lemons swelled, brightened and fell to the floor.

During my vacation I discovered firsthand, just how and why Greeks are the world’s biggest, per capita, consumers of cheese –  eating around 25kg per capita annually – as one of our typical meals would involve hefty blocks of creamy feta perched on salads, cheesy gooey chilli balls, and slabs of Saganaki – fried, yes that’s right fried, cheese.  We wolfed down barbequed halloumi, gobbled spinach and feta pies and during dinners at the villa ate cheese during as many meals as feasible. I loved every single gorgeous bite.

Can o' octopus

Above the sound of donkey’s hee-hawing, kitten’s miaows and the lapping of waves against the shore, come nighttime we would watch the sun set as we ate at tavernas perched upon the cliff’s edge where we would slather mountains of fresh, homemade tzatziki on juicy pork souvlaki, and listen – yet again – to Zorba the Greek.  Slick Dolmades and giant beans cooked in tomatoes and oil got our mouths watering before friendly, charming waiters – not alas, all of the Shirley Valentine ilk – bought plate after plate of mousakka, rabbit stifado and suckling pig.  One night Josh had “drunk beef” – steak cooked in Mythos which was like a British casserole – and I confess we did venture into the nearest resort for a “Full English” which included a sausage which surely consisted of 98% rusk.

We drank much wine.  It was good and bad and ugly.  Chilled glasses of red wine, fruity sangria, awful spumante, best for unblocking drains, and I survived my first, perhaps last, glass of retsina.  Retsina is a Greek wine, that has been produced for over 2,000 years and which has a unique flavour said to originate from the practice of sealing wine vessels with pine resin.  It was, to paraphrase my Father in-law-to-be, a wine that tasted a bit like toilet duck.  It was also said to taste more refined than the last time my Mother-in-Law-to-be drank it, a few years ago.  Well, it tasted pretty, ummm, interesting this time round and I am not sure I’ll be rushing to import any to Britain.

A menu

Being on island I had to push aside my fishiness about seafood and try the treasures from the sea.  I endured sardines so strong I had to drink retsina to take away the taste, juicy great whitebait and soft and chewy calamari drenched with zingy lemon juice.  I drew the line at a tin of octopus which we skewered and toasted on the barbeque.  Bleeruuugh. Maybe next year.

So, aside from the sun, the crystal sea, the warm honeyed air, the sultry summer night barbecues, the days spent catching up on reading, testing matches of ping-pong, hours spent playing with kittens, ice cream after ice cream and shopping trips for knock-off sunglasses,  Zakynthos shone by being incredibly welcoming and hospitable.  Every time we went out for dinner, the owner of the Taverna, a waitress or waiter, would finish the meal by bringing over a free treat – tart and juicy kiwi smoothies, apples in cinnamon syrup, chilled local wine, a nutmeg liquor and even a slice of their son’s birthday cake.

It was so kind and sweet that it, along with the huge amounts of belly-laughs and fun we had dorking around all day in the sunshine, made it incredibly difficult to bid the Island goodbye.

Red red wine

American Roadtrip Part 2 – Big City Eats

15 Nov

Eat This Shellfish

My trip around East Coast America, despite what my last blog post may have implied, did in fact, on occasion, involve me getting out of the car. Once in a while, you know. To stretch my legs. Sniff the air. Pound the sidewalks. But what with hours of driving, those oh-so convenient drive-thrus and my commitment to humongous amounts of burger-scoffing and root-beer guzzling, I was concerned that my legs would atrophy.  However, the golden sands of Cape Cod, cobbled streets of Baltimore and gleaming high-rises of New York City were impossible to resist.

The eats were dreamy. Baltimore had perhaps the best food of my trip and was an amazing city to boot.  We strolled around the Harbour side, laughed until our ribs hurt in the inspirational Visionary Art Museum and took in the underwater delights at the incredible seven-story aquarium – the city’s pride and joy. We wandered over to Fells Point for a few beers and dinner. In Bertha’s Mussels we had Blue Moon beer with slices of orange, I slurped on spicy crab soup, my boyfriend had piles of mussels with garlic butter and we had The Best Shrimp Ever. Stuffed with jalepenos, cream cheese and wrapped with sweet, mapely bacon, this shrimp was powerful, powerful good.

In Washington DC we spent a jean-popping night in La Plaza, a Mexican place on Pennsylvania Avenue, filled with kitsch trinkets and sated people. There we ate bowls of warm nachos in zingy, lime-drenched salsa, chorizo and cheese – a pleasingly melty goop of spicy naughtiness- and gorgeous pork fajitas served with mountains of fresh guacamole.  Oh and the margaritas they served left me swaying and praying for more (free) shots of tequilla. An amazing, lively place and one I would hit every week were I to move to the Capitol.

It makes me happy

One day we stopped for lunch at a “Washington Landmark’ – Ben’s Chili Bowl – in U Street which has been opened since 1958, survived the race riots and welcomed the United State’s first Black president for a bite to eat.  In the meantime it’s seen a load of famous faces, including I’m afraid, Bono’s but don’t let that put you off.  With hectic counter-staff and steamy windows, the building is absolutely beautiful, all high-arched ceilings and old diner stools. There’s a sign behind the counter which reads: Bill Crosby, the Obamas – No one else eats for free”. We ordered an obligatory Half Smoke – a meaty, smoky hot dog covered with spicy chilli – and a plate of squeezy, cheesy chips for a uniquely satisfying lunch in a humbling and historic restaurant.

Not really a city, but I just had to tell you about how the weekend we dropped by Wellfleet – in the middle of Cape Cod – as it just so happened to be hosting the Oysterfest. We had parked our car by the beach and rode a yellow school bus into town to find the streets all closed to traffic and lined with tent after tent of burly men shucking, oysters on ice, buckets of used shells, rows of bubbling chowders and lobsters for sale.  Of course, Josh and I had to have a try and so nervously, gingerly, we both picked up our first-ever oysters, a squeeze of lemon here a glug of tobasco there, eyes closed, mouth open… and.. GULP.  I’m not sure if you’re meant to chew but I just swallowed fast. And I’m not sure. I may have missed something.  A slimy salty wiggly thing in a crusty old shell was not my cup of tea,  I think, in fact that yes, I am sure I missed something!

And onto New York, where after schlepping across Brooklyn Bridge, down into subways and up the Empire State building I felt I had earned a few liquors in dive-bars and the odd frozen custard. In the city that never sleeps I drank far too many vanilla lattes, ate mountains of ribs that required me to keep a bath-towel on hand to keep mopping my brow and mouth clean and scoffed pizzas the size of manhole covers. Mmmmm. In Coney Island, desolate and dreary the way only seaside resorts can be off-season, we wandered past empty fairground rides, along the shore, oggling bars selling the dubious-looking Grandpa ChaCha’s Homestyle wine and the terrifying ‘Shoot the Freaks’ arcade. We “dined” at Nathan’s Famous where we chomped on decidedly rubbery hot dogs and tried to fathom how – at the Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog-Eating Contest at Nathan’s – the winner managed to down 54 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes and retain possession of his Coveted Musted Yellow Belt. Gruelling.

Lock up your daughters

And so, after driving in forests of red and golden trees and through jungles of skyscrapers, after sleeping in motels and mansions, after lobster platters and sweaty McRibs, our roadtrip was over.  I was one lovely (engagement!) ring – and a good few pounds – heavier and we were both a heck of a lot happier. I can’t wait to go back…

American Roadtrip Part 1 – Roadside Eats

26 Oct

Pumpkin Patch

Hello!  I am back.  Back from a long and amazing time in America.  Back in beautiful Battersea, now filthily addicted to Dairy Queen ice-cream, about a stone heavier (coincidence?) and freshly engaged to my long-suffering boyfriend! Eeek.
Together, we just motored around Atlantic City, bopped in Baltimore, walked all over Washington, were pampered in Pennsylvania, chilled out in Woodstock, felt sunshiny in Shelburne Falls, were windswept in Cape Cod, fell in love with baseball in Connecticut and were overwhelmed by, well, everything, in New York City. Phew. In just under two and a half-weeks we zoomed around 1550 miles, taking in giant free-ways, tiny country lanes, glittering lakesides and splendid fall forests. We saw Amish and Manhattenites, drove by smart-cars and monster trucks, past mansions and the projects – and saw a diverse and compelling country getting along together, against the odds. It was absolutely incredible, as indeed America is.
In New England villages and towns we drove past huge fields of grazing cows and goats, saw endless roadside stores selling squash and pumpkins, apples and maple syrup. We slurped on diner shakes, gorged on American candy and greedily ate sloppy burgers in our car. There were roadside highs and dead-end lows.

High Five for Five Guys

The biggest slump being our first – and I suspect only ever- Taco Bell. Despite mixed reviews, I had worked myself into a semi-frenzy when we parked in the lot and walked inside. I am a big Mexican-food-lover. Fajitas are my friends. Burritos are my buddies. But the Taco Bell, the Taco Bell was a Traitor.
Yes it was cheap, yes it was speedy, yes it came with about 30 ounces of re-fillable rootbeer but ewwwwww. Soggy taco shells, overstuffed with plastic cheese and skanky gristle. The fajita was as depressing as sitting through an episode of My Family. It was in short a let-down and watching tv adverts for their XXL Chalupa forced me to yelp in anguish. Taco Bell? Taco Hell.

Along the drives, I saw more types of fastfood restaurants than I could have previously imagined, sure there were the BK’s, the McD’s and the KFCs, but I can add to this galaxy of glittering stars – White Castles, Applebys, Arbys, Favourites, Denny’s – there were rib places and steak places, Chinese places and Mexican places, so much so that I had to concentrate on DJing hard and gazing at the roadmap to stop from myself from screaming “let’s pull over it’s been an hour since we ate!”
Luckily, the hotel and motel breakfasts helped. Whether it was a monster buffet at a Trump hotel, or freshly baked bread and waffles in a family-run guesthouse, we did not want for breakfast.  During our stay in Washington DC – in a grotty but super-retro motel – we survived the sleepless night (our neighbour snored and watched Forensic Files at 5.30am and the walls were evidently constructed from tissue paper) by guzzling Styrofoam cups of sugary coffee and hoovering up triple glazed donuts that made me feel like I was in training to be a cop on stake-out.

My coffee and donut addiction grew exponentially whereby I managed to achieve a Pavlovian dog-like response at the sight of a Dunkin donughts. Boy were they yummy. And they weren’t the only things making me swoon. I ate alot of burgers. I mean, a.l.o.t. There were fast-food whoppers and cheeseburgers that just did the job, all fine fine, and then there were two that stood out. Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington – the place where Barack Obama and Joe Biden apparently went to toast their historic victory – produced a burger very nearly as big as my face, so juicy it nearly melted the bun.  Fiery jalapenos, sweet sweet onions and Monterey Jack cheese draped sluttishly over my hunk of meat. We had sweet potato fries – drowning in mayo and black pepper – on the side. It was good. Damn, it was indecent.  And then there was a Five Guys, we visited one of these places in Connecticut, though they’re dotted all over, and I had a simple cheese burger. Nothing on top but a splodge of ketchup. Nothing on the side but a handful of free roasted peanuts. Free refills of cherry coke and a burger that was it. So simple but so juicy and tender that I had to have a bit of quiet time to get over it.
Luckily, we went to Cape Cod for a weekend of super seafood which gave my arteries a moment of peace after all of that burger-abuse and here we ate creamy bowls of clam chowder, hunks of seaside fudge and our first ever lobsters. First things first, I loved wearing a bib. And I loved having special tools – the pick and the nutcracker – for mining the juicy flesh from Mister Lobster. It made me feel daft and sophisticated all at once – a heady combination. The lobster – a big boy who had been boiled – was served with corn on the cob, coleslaw and a bowl of melted butter, and was hugely tasty. His claws held tender, sweet and juicy meat. His tail was an absolute treasure trove too, although the green and red ‘gunk’ (the liver -called the tomalley- and rosy coloured roe) inside his body made me feel a bit squeamish. It was great fun cracking open legs and claws and exploring and one of the few times when Josh and I ate in total silence! Although having the lobster “looking” at me proved a little disconcerting, it was an absolute treat and classic seaside experience.
So are you feeling full already? That was just the appetiser! I still have to tell you about all of the big city dinners I scoffed. Soon. Wear loose-fitting pants…  Hannah x

Lobster - it could catch on.

Laters dudes – I’m off to the U S of A!

5 Oct

On the Road

In a couple of days time things are going to go a bit quiet from me, except for my waistband, which will be straining to the point of collapse. You see, I won’t be blogging, I’ll be roadtrippin’, in the US of A.  America.  Land of the free, home of the brave.

Me and my boy are going to eat our way around the East Coast, stopping for cheese-steaks in Philly, meatloaf in Washington, liquor and scrapple in Baltimore, lobster rolls in Cape Cod, noodles in NY’s chinatown, a bite of the big apple, and as many Dairy Queens and Taco Bells as we can before we need to don a muu-muu. I am sated just thinking about it. Phew.

I have been getting giddy about stopping in roadside diners for a malt and a burger for months now – see Retroroadmap for an idea of what I’m talking about – and I am sure it will be as ace as I imagine. I will be sure to reveal my grease-stained adventures when I return. Until then howdy partners and later dudes as the locals will like to say, maybe. Yup.

Hannah xx

I just ate my entire body weight in pasta – a trip to Sicily…

8 Jun

AAAAARRRRRRGH!

Last week I was lucky enough to spend a week’s holiday in Sicily – land of the slow food movement – and if I didn’t just spend the entire 7 days doing my best foie gras duck impression. Turns out, those Sicilians really know their onions. And tomatoes… and coffee, chocolate, cheese and ice-cream…

Drive or wander through the island – avoiding the other scooters and crazy motorists to a cacophony of honking horns and dire Italian radio – and you can’t help but be struck by the incredible natural abundance.  As the hot hot sun beats down on lemon and orange trees and olive groves the air is scented with fresh sage and lavender and the roadside stalls heave with swollen, ripe tomatoes, you realise, this is going to be tasty. Bloody tasty.

Even a trip to Carrefour (full disclosure: mooching in foreign supermarkets is one of my ultimate nerdy pleasures) reveals piles of fresh, wonderfully misshapen fruits – surrounded by greedy buzzy flies – and stacks of grana padano, mounds of shiny jellyfish and squid and giant swordfish jutting into the aisles. Whole baby rabbits – their little blue eyes staring glassily through the clingfilm peek at you. And there is row upon row of wine and coffee and olive oil.

World's LARGEST garlic.

Our barbecues – beef, pepper and chilli kebabs – and lamb chops marinated for days in oil and rosemary, huge langoustines grilled over the coals and pasta dressed in a lemon and thyme dressing (fresh from the garden!) with tomatoes and olives in lashings of oil – were intense. From the peach and ham salad to the peppers stuffed with garlic-y, cheesy risotto, everything was fresh and everything was bursting with flavour.

In Noto, a stunning Baroque town, we went for ice-cream at the famous Cafe Sicilia. there we scoffed on granita (in mouth-tingling lemon, juicy blood orange and punchy espresso), smooth hazelnut and rich chocolate gelato and I wolfed down a cassata, made with ricotta, candied fruit and pistachio.

In Modica we bought chocolate from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto – a stunning little artisan chocolate shop where they have made chocolate the same way for six generations. And the chocolate was flavoured with nutmeg or orange peel, pepper or vanilla. Amazing. We were offered and duly tried (more than once) ‘mpanatigghi – a South American empanada – which was filled with meat and chocolate. It was sweet, spicy and slightly metallic. Not entirely lovely but you know, interesting…

Gelato in Syracuse

At dinner in slow-food tavernas we feasted until we could barely move (seriously, it was filthy) on pork gelatine, arancini – deep fried rice balls – juicy olives, local cheese and salami, mussels, swordfish, homemade ravioli, huge snails, grilled courgette and peppers, so juicy and tender, lasagne cacate, sausages cooked in red wine, giant calzones and tender tomato salads. And that was just for starters!

We ate in bustling squares and in peaceful terraces,  we were served with grace and panache and we washed down our food with gallons of punchy red wine.

On a silly level I loved polishing off my meal and then troughing on a crème brûlée vienetta (why why why can’t we get them in the UK?!) and I loved the gorgeous vanilla wafers with my morning espresso. I loved the way that on every corner adults of every persuasion ate icecream at all hours – quite rightly in my opinion. And I jolly well adored seeing the “let’s pizza” hot pizza dispenser in the airport. That’s right. A machine that dispenses slices of pizza. Holy macaroni! The only downside was that it was broken when we rushed to use it but still, a country that has pizza dispensers is all right by me…

Sicily is without question a bombastic place. The dramatic history, the stunning and some times dreadful architecture, the mountains and coastline, the noise and the fuss, the sheer drama of the place is incredible. For those that like to eat and drink and eat and drink again – go. Wear loose fitting outfits and buy a bigger swimsuit. Worry about your diet when you get back. Feast. You won’t regret it! 

As fresh as it gets.

Au Revoir! Would Like to Eat on vacation…

28 May

Holiday... celebrate!

Yo guys! I am afraid I am going to have to love you and leave you for a week. I am off on my summer holidays, like Cliff Richard would say, all the way to Sicily!

Home of Mt Etna, the Mafia and.. the Slow Food movement. My pre-holiday diet/excercise regime, along with the plan to fake-tan my legs to a professional degree, went, erm, askew. But fear not. The same will not happen to my ambitious intentions to eat my own body weight in gelato, chocolate, pasta and to drown my liver in good red wine.

I will report back on my culinary adventures but in the meantime, au revoir!

Hannah x

Food and Politics: A recipe for success?

15 Apr

Food has had a walk-on role in politics, around the world and throughout the decades, sometimes leaping, quite unexpectedly into the spotlight. We had the transformation of “French fries” to “Freedom fries” thanks to George Bush JR’s Gallophobic ways, it was over dinner that Nicolas Sarkozy and Carli Bruni first gazed at one another and JFK once famously declared: “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a jam donut).

During the exhausting and ever-so-slightly nutty Presidential campaign, it’s been reported that Sarah Palin basically “wasn’t eating (a few small bites of steak a day, no more). She wasn’t drinking (maybe half a can of Dr Pepper; no water, ever)” and that preparing for her tv debates, her hotel room was “fetid…full of half-eaten hotel food and stinking of mouldering french fries”. The Democrat’s victor, a Mr B. Obama, is said to prefer Chicago Pizza and his wife’s shrimp linguini. Sounds good.

Thanks to the Expenses scandal, us disgruntled taxpayers know the predilections of those who dwelled in Westminster: the malteasers, jaffa cakes, jumbo wedges, rice puddings and banoffee pies. The famous power-brokering meal between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown took place in a trendy Italian place Granita, and it would have been something other than the pasta that would have been hard to swallow for the current Prime Minister.

There has been spin (Tony Blair was reported to have said that “fish and chips” was his favourite meal to the Labour Party magazine and then, to the Islington Cookbook, declare an undying love for “fettuccine, olive oil, capers and sundried tomatoes), boasting (William Hague famously declared that he drank 14 pints a day when younger) and confusion (Lord Mandelson famously, perhaps mythically, pointed to the mushy peas and ordered “some of that guacamole” in a Hartlepool chippy). There’s also been derision, illustrated perfectly by John Gummer who during the BSE scare, as Agriculture Minister, fed his daughter beef burgers in front of the TV cameras.

I’ve worked in Parliament as a Parliamentary researcher (read: bag-carrier) myself and I know that the Palace of Westminster offers a veritable smorgasbord of bars, cafes and restaurants. I miss the cut-price jerk chicken and rounds-for-a-fiver in the Lords bar with a heavy heart.  From the exclusive Dining Rooms on the banks of the Thames to the highly valued Despatch Box, a coffee shop, which fuels many a frantic, whispered meeting between journo and politician in Portcullis House, Members of Parliament can eat every single meal and snack they desire without ever having to mix with riff-raff.

But is it important what our nation’s leaders eat? Gordon Brown reportedly “exists on microwave meals” and actually like Brussels Sprouts.  David Cameron, grilled by mumsnet on the tough cookie (gettid?!) issue of biscuits declared his favourite to be oatcakes with butter and cheese and Nick Clegg is said to love Spanish food as much as his Spanish lady.  Even repellent, sweaty-man Nick Griffin has admitted that a positive aspect of immigration to the UK has been “a wide range of curries”. 

With legislation on food labelling, animal welfare, farming and international trade all debated within the House recently, the success of Jamie Oliver’s school dinners campaign and the effect that nutrition has on behavior and health it is clearly important that our politicians understand and appreciate food.  If they want to make gaffes – maybe during tonight’s historical telly debates – along the way, then so be it!

Rude Food – Part 1

8 Feb

Spaghetti Alphabetty

Whilst I am positive that no upstanding reader of this blog would ever spend time at work interslacking and looking up rude words on urban dictionary, there are some that are less diligent, and for whom these words will most likely come as no surprise!

A quick flick this evening, through my ‘Dictionary of Slang’ revealed that:

* ‘Biscuit’ – has through the years referred to 1. a young woman (mid 19th century – her being sweet and/or good enough to eat), 2. a pistol/handgun (1940s US) in that “one snaps it” and 3. a type of shoe worn for comfort rather than style and favoured by older people (1980s US)

* That ‘Bread’ could refer to 1. money (late 18th Century), 2. a Black person (20th Century US), 3. a ladypart (1950-1960s Black US) or that in 20th Century rhyming slang ‘Bread and Butter’ means in the Gutter.

*Hamburger has come to represent 1. a stupid or worthless person (1940s US – as in “he has no more brains than…), 2. mangled flesh (1940s US- in the Vietnam war, Hamburger Hill was thus nicknames as so many soldiers were killed and wounded) and 3. a 1980s term for MDMA because the round-shape looked like an ecstasy tablet.

You know we’ve all heard of “a Gravy Train”, but did you know that “Gravy Ring” is a word from Ulster referring to a doughnut, and that “gravy” can refer to money (1910s US), semen (mid 18th Century) or drugs (1960s – for the mix of blood and heroin). I often hear of the “Big Cheese” but “Cheese” is also an Aussie 1950s term for one’s girlfriend, a 1950s term for farting (“who cut the cheese”) and a 1910s euphemism for Jesus.

Amazing, no?