Melton Mowbray Pork Pie

In 1994, and after six playfully-humorous seasons of barbershop-based banter, fans of British-Caribbean sitcom “Desmond’s” were disappointed when the show was discontinued. This blow may have been softened when they learned that it was to be succeeded by spin-off show “Porkpie”, but, after two fairly insipid seasons, this too was consigned to the bin of history, in part, because it relied on the exact same jokes as its predecessor. Never a regular watcher of Desmond’s, I was still sufficiently aware of it to be familiar with at least one of the leading characters. Continue Reading »

Roasted suckling pig at Meson Don Jimeno, Segovia, Spain.

Five years in the making, and after at least six months’ meticulous planning, this was not an auspicious start. Within twenty minutes of claiming our luggage off the futuristically-plastic baggage carousel at Madrid-Barajas, and after spending the few coins we brought with us on a pair of sorely-needed cortados, we stood, incredulous and cash-less, in front of an ATM that had just swallowed our card. A few long moments passed in which I stared open-mouthed at the machine and Amy struggled to obtain an English-speaker via the helpline. I was just about to weep when the girl standing at the adjacent phone accessory booth momentarily stopped admiring her glossy talons and casually mentioned that the ATM-owning bank had an office on the floor above. Continue Reading »

Pollo al ajillo
An old joke tells of a Philadelphia area man who, panicking when his doctor diagnosed him with incurable cancer and predicted he had six months to live, begged the medic for help. “Isn’t there any way I can live for longer?”, he asked. “Go marry an Italian girl from South Philly and those six months will feel like a lifetime.” the doctor replied.

During our short family vacation to Vermont earlier this summer, this sort black humor came to mind more than once. Continue Reading »

When the coughing and farting of the antique truck had rumbled away, between the rustlings of birds pecking grubs among the dry plane leaves, you could just make out the pop and thwack of rubber on concrete. Ascending a double flight of unusually steep stairs, past a stained glass window featuring farming folk, the squeak of gym shoes and the grunts of the players become audible. At the top, a cry of “Buen remate, cabrón!/Good shot, motherf—er!” greeted us as we emerged into a small, tiered seating area perched some twenty feet above an enclosed court. On wooden benches, polished to a veneer by generations of spectator buttocks, a handful of thickset older men, sipping beakers of black wine, like Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets, were joyfully goading the four sweaty men haring after a small rubber ball below them. Continue Reading »

Pollo al Andaluz - Andalusian-style chicken

As an icebreaker at the beginning of the birthing classes we took in preparation for the arrival of our first-born, participants were divided into male and female groups and invited to sit together and discuss their greatest hopes and apprehensions for impending parenthood. The biggest concern of our fellow soon-to-be-parents turned out to be making sure their birth plan was followed to the letter and that on no account should their spouse be somehow duped into accepting analgesics against her wishes by velvet-tongued medical professionals offering relief from the agony. We were surprised to be the only ones looking beyond the birth and confessing their concerns about actually raising said child. Continue Reading »

Peruvian-style Pulpo al Olivo
For much of what we are accustomed to seeing around Christmas, the candles, trees, the mistletoe, the decorations, and many of the songs, we need to thank the Germans. Not specifically those residents of the modern nation state of Germany, but the historic Germanic-speaking peoples of central Europe, for whom the birth of our Lord and Savior was a thinly-veiled opportunity to get out there into the frosty air, bedeck conifers with a variety of junk, quaff heavily-spiced glühwein, and bellow carols in to the night in return for sweetmeats. I would wager that among the English-speaking peoples, certainly the British, the willingness to credit to our Franconian-speaking brethren for these festive trappings is reluctant at best, primarily for, you know, historical reasons. Continue Reading »

Duck Liver in Brandy Cream Sauce with Pomegranate Seeds

Since we defected to the suburbs, started going to bed at 9.30 and became generally boring and matronly, one aspect of the luxury of space afforded by our new location that we have enjoyed particularly is having two fridge-freezers. The second appliance has not only allowed us to give free-reign to our kleptomaniacal tendencies — with leftovers and other scraps of barely edible, semi-discarded flotsam now littering our principal fridge like turds on a cat hoarder’s parlor floor — it has also meant that our collection of frozen comestibles keeps growing and growing. Continue Reading »

Vietnamese Market Cookbook: Spicy Sour Sweet by Tran and Vu

If the path from high finance executive to cookbook author isn’t a well-beaten one, then the path from stock-broker to market stall-holder is even more poorly trod. But, for Oxford-educated former bankers turned Banh Mi vendors-cum-restaurateurs, Van Tran and Anh Vu, that was their peregrination. They certainly don’t say so in the book, but it’s the kind of riches to rags to riches (kind of) story that I’m sure fills the day-dreams of many of us who feel trapped in the limits of our corporate lives, straining at the virtual leash as we break rocks for the man. Continue Reading »

Classic Peruvian Potato dish - Papas a la Huancaina

Of all the miracles of modern science that we have witnessed over recent years, few have received as little attention as the 2009 announcement by the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, that it had successfully sequenced the potato genome. It is a sad reflection on the state of our priorities as a species that this seminal discovery was overshadowed by other, flashier technological breakthroughs that year – including Apple’s launch of Siri, the utterly humorless, and mostly useless, personal assistant on the iPhone 3GS – because after rice, potatoes are the most important foodstuff on planet Earth. Continue Reading »

Argentine-style Faína with Chorizo

“There are more pizzerias in Buenos Aires than in Naples and Rome combined.”
Ernesto Sabato, Heroés y Tumbas

In his book “I’m a Stranger Here Myself” travel-writer Bill Bryson, in an attempt to defeat insomnia, describes making a lonely evening among the anodyne IKEA fittings of a Stockholm hotel even more excruciating by tallying the variety of surnames in the local telephone directory. In an exercise that was clearly not soporific enough, he counted more than 2,000 each of Eriksson, Svensson, Nilsson and Larsson — Swedish inventiveness evidently lying in self-assembly homewares rather than last names. I was reminded of this episode when in conversation with our hotelier in Buenos Aires a few years ago. Continue Reading »

Yellow gazpacho with head-on shrimp al ajillo

The longer we live, the more we understand that our lives, especially now that we have two children, are about compromises. These are often in the form of compromising what we want to do, more or less completely, because our children are either unwilling or unable to do it. Recently though, a new kind of compromise hoved into view after 10 days of excessive eating and drinking while we hosted family from the west coast: namely, that we needed to compromise our caloric intake in order to fit into our clothes. Continue Reading »

Duck Foie Gras with Bacon and Juniper Cabbage and Blackberry-Mustard Seed gastrique
The cuisines, if you call them that, of Northern Europe have been maligned, and fairly, in many cases, for years. The food having been considered by some commentators to be so bad that it was posited as a contributing factor to the higher rates of suicide in those areas. Indeed, anyone who grew up on the same sad, grey school lunches as I might be forgiven for contemplating throwing in the towel rather than facing another plate of limp, farty cabbage and gristly stewed mutton. That we were also forced to wear shorts year-round except when there was snow on the ground, a memory that brings a shiver out of me even now, helped make life feel grimmer than it might otherwise have. This dress-code paired with the inevitable childhood tumbles from kicking a ball around the crumbling asphalt schoolyard and the scarcely-believable application of witch hazel to open wounds and grazes left me, literally, scarred for life. Continue Reading »

Older Posts »