Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Saturday, 24 April 2010


There's an election coming. Had you noticed? I had, and there is much to feel depressed about.
For a start, the prime ministerial candidates' TV debates are turning what could be a serious opportunity for the nation to engage in debate on political policy and system into a leadership cult of personality X factor.
Secondly, the policy differences are so minor, and so missing the point of people's political disengagement that, even on a more serious look at form than a paddock parade of the leaders' tie colours, the runners and riders look tired and self serving.
Trust is the issue, and none look trustworthy.
The intensification of the spinning and symbiotic relationship between government and the media since 1997 is at the core of this. Two dubious invasions and their casualties, the reasons for which are shrouded in lies, have knocked more nails in the coffin of trust. Finally, and in very recent memory, the revelations about MP's expenses have put the final stitch through the nose.
Politicians realise well that there is widespread disengagement with the political system in this country. Their so called radical ideas to fix it though just aren't. Rather, in the wake of the expenses scandal, they are sad attempts at self preservation. They miss the rather obvious point that fixing disengagement with the system means fixing the system. And since they are the system, the elected turkeys ain't voting for Christmas. Never mind fixing the House of Lords. What about fixing the House of Commons in a systemic sense? What about fixing an utter lack of participation in day to day government?
I doubt that I will be voting. People have said to me "if you don't vote, you have no right of complaint." Rubbish. If you go into a pie shop and there are beef pies, pork pies and chicken pies, you are perfectly entitled not to buy one. Especially if what you want is a vegetarian pie. Or a cake. Indeed, the chances of ever getting the pie you want are decreased not increased by buying what is already on offer. If no one voted, there'd be no legitimacy to the current system. On May 6th, make a democratic decision for change. Stay away from the polls. Dig your garden. Watch a film. Snuggle with your partner. Open a bottle of wine. Gaze with wonder at the moon. Don't vote.

Friday, 9 April 2010


You get on a plane. You hire a car. You drive to the region of Xativa, an area of Spain fragrant with orange groves. Not far from that historic town you turn off a main road down an unlikely looking rutted track close between orange and almond plantations. After three or four kilometres, you go up a gravelled drive framed by olive trees and with lawns of wild rosemary. You come to my friends' house, where we have been staying with them, chilling out in spectacular style, lounging in pool and tub and drinking the Valencian sun.
Well away from the awful developments at the beachside of the Costa Brava, Xativa is an ancient town clawed from a huge rock, a citadel above it and clamorous, stylish streets beneath.
You go to Pepe's. This place is a simple street corner delicatessen cafe. You are welcomed as Pepe, rotund and tattooed with as impressive a display as a man's torso should take, bustles around you. All linguistic effort is spared as you simply ask him to feed you. That is his trade, and he performs it with joy. First come perfect little paves of bread, just cooled enough to pick up and break. With them, an oil from heaven and an old balsamic, infused with vanilla. Next, he brings the wine, a roll of local red velvet for the tongue. Glasses are big, as they should be, allowing for much swirling, sniffing and appreciating. Then he goes to work in front of you on the nearly black iberico ham, carving it from a leg there and then, trimming and fussing until you have before you a layered plateful. It is sweet, with melting fat, and tickles the palate. Almost immediately then comes a platter of cheeses, Manchego of course but others too, coated in rosemary and other herbs, and presented with nuts and dried fruits. Next is a warm, salty, ever so slightly fishy duck salad with - wait for it - rosemary ice cream and lemony pickled peppers. Another bottle of wine. Then comes beef, a proper Chuleton - a very slight salt crunch to its surface and positively sexual red innards spilling juice onto the serving board. With this are softly cooked tranches of aubergine and potato, and griddled asparagus. For the ankle biters, Pepe conjours up sausages and potato chips. No, not chips - potato chips. There's a difference. Then it is a digestif. A toast from Pepe and down in one. Next, as if a next were needed, a massive desert tray with fruits - pineapple, kiwi, orange and others, hazlenuts, a meltingly soft chocolate brownie, and the best chocolate ice cream I have tasted outside Italy. Cafes cortados. And a feeling of utter fullness and pleasure. The bill comes to little more than you would pay per head in a sit down fish and chip place back home.
Why can't we do it here?
Why can't we find on any provincial street corner, a Pepe, in love with food, wine, conversation and the good things of life, busy building a profitable and delicious community of satisfied eaters?
Why instead do we subsist in Britain on sub standard, processed, mass produced, chain logoed crap?
Why do we tolerate it?
Do we not see that we are breeding a Britain illiterate in the joys of proper eating, drinking and the celebration of life?
And yet we worry instead endlessly about "diet" and "healthy eating". What idiots we are. What smug, small minded, nannying, pathetic idiots we are.
I am filled with gratitude to my friends in Spain for their great hospitality and for showing me in Xativa one more example of how we Brits get food so, so wrong and our continental neighbours get it so, so right.
Viva Espana.
Viva Pepe.

Thursday, 1 April 2010


Now that is politics I can believe in.


I am fond of asking her indoors "how'd you want your eggs? Fried or fertilised?"
Happily she almost always responds "fertilised."
What a babe!
Then we get down to the business at hand. And afterwards maybe have a poached egg or three. During thE process of poaching eggs it is well known that you have to add vinegar to boiling water to make the eggs gel together.
I've discovered that this is in fact a conspiracy worked on us by vinegar manufacturers. You don't need it all. What you do need is eggs that are fresh. They stay together.
And not, obviously, those that are fertilised.