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Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Cooking is incidental

Forget the cook; he/she's on an ego trip. The true hero is the consumer who's prepared to eat noisily or complain.

Cakes. Far, far better to slightly undercook than slightly overcook. Yet most bought-in cakes tend to be dry or dryish - possibly because they photograph better.

It could be ideological or a class thing, but few people admit to eating tinned processed peas. Alas, the RRs are beyond the pale and haven't shelled a pod for decades.

Carrots add essential flavours to stews but fail the consistency test many times over. Same with turnips. Revolutionary suggestion: pick out the orange and grey slush ten minutes before serving and replace with tinned haricots.

 Are lamb chops worth the effort?

Who preheats ovens? Neff-blessed, we don't need to. But I don't think we did in the Neanderthal days.

Why did luscious brisket cost next to nothing just after the war and is now only bought by readers of The Spectator?

Lettuce 1. Crunchy or limp dark green sheets which adhere to the plate? It's trench warfare out there.

Lettuce 2. The inescapable law: all salads contain a bit more lettuce than I'm inclined to eat.

Look, I can differentiate any day between cabernet sauvignon and merlot. A far harder test is frozen fish vs. wet newspaper.

Hamburger buns in supermarkets are either too thick, too sweet, too bready or too crusty. We've given up and eat our burgers between two discs of toast. No, I don't expect you do.

Adding Lea & Perrins sauce to any food makes it taste of Lea & Perrins.
Philadelphia cheese contained in a tube of smoked salmon (from Alaska).

Most males working at a government office in Chiswick said they would prefer boiled bacon to turkey for Christmas. Price ratio: 1:8.


  1. Frozen peas, that's the ticket: flash frozen at the peak of freshness, as are most vegetables. Great in an emergency,when Missus complains of a lack of green on the plate.
    Luckily, I've discovered a fish store in the wide spot in the road that is downtown Mechanicsville. Tons of red snapper, cod, flounder, and the cheapest, tilapia, which makes a decent fish taco.

  2. Salads.
    Excatly the same token “side salad” gets served with the starter and then the main course, even in fairly high class restaurants, demonstrating the chef’s lack of inventiveness, and consideration for what tastes should compliment the main component.

    Try coating in olive oil, sprinkling salt and pepper, and some brown sugar, then roast. The sugar caramelises. The result is a rewarding contrast to orange mush.

    Processed peas.

  3. Hamburgers: my favorite way is the patty melt. Burger (minced beef) shaped into a square roughly the size of two slices of bread, which have been lightly toasted. Spread brown mustard on both insides of toast, apply meat patty - cooked to your preference, load as heavily as you like with very (VERY) sharp cheddar and sauteed onions. Heat skillet to temp you'd use for grilled cheese sandwich, lightly coat outside of toast with butter and proceed to grill sandwich until cheese becomes melted.

    Remove masterpiece from skillet and consume with gusto...and a very good, very dark and foamy beer.

    Belch as required (and permitted by spouse and circumstances).

  4. RR (but not myself): You set out to tell me something about peas and fish but then widened the comment with: "the wide spot in the road that is downtown Mechanicsville." The pea/fish info is fine but the quote makes me daydream.

    Sir Hugh: I am not out to rehabilitate the carrot nor effect a rapprochement with it. I don't particularly care for the sweetish taste anyway but I accept that a stew wouldn't be a stew without carrots. What I'm saying is once it has given up its PBF (Precious body fluid; see General Jack D. Ripper, in Dr Strangelove) it should be discarded from the stew.

    The Crow: If I let it, we'd be at each other's throats over this, as with defining the perfect dry martini. I'm OK with you right up to the addition of cheddar, thereafter I march to the beat of different drummer. To my mind most real cheese is too salty to integrate well with a hamburger and that's why if you visit our fridge - a Zanussi Frost Free, just in case you're interested - and penetrate right to the rear - well away from the eyes of invading food fascists - you may come upon shameful rectangles of cheese-coloured guck which have only one use: to convert a hamburger into a cheeseburger. These rectangles look like tyre patches for a very strange inner tube and I wouldn't dare eat one raw (just in case someone saw me). But the fact is that this squishy non-cheese, born in a factory rather than a cheeserie, does the conversion as quickly and as effectively as John The Baptist.

    By the way if you add s to the front of your noun melt you get a small fish from the genus osmeridiae. An example of how confusing cooking can sometimes be.

  5. And if you add an 's' to the other end, ie melts, you get the most revolting type of offal ever extracted from a mammalian carcase. I'm not sure what it was, possibly spleen, but my mum used to buy it and feed it to the cats. It is so utterly vile that even the French, to my knowledge, won't eat it, unless it forms part of andouillette perhaps, that's not impossible. Anyway, I've not seen it for decades, so perhaps animals have been bred without it now.

    We love marrowfat peas, and do eat frozen salmon steaks sometimes. Had an excellent piece of slow-cooked plat-de-côte the other week, and thought of you; it cost about 2 euros and made about three meals, the bone's still in the freezer to go into stock.

    I thought most people just wanted the sausages wrapped in bacon for Christmas dinner?

  6. Lucy: I always told myself if the French can eat it, so can I. But it's not quite true. I couldn't eat a robin, for instance, and for roughly the same reason you couldn't. Andouillettes were a forcing ground, where I challenged other Brits to go native. Last year, my son-in-law ordered an andouillette, ate a tiny piece and left the rest. Said it was beyond him. I chaffed him, forked it from his plate and ate a huge chunk with macho teeth. Big mistake. The flavour had that menacing sweetness of meat that has gone off. It hadn't gone off but it was, nevertheless, a long way beyond pleasure.

    I'm quite a different person,
    Now I haven't got my spurs on...

    VR and the dictionary confirmed your guess about melts, seemingly also known as miltz. I think there's an unpassable barrier there.

    I'm delighted about marrowfat peas. As if you'd discovered Ross Thomas off your own bat and had never thought to mention it until now. Yes, marrowfats are a bond. As is plat-de-côte of course. Good to see the circumflex.

    Boiled bacon. An impromptu poll conducted at an office where VR used to work. Had those bangers been on offer I suspect they would have score equally high.

  7. Frozen peas are fresh peas which are frozen within hours of cooking. The term processed peas could be interpreted as dried peas, which when soaked and brought back to life become mushy peas. Nothing wrong with either in my view.But different animals. Salads are vastly improved by adding sugar to the traditional vinegar and oil dressing and, in addition to the lettuce cunchy cubes, of apple.

  8. Perhaps we haven't toughened the kids up enough, but they find the taste and smell of lamb chops revolting. Despite a really nice mint aspic sauce we discovered at the local British butcher, I've decided they may have a point.

    Freshly shelled peas though, you should reconsider. Discovering pea pods in our green grocer is one of my favorite moments of each early spring. The shelling (while listening to music or the news) isn't bad either, and the results are delicious. Just be sure to start with a huge bag of pea pods!

  9. Joe: Peas are sweet and are OK raw in salads. Sweetish flavours (peas, carrots, parsnips) added to the main evening meal are an acquired taste, and neither VR nor I have acquired it. I like the idea of using apple to rehabilitate floppy salad lettuce and will try and remember this usage.

    Julia: Your kids may have a point, as you say, and must not be propelled towards lamb chops. The ratio of fat to meat is far too high and they may be glad about this antipathy in old age when they celebrate the state of their arteries. There is the further disadvantage in that you really need a scalpel to excise the meat from a chop bone.

    However, there is one exception. Welsh lamb is far superior (virtually a different animal) to English and NZ lamb as we have discovered from living in Hereford. Should you pass through this area we'll grill you a Welsh lamb chop and pass it to you to nibble while you sit in your car. No need to compromise your over-stuffed schedule.

    See above for peas. Although I must add, shelling peas is a perfect accompaniment to philosophical thought.