The year was 1773; Captain Cook, the esteemed explorer of yore, stepped ashore the fabled island of Lifuka in Tonga. So enamoured was he with the locals and their exuberant entertainments, copious feasting and general revelry – the like of which he’d ne’er seen before back in Blighty – that he graciously bestowed on them the title ‘Friendly Islanders’.
Somewhat ironic – for his hosts were actually planning to chop him into bite-sized portions and serve him up as pre-dinner canapés. Luckily for Cook, the scheme foundered when they couldn’t agree on the finer details, such as whether Englishmen go well with ketchup, or whether they’re best served as a small-plates sharing concept.
Nevertheless, the term ‘Friendly Islanders’ has stuck forevermore. And indeed, it’s been gratuitously appropriated by the most unlikely local services (like Friendly Islander Vasectomies – ‘we snip with a smile..’) But despite their panache for canny marketing slogans, underneath lies an irrefutable generosity, something I increasingly discovered during my med-student placement on these fair isles. View Post
Let’s cut to the chase. Ceviche. Raw fish dish. From Peru. At a renown London venue, also called Ceviche. Ah ceviche! My dish for the road. Cue tangential preambles to travels in Peru. Such a beautiful country! Such amazing adventures!
Like the time when I inadvertently became a marauding alpaca herder on the High Andes. That was so fun! And of course the time when I went to the airport with a consignment of coca-leaf tea for grandma – she loved a nice cuppa, bless her – only to discover that it’s apparently highly illegal, and two burly Customs officers and one cavity search later, suddenly found myself in a dank Peruvian jail for a period of several months, rescued only after I grassed up a fellow inmate, a notorious gangster by the name of El Diablo, whose fierce henchmen still continue to track me down, which is why I now live incognito as a food-blogger. Well, what a lark that was!
And then the time when.. oh, you know what, just screw it. I’ve never been to Peru, okay? I can’t keep this pretence up any longer. So here’s the thing – instead of Peru, I’m gonna write about somewhere else, a country that also does ceviche, a place I’ve actually been to.. View Post
In so many ways, Grandma Beryl was the matriarch of our family and a wise dignified figurehead. She was almost always immaculately turned out, her hair a halo of wispy-white cotton-candy with not a strand out of place. Her elocution was invariably poised and precise, graced with a slight Mancunian lilt, and as mellifluous as any a Radio 4 presenter.
Through the best part of ninety years, us children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren would congregate at Grandma’s each week, her home bursting alive with the sighs and squeals of newborn babies, the pitter-patter of toddler feet, children trampolining on the sofa, kids taking penalty kicks in the lounge, and grown-ups sporadically crying out “Mind the ornaments!”, all accompanied by the constant clang and clatter of cutlery and plates as they materialised on and off the dining-room table.
Of course she loved all this, the hubbub of family coming together. And ultimately she yearned for nothing more than her family to be happy and well. To that end, she connected deeply with each and every one of us, like the gravitational pull of a warm radiating sun round which all our lives orbited.
And when it came to my Grandpa Reuben, well she was beyond devoted. He’d been her rock, and she his; a husband she’d lovingly served in an old-fashioned way, a couple and a home steeped in Jewish tradition. (“Call me old-fashioned” was in fact her favourite refrain.) But even after he died, the family would continue to come, week after week, and she remained the constant, the glue, the fabric, by which our family were reassuringly held.
On second thoughts, ‘matriarch’ isn’t quite right. The word conjures up images of haughtiness and detachment which couldn’t be further from the truth when it came to Grandma Beryl. She was a warm, loving, generous soul, totally unassuming, always smiling, gentle in her humility, yet strong in her own way.
A real ‘people person’, she loved snatching a conversation here and there, with everyone and anyone, from taxi-drivers to Big Issue sellers. And she was naturally gifted with a wonderful sense of humour, somehow both knowingly cheeky and yet brilliantly bone-dry, radiant even until her very last days.
For 10th October 2016 was her very last day, when her life was no more and she was finally at peace. View Post
“The White Witch? Who is she?”
“Why.. it’s she that makes it always winter. Always winter, and never Christmas..”
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis, 1950.
“At this moment you should be with us,
Feeling like we do.. like you love to
But never will again.
I miss you my dear, Xiola.
I prepared the room tonight with christmas lights,
A city of candles…”
Three Days, Jane’s Addiction, 1990
My childhood winters were cold Northern affairs. Stretching across the horizon, the distant Pennines lay dark and brooding, looming over Bury like a dormant dragon, its arched back frosted with fairy-dust snow. There, we’d take our sledges and run them down those Lancashire slopes, fast and true: the icy air stinging our watery eyes, the sledge barely skimming the snowy ground below. We were Peter Pan, we were Tinkerbell.
Of all the seasons, Winter kindled the imagination the most: a twilight zone where reality and fairytale would come together before waltzing off into a blur. Each evening, with the garden shrouded in dusk and the air stifled by unearthly silence, we’d joyously roll about in the crunching snow, crafting igloos out of ice-bricks, crawling into these dens safe and snug from the creatures lurking just beyond..
..Then comes a mother’s call. A warm embrace. The sound of water splashing in a distant room. Steam slipping underneath a bathroom door. I’d leap into the bath, my goose-bumped skin ablaze with the sudden heat.
As American as apple pie. So the saying goes. But really what’s more American than the hamburger?
In that meat patty lie redolent images of cattle herded over epic Mid-Western landscapes by sun-scarred cowboys. The cheese as flat and enduring as the emerald Wisconsin pastures it was milked from. And if you put the bun right up close, well you can almost hear the murmuring of wheat swaying in the Wyoming wind. In fact, why not just unscrew a Coke right now, put on some Springsteen, and let’s hit Route 66 in an ol’ open-top Chevy, for this post is pure 100% Americana.
Some folk say the burger’s a little like America itself: fast ‘n free-spirited, big ‘n brash, refreshingly unfussy, yet all a swaggerin’ like John Wayne in True Grit. It’s ubiquitous and it’s egalitarian: from the subways of New York to the shores of California, the burger is relished alike from Walmart stacker to Wall Street trader, from bag-lady to baseball hero.
If American culture’s conquering the globe, burgers are the culinary cavalry. Them ‘golden arches’ stretch far ‘n wide, but it ain’t just an American multi-national carrying the meme: burgers sizzle away atop many a London pop-up stove, small-hold indie pioneers tapping into the American dream. View Post