Travels in Tonga, Time & Space (pt 3); Turkish Eggs at THE TAPA ROOM

Tongan feast for one; now I that's something I wasn't expecting!

May I present to you the Polynesian legend of ‘The Octopus and The Rat’.. Some legends tell of intrepid heroes and dastardly villains, and their epic duels across space and time. Some tell of deceitful deities, and their tricks and schemes to bewitch humankind. Some tingle the spines of wide-eyed children, and some devour the hearts of brave but stupid men. Some make you laugh. Some make you weep. Some inspire nostalgia. And some make you glad to be alive.

But this one doesn’t.

A rat and hermit crab are stranded at sea after a devastating shipwreck. They go their separate ways. The rat then comes across an octopus. ‘Hullo,’ greets the octopus. They strike a bargain, which sees the octopus carry the rat to a far-away island. But as the rat disembarks, he disingenuously craps on the octopus’s head. And that is why octopuses have tubercles on their heads, and that is why rats are their sworn enemies.

The End.

Do not say you were not forewarned. It contains no otherworldly beings or mythical beasts. There is no overarching theme or cautionary tale. It begins with a character utterly superfluous to the plot and climaxes in a quite random and meaningless act. And the hostility between the two protagonists is biologically inaccurate; they inhabit completely different ecosystems. As legends go, it is, frankly, not a particularly good one. It doesn’t even make sense.

But at least it’s a good introduction to my time in Tonga, a land that similarly confounded a young naive medical student at the turn of the Millennium. A faraway land replete with legend, a culture so different to my own. View Post

Travels in Tonga, Time & Space (pt 2); Lamb-heart agnotelli at 108 GARAGE

Tonga, where I visited back in 1999 as a keen-eyed medical student, has roasted pig as a delicacy.

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

Travels in Tonga, Time & Space (pt 1); Ceviche at CEVICHE

Tonga travel involves some beautiful island scenery

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

Grandma Beryl’s Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup, reminding me of the ones the Grandma Beryl used to make. Hers was of course the best.

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

Confessions of a [Rookie] Food-Blogger

Food blogger always enjoys a cone loaded up with chocolate ice-cream, yay!

Okay, so ‘confessions’ might be a tad misleading. There aren’t any sordid stories of wild food-related debauchery; no tantalising tales of matcha-foam parties; and no erotic fantasies involving salacious scoops of Gelupo’s sorbet, a smothering of butterscotch sauce and a coconut-encrusted sugar cone. This article is nowhere near that pulse-racing.

If nothing else, I usually write my blog at 7o’clock on a weekend morning, and there’s nothing less sexy than this hour [..wait a sec while I just dislodge a Cheerio from my 6 year old’s nose, as he and his big brother ecstatically engage themselves in a world-record fart-off.]

Instead, this is an honest reflection on how I became a food blogger, and my early impressions of this strange new world. I’m just a rookie really, still close to those early heady days of excitement, anticipation and confusion. Even now, my heart pounds every time I post; my senses startle whenever the phone buzzes; and I still beat myself each time I’ve messed up. Yep, starting a blog is a bit like falling in love. View Post