The woman who mistook the ham for a turkey

Tuesday, 24 December, 2013 0 Comments

A generation ago, in this part of the world, it was the custom to kill a pig towards the end of November. The animal would be around six months old and the resulting meat was accordingly tender. Covered in salt, the pork would be stored in a barrel and coming up to Christmas a choice ham would be taken out and readied for the feast day. The preparation involved brushing off the salt and steeping the ham overnight in water. On Christmas morning, it would be boiled with carrots, parsnips, turnip and onion.

Anyway, one Christmas, Mrs Murphy, who lived over in the west and was famous for her taste in all matters, arrived with her husband, John, and plates of the ham were duly served. “That’s a lovely bit of turkey,” she declared after a mouthful of the delicious white meat. Those who had cooked it suppressed a smile, but for years after they dined out on the fact that their produce and their cooking of it had deceived such an epicure.


Austrian word of the day: Marillenknödel

Sunday, 8 September, 2013 0 Comments

In lower Austria, apricots are called “Marillen” and they grow in abundance in the Wachau region. They play a central role in Marillenknödel, a seasonal dessert popular in the traditional cuisine of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, from Brno to Vienna. It’s made by placing apricots in small dumplings, which are then boiled in slightly salted […]

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Vietnam falls to McDonald’s; threat of war with China to recede

Thursday, 18 July, 2013 0 Comments

Loved this bit in the Wall Street Journal report about the news that McDonald’s is to open its first outlet in Vietnam: “The company said it had chosen Henry Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American investor and the son-in-law of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, as its main franchise partner in the country, based on a ‘rigorous’ selection process.” The ‘rigorous’ there is priceless.

It was Thomas Friedman, star columnist with the New York Times, who first suggested “The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention,” namely: No two countries with McDonald’s in them will ever go to war. In other words, if you have a middle class big enough to support burger franchises, Friedman’s theory goes, war is a thing of the past. So, when Hanoi and Beijing have their Golden Arches, that bit of bother in the South China Sea will ebb. However, writing in July last year, Walter Russell Mead cast a critical eye on the theory in “Pakistani Burger Joints Put McDonald’s Theory To The Test“. Read the whole thing.

On Saturday, by the way, Thomas Friedman will be 60.

Joey’s jug will be refilled

Sunday, 19 May, 2013 0 Comments

Diners at Baffetto on Via del governo vecchio near Piazza Navona in central Rome, where the guests know that they’re playing a role in an enterprise that’s designed to line the pockets of the proprietor, his family and the employees. But most enjoy the brazenness of the experience. There’s something so authentically unabashed about it […]

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They eat horses, don’t they?

Friday, 15 February, 2013 0 Comments

In the magazine business, the less-is-more pivot is executed when the jovial publisher cuts the number of pages but keeps the cover price as it is. The consumers won’t notice the difference, is the theory. The gangsters behind the horse-meat lasagna scandal have borrowed this page, as it were, and European supermarkets are now filling up with products whose ingredients have been cheapened to maintain the price. As with the magazine with fewer pages, nobody noticed a difference in the taste when horse replaced beef in frozen lasagna.

This is a huge story involving a continent-wide web of slaughter houses in Romania, traders in Cyprus and the Netherlands, companies in France, including a subcontractor of Findus, which shipped the horsemeat to Luxembourg where it was turned into the lasagna that then filled freezers across Europe. But what started as a beef-burger scandal in Ireland and then became a lasagna outrage in Britain is now expanding exponentially. In France, cannelloni, spaghetti bolognese, moussaka and hachis parmentier have been pulled from shelves at six supermarket chains. On Wednesday, the French brand, Picard, found horse meat in its chili con carne.

Findus is full of surprises

Catherine Brown, chief executive of the Foods Standards Agency in the UK, called for retailers to test their dishes containing ‘pork,’ ‘chicken’ and other meats. Retailers are currently focusing on ‘comminuted‘ beef, she said, calling it ‘the stuff where meat is ground up to the point that it is not readily recognizable.’

Because horsemeat is cheap, the gangsters in the food industry decided to mince it up, stuff it in the lasagna, call it ‘beef’, freeze it and then laugh all the way to the bank, safe in the knowledge that the consumers sticking it in the microwave will never taste the difference. Findus and lots of other companies in the food industry are now playing the “It wasn’t me guv” card, but it won’t work. If they had wanted to know what that cheap meat was and where it was coming from they could have found out and refused to use it. They didn’t want to, of course. What mattered was keeping those profit margins up.

Yesterday’s news that Greek unemployment had hit a new record of 27 percent in November means that price pressure is becoming unbearable for consumer product companies in the EU and some of them are responding to this pauperization by producing food that is being debased constantly. This just in: “Irish food group Greencore became the latest company to become embroiled in the horse meat scandal when it confirmed it manufactured bolognese sauce that British retailer Asda has withdrawn from the shelves after it was found to contain horse meat.”

This one is going to run and run.

The horse is inside

Thursday, 17 January, 2013 1 Comment

Today’s stomach-churning headline is provided by The Daily Telegraph: “Beef contaminated with horse meat sold in Britain for ‘several years'”. Appetizer: “Seven of the leading supermarkets have cleared their shelves of frozen beefburgers after a supplier sold Tesco products which were 29 per cent horse meat.”

Because there’s a murky Irish connection in this scandal, now is a good time to roll out the Rubberbandits, a pair of lads from, er, lovely, Limerick, who know their equine affairs, outside and inside. “They’re a hip-hop comedy duo from Limerick who rap about horses and terrorism,” states The Guardian today, and asks: “Is Britain ready for the Rubberbandits?” Timing is everything, and it’s an ill wind… and all that.

Ham Sandwich time travel

Tuesday, 27 November, 2012 0 Comments

The first written usage in English of “sandwich” appeared in the diary of Edward Gibbon referring to “bits of cold meat” as a “Sandwich”. It was named after John Montagu, an 18th-century English aristocrat of whom it is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and […]

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At the pork shop

Sunday, 30 September, 2012

“A peasant becomes fond of his pig and is glad to salt away its pork. What is significant, and is so difficult for the urban stranger to understand, is that the two statements are connected by an and not by a but.” John Berger

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At the non-diet pastry shop

Sunday, 23 September, 2012

Spanish pastelerias or pastry shops are amazing and it seems that the country has one on every corner. Strolling by, you’ll see a variety of mouth-watering, hand-made pastries. Combined with the aroma, it is impossible not to step in for a closer look and taste.

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Roast pork

Sunday, 22 July, 2012

The hardest part is getting the spit through the meat. You’ll want it as evenly balanced on the spit as you can get it. Skewer the roast lengthwise through the longest part of the meat while still getting it as centered as possible. Next, drive the spit through the roast and clamp it down tight […]

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A lyrical taste of Vietnam

Wednesday, 2 May, 2012

Daniel Klein is a chef and filmmaker living in Minneapolis. His site, The Perennial Plate, is a mouth-watering temptation to experience delights such as Frog’s Legs with Homemade Ketchup, Crab and Cactus Taco with Tomatillo Salsa and Bison Tartare. Quite rightly, his short film, A Taste of Vietnam, has been nominated for a Vimeo Festival Award in the “lyrical” category. Vote!