Posts in Issues
Podcasts that make life worth living

I have been meaning to post this list of addictive podcasts for a while now. Podcasts are window into other worlds, into the past and the future and version of someone's truth. They are travel and taste and transportation. So for your aural delectations here they are ...

FOOD

BBC Food Programme http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnx3

A short sharp fix of excellent specialist topics discussed in some detail. Asking big questions not just following trends.

BBC Kitchen Cabinet quiz http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01klvhq

A foodaphile's take on the comedy panel show. Hosted by Jay Rayer (Guardian food critic) with a nice spread of panel guests including chefs, bloggers and food writers, historians, scientists. Have a laugh at some of the most ridiculous food trends and facts along side the live audiences they are recorded in front of.

BBC SCOTLAND Kitchen Cafe http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b010t0x5

Transport yourself via the Scottish accents of the presenters and the conversation to colder climes of Scotland to discuss food both local (to them) and exotic.

ABC RN First bite http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/rnfirstbite/

To the other side of the world now, this Australian article based programme that will deliver a nice slice of the food scene across the country. Think coffee, immigrant community food trends, seafood and discussions about food security.

MONOCLE 24 The Menu https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/monocle-24-the-menu/id475220376(Other Monocle podcasts inc. The Urbanist/Globalist/The Stack)

UK based sister outlet to the design magazine Monocle. Hosted by the affable Finnish accented Markus Hippi who guides listeners though the luxury, primped and poised world of food styling, on-trend bars and restaurants from Berlin to Caracas and little diet discussion. Listen out for the hilarious sexual tension between Markus and Santiago Rodríguez Tarditi in the 'Santiago's Basket' spot at the end of each episode.

CULTURE/NEWS/SCIENCE

Chicago Public Media This American Life http://www.thisamericanlife.org/podcast

Very entertaining and sometimes touching window on the life and times of real Americans. I have caught myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion listening to this one.

ABC RN By Design http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bydesign/

A higher discussion about architecture and design from Australia. From homes designed for footballers to theoretical discussions on sustainability, features on classic design and industry discussion.

BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007qlvb (I listen to this religiously!) (5 star)

My absolute religious MUST LISTEN daily podcast. Their tag 'a programme that offers a female perspective on the world' says it all.  Woman's Hour's presenters intelligently and professionally guide the listener though a huge variety of topics without ever patronising or over hyping. Good mix of serious and frivolous topics, this programme is everything that is good about radio.

BBC Radio 4 Thought for the day http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0145rtw (a bit of an odd one but I quite like it)

A concise two minute thought for the day often related to a topic in the news delivered by hosts of all faiths.

BBC Radio 4 From our own correspondent (FOOC) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/default.stm

More little windows on the culture behind the global headlines. I think of it as conversation with a foreign corresponded - what they would really want to tell us if they could.

BBC Radio 4 Infinite monkey cage (science) http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/timc

Science blows my mind but at least Dr Cox and co make it applicable and wondrous.

BBC Radio 4 More or Less (statistics) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qshd

Ahhh statistics - dry topic right? WRONG! Well, actually right but again, this little BBC goodie opens up an entertaining world of understanding of how statistics are used and abused in the media.

DRAMA

BBC Radio 4 Drama of the week http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ptw

For those who enjoy a good old fashioned radio play with sound effects and everything!

BBC Radio 4 The Archers http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qpgr (I also listen to this religiously but that's cause I'm a bit odd)

The world's longest-running radio soap opera - need I say more? Listen for an amble through the British countryside.

The New Yorker Fiction https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/new-yorker-fiction/id256945396?mt=2

For those of you that enjoy good prose and the voices behind their creation.

MEDIA 

BBC Radio 4 The Media Show http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00dv9hq

A hard-nosed report on hard-nosed reporting. Host Steve Hewlett's attack-dog mentality can be a bit full-on but ultimately revealing.

ABC RN The Media Report http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/mediareport/

A softer Australia version of the above.

Do  you have a favourite? I'd love to add to my list.

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio
Kitchen detritus

The pot bubbles, you taste it, add some seasoning and stir. You taste it again, a ha! I know what it needs. A good squeeze of lemon juice. Grabbing the only lemon left in the fruit bowl you slice it in half and crush the juice into the pot. Perfect. Dinner is served and delicious it is too.

You wash the dishes and put out the compost and as you wipe down the bench, there it is. Sitting all smug and yellow; the other half of the lemon.

‘Oh well’ you say to yourself, I’ll use it tomorrow, I’ll just pop it in the fridge.

You open the door and your hand holding the little half moon of lemon absentmindedly goes to the place on the door where you keep all the half used things and DOH! There’s already one there.

Don’t you just hate that!

What clutters up your kitchen? What lurks, half used in your fridge? I’m sure most of us have a fair collection of one-use only utensils that clutter up a drawer or two but, I have been noticing the biodegradable items more lately.

A friend commented that she’s forever collecting half used tea bags as she’s a drinker of weak tea. ‘Half used’ tea bags of the common and green variety decorate her kitchen sink awaiting their second cup. Another friend tells me for her family it’s chillies: not a fan of their heat but of their flavour she cuts them in half and the unlucky half languishes in the fridge. Slowly shriveling up with dehydration.

Avocados are a classic. Although I’ve never understood why you don’t just eat the other half there and then with a spoon and a squish of that half of lemon you have spare. Half onions, half cloves of garlic, half a cucumber, half bunches of herbs, all of these seem to suffer the same fate.

Even the best of us are guilty of it. Food waste.

If you want to find out some more fast facts about the ridiculous amount of food waste Australians produce each year Do Something! Foodwise is a good place to start. And there are so many great and dedicated people out there attempting to sharpen up their end of the food waste equation. Second Bite, Food Bank, Oz Harvest, Fareshare to name but a few. There are also people adding value to our food waste to turn it back into an asset to the community. Food not Bombs, Salvos and numerous others.

But the best place to start is in your kitchen. Make sure you use up your kitchen detritus.

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio
inherited

Hi, my name is Anne and I am a nostalgia addict.

A recent discussion about the design of the modern kitchen and a request from a friend for an image of my little kitchen have got my brain ticking over. I have a small but very functional kitchen. It’s got deep benches (and hence cupboard space), pull-out small pantry storage, a goodly portion of drawers and some decent cupboards for my odd collection of serving ware. One of my favourite elements is the two level revolving wire shelves that enable me to have full access to the very corner of the corner.

All this storage allows me to welcome new additions to my kitchen collection without much thought to where I might put it. At least for a while. And it was with this welcoming spirit that I accepted a gift of a Kenwood Chef circa 1980 from my Nonna. Truth be told she never really used it. Too heavy for her to lift up and down from her bench space (lucky she never bought a Kitchenaid) and she is of the era where doing things by hand means literally using one’s hands only. My mother on the other hand had one of these glorious beasts and I have fond memories of the baked and blended items it produced.

And now I have inherited one of my very own. But it isn’t the only inherited item in my cupboards: I have cookbooks (mother), a waffle press (Nonna), a beautiful white milk-glass bowl (Nanna), a 1800ml green glass sake bottle where I keep my rice in the Japanese way (a foreign friend) amongst others.

I love that when I use any of these items I have an image of the person who gave them and a warm sense of their generosity. I know not everyone feels this way about handed down items but then again not everyone’s a nostalgia addict.

Are there any inherited items in your collection that inspire you?

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio
A foodie connection

The clue is in the name really. It’s long. It’s Italian. It’s consistently proven to be unpronounceable but it’s mine. I spent a long time finding it very, very annoying but by the time I had the opportunity to banish it forever I had grown into it like a pair of beautiful shoes inherited from your mother... or father in this case.

My surname connects me with some force to my Italian roots and has the added bonus of making me feel like a ‘real’ Italian whenever I am in Italy. Which sadly is none-too-frequently. It also connects me to my Nonna and Nonno; to their home towns of Fossa in the earthquake affected region near L’Aquila and Beltiglio in Campania.

Both my grandparents came from farming families and my father gave up any hope of being a farmer when he left the farm in Stanthorpe [link] at age 10. Although farming is a noble profession I don’t really think anyone in the family lives with regrets about leaving the land to follow ‘professional’ careers. That said my now suburban grandparents of course treated their urban plot as a farm with beds of herbs, beans, lettuce, endive, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumber. They have orange, peach and persimmon trees and my childhood was filled with various vegetables wrapped in newspaper and sent home for Mum to find a use for.

It wasn’t until I started attempting to grow a smattering of veg for myself that I realised this isn’t as easy as it looks. The ability to successfully grow fruits and vegetables in any quantity now seems like a mysterious and wondrous type of magic. It also wasn’t until a recent conversation with Nonna that I fully understood just how much fantastic agricultural knowledge lies dormant within her memory banks. She reminisced with me about harvesting cherries and peaches in Italy, surrounded by family. Of how you could tell when the fruits were ripe by the perfume wafting on the warm breeze from the orchards. She held up her now frail looking hands and described with such passion the exact colour of the blush the peaches had when they were ripe. One side white and one side pink and red. She says you don’t get peaches like that anymore. Tree ripened fruit is almost unheard of and almost such a luxury item as to be prohibitive to all but the most boutique of shops. Or is it?

There are so many aspects of my grandmother’s life that’s foreign to my own. Leaving school at age 11, English as a second language, steadfast faith in the Catholic Church but one thing I have been able to appreciate is the sheer joy and delight at holding and smelling and biting into a fantastic piece of fruit. My part-time self works for Food Connect, a fantastically admirable Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) here in Brisbane. Food Connect builds relationships with South East Queensland farmers (3-5 hours from our front door), encouraging them to grow chemical free produce of all shapes and sizes for the tables of us city folk. In exchange for this dedicated service we subscribers pay them a fair price (often 30 - 40 per cent more than they would be paid at the traditional market place) and everyone wins.

As I am in the privileged position of employee I get to see the shiny crisp apples, the new season mandarins that when you break the skin smell of childhood lunchboxes, the verdant bunches of lettuce and herbs and the bright sweet and stubby ladyfinger bananas as they come packed tightly in boxes from the farm. I see them lovingly divided up and packed into boxes and farewelled from our warehouse to head for the kitchen tables of Brisbanites.

I still have a lot to learn about the depth and breadth of a subject that evokes such passionate discussion but it feels fantastic to work somewhere that is not only part of a solution but constantly re-examines and participates in the debate. How easy it is to throw one’s hands and say, ‘Well what can I do? And do my actions even make any difference?’ But take heart. Get informed and get involved.

I like to think that if my family were still in farming we would supply Food Connect, and through them the great and the good of Brisbane.

‘I know this great little place’

Despite being a native to the city of Brisbane I believe my seven years away qualify me as a newbie, especially as its boundaries and spaces seem to have moved and continue to move at such a rapid pace.  Despite this and because of my dubious reputation as a ‘foodie in the know’ I am frequently asked where is a good place to eat?

Now it turns out this might not be so much because of any reputation but more so because, research has shown, that it’s what we Australians do. We like to hear a personal recommendation ‘from the horse's mouth.’

Research carried out in 2011 by Roy Morgan revealed advice on where to eat out was the second most discussed topic amongst the 18, 851 sample group. 61 per cent people had either sought advice, provided advice or both. So it seems I am not part of some exclusive group of informed and valued advice givers, it’s just that Australians ask everyone. So disappointing. Saying that, I guess part of it is the quality of advice you give.

I like to be the person people ask but when it comes to the delivery of said information it gets more complicated.  One has to take into account the inquirers likes/dislikes/ability to spend money and what I like to call, their complainability rating. Otherwise understood as ‘how much do they whinge?’

There is a couple in my acquaintance, that although I thoroughly enjoy their company and conversation, I know are nit-pickers and serial complainers. Some may call them perfectionists but, really, life isn’t perfect so why should there be a little bubble of perfection when you enter a café or restaurant? Don’t get me wrong, venues should strive to do their utmost to win your cash but this couple’s ability to complain is incomparable.

Now for them, there will be a snowflake’s chance in hell that I will name or take them to my favourite place to eat. This is purely for the fear that they will visit, not enjoy the experience and consequently shoot it down in flames in my presence. So you see this whole equation is far more complex. In future when I seek advice it may just do me well to reflect on how this person views my behaviour in light of any answer they give.

Overall the survey tells us that by degrees “Australians tend to be more ‘info seekers’ than ‘trusted advisors’” so I guess there is room to move.

[end note] among the other riveting topics of discussion were purchasing cars, home entertainment or electronics, mobile phones, internet providers, finance and investments, home renovations and health and nutrition. Perhaps we just need to find more interesting conversations?

 

 

 

Popcorn and surviving home/alone

My New Year and geographic relocation has brought with it a chance to work from home. What some view as an exciting opportunity others see as a living hell; I guess I sit somewhere in the middle leaning precariously towards the former. By chance another member of my family has, in a way, found himself in the same position although his comes in the fortuitous form of early retirement. Despite the different reasons and workload within the boundaries of our home/work environment I can see, in his behaviour, a real battle with the unstructured nature of the typical weekday.

The last time I took a journey down this road it was over a three month period during an English winter. The expense of heating resulted in a decision to attempt to survive without said heating for six hours over the middle of the day. Not the easiest task when it was snowing outside.

It did however, in a funny way, help me create a structure to the day built around keeping warm. My day became a carefully scheduled mix of percolators of bubbling hot coffee, exercise, a hot shower, hot lunches and steaming hot tea and  wrapping myself in a woollen clothing and/or blankets. It was a bit ridiculous but it became a challenge to get through the day without feeling the cold. At one point I actually went running while it was snowing.

In fact I’m starting to think it was less of an experiment in what kept me warm and my day structured and more a demonstration of my slow drift into insanity. However, I did really enjoy it and one of my favourite cold weather snacks was popcorn. And my love of popcorn continues in my current work/home environment.

Tips and hints for a good crop of popcorn.

  •  Always start with fresh corn (if it’s been sitting in your cupboard for a year or two it ain’t going to work)
  •  Make sure your pot has a lid.
  •  Pre-heat your pot (make sure your pot is hot before you put your corn in)
  •  Don’t forget the fat (whether it’s oil or butter you need something, but only a little of it, to get a good puff to your pop)
  •  Don’t over load the pot (Once the fat is heated pour in enough corn to cover the bottom of the pot, one layer only. Too much and all you’ll be left with is burnt offerings)
  •  NOW listen to the popping – the best bit apart from the eating – the pops will become less and less as the pan fills with popped corn.
  • Once you think it’s all popped take the pot off the heat but leave the lid on and listen. There will always be one or two pops to go.*

Plain, salted or sweet it’s a sensorial delight. The popping, the aroma and finally, and most satisfyingly, the taste.

*Warning: There will always be one or two kernels that won’t play fair and remain unpopped. You may be tempted, like me, to gnaw on the unpopped kernels – do so at your teeth’s own peril.

So many croissants, so little time!

The final leg of the European half of our travels took us to Paris and a TGV journey to Aix-en-Provence, followed by a week spent in the hills behind Nice. I would have loved to write about the multiple decadent three-course Provencal spreads we indulged in but, alas, budgets did not allow. I am not, however, implying that we didn’t eat well. We ate very well indeed. Like Kings. But then that’s France for you.

Paris revealed many opportunities to indulge in all the food stuffs that make life worth living – creamy oozing cheeses, fantastic breads and the fully developed flavours of French wines; all at minimal cost.

Good food is so democratic in France. Everyone expects it as if it’s their right: ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’ and cuisine being one and the same. It really does feel as though to be served something substandard is an offence. We, of course, indulged in the ubiquitous croissant, baguette and numerous pastries; we also tasted some fantastic moules frites, millefeuille of goat’s cheese and aubergine, pot au feu, Provençal olives – the list goes on.

What I am always really impressed by in France (as well as most Mediterranean nations) is the quality of produce available in addition to the way people choose and purchase their 5-a-day.

In the London the ‘norm’ seems to be, mostly for convenience’s sake, supermarket chosen, plastic pre-packaged veg. Often with no ability to smell, touch, squeeze or talk to a knowledgeable person about quality the produce is, in addition, sold by the unit and not by the kilo. Crazy.

I know the supermarket shop is necessary and the trend for all-in-one-shopping that negates the green grocer is creeping into even the Med but I really do think it’s a great shame.

While nestled away in the hill behind the small town of Vence in Provence, B and I ate well and often. Fresh salads made from the bitter-leafed greens, vinaigrette and figs coated in grilled goat’s cheese, Italianesque minestrone made with market fresh veg of all shapes and sizes, and ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers – what a treat. It’s produce like this that makes cooking an absolute breeze – perhaps that’s where one should start in attempting to encourage healthy eating?

 

Issues, TravelsAnne Giacomantonio
So Jamie Does... Australia …

Or more specifically Ipswich, the renowned backwater to Brisbane, the capital of north eastern state of Queensland. Incredible. Hailing from beloved Brisbane myself but having resided in the UK for nei-on 6 years I like to reflect on diet in good ol’ Oz as quite healthy. There is no lack of accessible and affordable fresh fruit and veg or land to grow it in, the Aussie pride and joy, the backyard. But on my last few visits home the bf has commented on how big Australians/Brisbanites had become. I have to admit I didn’t see it myself and I guess that’s part of the problem, we see what we want to see. Now Jamie, off of Jamie Oliver, sees things differently to the point where he is bringing his Ministry of Food brand campaign to the Brisbane satellite city of Ipswich in 2011. According to the engaging little press release posted on his global site, “60 per cent of adults and 25 per cent of children in Australia are overweight or obese.” What happened Oz, when did we get fat? When did we stop going outdoors and start eating all the sugar-filled American themed junk that’s advertised on TV? I know the rest of the English speaking western world do it but they don’t all have our sunshine, wealth and freedom. Get off your arse Oz!

Further investigation revealed that other indicators of a fat nation are appearing where they simply weren’t found before such as weight loss surgery such as lap-banding. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recently released figures showing an increase in hospital admissions involving bariatric rose from 500 in 1998 to 17,000 in 2007-2008.

Jamie’s advice, as always, is sound, and with any luck his method of personal tuition and well-meaning advice will work but only time will tell. He has certainly taken a lot of flak here in UK. I guess people don’t like being told what to do no matter how sound the advice.

Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia is working with the Good Foundation and the Queensland State Government who have committed AUD$2.5m to the cause of bringing food education to Queenslanders over 4 years. I honestly didn’t realize we needed it and it such a shame we do. I hope it makes a difference – go Jamie!

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio
Strange chocolate

xmas chocolates loose big version2

Believe it or not some people, strange though they might seem, claim they don’t like chocolate. Yes, chocolate. The delicious creamy, sweet, smooth mood-lifter loved by generations of people. From that first foil-covered chocolate Easter egg, to the sophisticated rich and bitter adult concoctions we crave after dinner, chocolate has a place in most people's hearts.

My first encounter with one of these very odd anti-chocolate types, was my father but he is by no means the only one. From as a far back as I can remember he has claimed to not like chocolate. It did of course mean my Easer egg collection was safe (well, from my father at least if not from my siblings) but I always wondered if there was a chocolate flavour he would like.

With so many opportunities to gift chocolate during the year – Valentine’s day, Easter, father’s and mother’s day - I decided to try and find a flavour of chocolate that might appeal to a non-choc’s taste buds. I was surprised to find that along with the now not-so-unusual ingredients such as chilli, there are a rainbow of tasty concoctions that would make perfect present. And if your non-choc recipient doesn’t like them, well, it’s the thought that counts and you can scoff them down yourself.

Claire Burnet, chocolatier and owner of award-winning chocolate mail order company Chococo, has her own views on why some people say they don’t like chocolate. One of the main reasons people (and men in particular), say they don’t like this gorgeous treat is because it’s too sweet, she says. “Most chocolate in this country is stuffed full of glucose syrup or huge amounts of alcohol to extend the shelf life", she adds. "You end up with something that is very sweet by definition.”

Burnet says that by adding sugar or neutral alcohol to chocolate, it can be stored for months, then boxed and kept on a shelf for almost a year. The sugar and or alcohol will “kill bugs and extend shelf life, but you ruin the mouth feel, you ruin the taste, the flavour, the palate everything. It’s all wrong.” She meets people all the time who say they are chocoholics but when she quizzes them about what they are eating, it’s usual industrially produced. “It’s a completely different animal", says Burnet. "You’re getting a sugar fix, not a chocolate fix. There’s not enough chocolate in it to get a chocolate fix.”

She goes onto explain that quite a large number of premium brands are guilty of adding these ingredients as well. “There are relatively few in the country that are making chocolate that is packed, dispatched and designed to be eaten fresh.” Chococo chocolates are a classic ganache-based chocolates made with fresh Dorset cream and Venezuelan chocolate. Chococo have no need to add butter as the cream is so rich. All the chocolates in the range are just a blend of cream chocolate and natural flavours, with a crisp shell and a soft centre.

It’s decided that the only way to test this theory is to find a chocolate-hating tester and ply him with the good stuff. The victim, Darren Christie, 33, agrees that if he has to eat the stuff it’s the better quality stuff that he can stomach but he would just rather not have it at all. Darren has proclaimed loud and clear to all his relatives and friends that he doesn’t like chocolate, this however doesn’t seem to stop him receiving it on a semi-regular basis. “If I do get given chocolate I usual give it away to someone else or it just sits in the cupboard until my girlfriend eats it,” he says. You see this is the problem, even if you don’t like chocolate you still inevitably receive chocolate as a gift. It’s the easiest answer to the ‘what do I get them for their birthday?’ question.

I set Darren to work on some of the most unusual and still accessible flavours in the UK.

1. Chococo – The Purbeck Chocolate Co.

We start with a selection box form Chococo including their Cider with Fifi (Cider brandy with chopped dried organic apples). For Darren, this particular one is too sweet but he liked the apple. He also tries Gold Great Taste award winner Black Strap Harry, judged as “alright but liquoricy.” Surprisingly it’s the Gorgeous Ginger, another award winner, that turns his fancy. He does like the idea of a selection however as he says, “you don’t feel as though you have to have the whole bar in one sitting. You can have one and really examine the taste of it and if you don’t like it there are all the others.” He adds it’s also easy to share with others.

2. Rococo - Arabic Spices Organic Dark and Cardamom Organic White from Natoora

The beautifully packaged Rococo bars have a strong perfume which creates quite a festive air. Darren likes the spice of the Arabic bar but interestingly says there’s too much cocoa. The cardamom bar has a good texture but tastes a bit like a cough lolly to him.

3. Moser Roth Finest Dark Chocolate Chilli from Aldi

Darren doesn’t mind this one. He’s a recent convert to the chilli chocolate combination. Moser Roth’s chocolate is probably a little full of fats and quite processed for Claire’s liking but it has a nice warm mouthfeel without being overpoweringly hot with chillies. It’s the cheapest of the selection.

4. Chilli and Ouzo Chocolate Truffles and Salt Caramel Truffles from Terre à Terre

Fascinating flavour combinations in this range of fresh truffles that hail from a vegetarian restaurant in Brighton. Darren didn’t get to try these but the salt caramel is a delightful combination of sweet and salt. A grown up salt water toffee. Chilli Ouzo would go down well with someone who likes their chocolate boozy and rich.

5. Bara Brith from the Welsh Chocolate Farm

Bara Brith is a tea-infused cream and tastes similar to eating soild chocolate tea-cake complete with raisins. Unfortunately Darren didn’t try this one either but I deduce from his previous tastings that it wouldn’t be his cup of tea. The chocolate is quite sweet and he’s not a huge fan of raisins.

These are just a few of the crazy flavours out there but there are many more. Rosmary and Chimi Chimi from Perfectly Tempered, Marmite Truffles from Paul a Young or even ethical chocolate such Organic Meltdown or Dubble. The result of this experiment highlighted that chocolate is a simple pleasure that can be enjoyed by everyone when chosen correctly. In the words of the chocolatier Claire Burnet, chocolate is “a sensory delight” whose flavours and textures should be clean and clear. If you're buying for someone who is unsure of chocolate, go for a good quality gift box and you’ll have something to talk about whilst you stuff your faces.

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio
Kitchen perfect?

IMGP1901

Joking with some fellow foodies the other day we found ourselves on the topic of the now ancient TV show Friends. The haircuts (The Rachel), the fashion, the weird gestures and phrases that worked their way into common parlance (“How you doin’ ?) and of course the theme tune (utterly and totally brainwashing). But one of the things that we agreed was the most annoying was that the sofa in the coffee shop was always empty! Always!

Anyone who has been in a pub with a fireplace knows this just isn’t possible.

So, it got me thinking – what if my kitchen antics as perfect as a TV show? It would start with the cookbook. This would either not be necessary because I would know a great variety of recipes off by heart or it would sit open to the correct page on a book stand convenient to my designer work surface. Obviously I would always have all the ingredients in the recipe – even the obscure ones like Mojama that are impossible to find. There would be no compromising regular flour for ‘00’ or falling just short of the amount of butter required. Eggs, milk, spices etc would be measured out in individual matching ramekins all in a row. All the veg would be clean and healthy looking and I would chop it on a beautiful wooden board.

The knife would always be sharp and I would always don a clean apron before I begin. The pots and pans would be Le Creuset or Ruffoni and the gas would always light on the first click of the lighter. Cooking utensils would be clean, to hand and displayed elegantly. The, also clean, oven would be the temperature you set it on. Cakes would rise beautifully, fish would sizzle merrily under the grill and the extractor fan would remove all but the faintest delicious aroma of cooking curry. When finished the dish, I would, of course, whip off the still clean apron to reveal a stunning cocktail dress and retire to a candlelit supper whilst the quiet, perfectly stacked dishwasher did ALL the dishes.

But where’s the fun in that…

I prefer my kitchen full of ingredients of all shapes and sizes, half bottles of this and sticky taped packets of that. Veg that sometimes needs bits chopped out but is still good. If I don’t have the rapeseed oil required I’ll use the vegetable oil. I don’t have beautifully tied bouquet-garni of herbs – I have dried bay and left over springs of thyme and if I’m lucky some stalks of parsley. Most of my pots and pans came in the IKEA ‘starter set’ and my utensils are a ragtag collection of odds and ends. My pages of my cookbooks have to be carefully wiped down after my recipe attempts. I cook with friends hanging around the kitchen drinking wine and quite often at least one glass in broken in the process. I usual don my slightly stained apron half way though the cooking process when it gets messy and I’ve spilt something. My oven always needs cleaning and the oven gloves are rarely where I want them. The washing up is almost always, either on the drying rack or awaiting a washing in the first place.

But you know what, I eat well, I enjoy cooking, I make a mess  and that’s the way I like it.

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio
2010 ...

snow

First of all HAPPY 2010! I have to say I’m not exactly sad to see the back of 2009, a relatively disappointing year all round in many respects. And now it’s gone.

Now 2010 on the other hand – I don’t want to jinx things but I think it’s going to be a goodun’. The year has already got off on the right foot for me in the snow-bound south although I hazard a guess that many in the north of the UK (minus the school age children) won’t agree with me. We have SNOW!

Down in the land of Kew, Surrey everything is nicely dusted with fine icing sugar. It has a satisfying, not fatal, crunch underfoot like a good crisp sandwich (I prefer salt and vinegar) and makes everything on my midday run look quite picturesque. Each gasp of air feels like a gulp of cold water and you can feel it flooding your throat and inflating your lungs.

The twelfth night of Christmas has been and gone and the days are finally inching their daylight hours longer. The last of our lovely shipment of Nussecken (nut corner biscuits from Germany) are running out and the clove-oranges are banished to the storage cupboard along with the decorations and cards. We are ready for the New Year!

Blog, miniblog, maxiblog, blessays – lets call the whole thing comment.

Now I’m fully aware that a blogger blogging on blogs is possibly the dullest subject in the universe for most people but I had to note this moment in history somehow. So national-treasure-and-all-round-web-filler Stephen Fry has decided to fill his quota of webspace with a new maxiblog or blessay. This is on top of his Guardian comment column, record-breakingly popular twitter page and a Stephen does Attenborough type documentary (before you say anything – it’s about endangered species you dirty minded sod). Don’t get me wrong, I am a HUGE fan of Sir Fry but I just wonder if too much Fry is a bad thing?

I’ll let you decide - http://www.stephenfry.com/blog/

IssuesAnne Giacomantonio