Friday, June 30, 2006


Chocolate, Pies and Me

In confessional mood and having earlier made an unkind reference to Mr Dave ‘Balloon’ Cameron’s cocaine use, I should declare my own addictive behaviour. Regular readers know this involves food. I may mock the influence of advertising, but actually I’m a sucker for certain types of it. First, there’s the Mae West principle: “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I've never tried before”. A new flavour to try? Get it now! And my reaction to Cadbury’s withdrawing chocolate bars for salmonella: “Lots of chocolate on the telly! I must buy some.” And I did.

I do eat an awful lot of chocolate, but I don’t want you to get the impression I skimp on the savouries. One of the few times I’ve been out and sociable in the last few weeks was Saturday, when we were celebrating the thirtieth birthday of multi-talented author / producer of Doctor Who books and audio plays Simon Guerrier, a terribly nice chap with a terribly readable blog. He’s also Millennium’s foremost celebrity fan, and the elephant has a picture of him here, along with the latest of Richard and I (awwhh) and, of course, Millennium. If you think you’ve seen Simon before, it’s possible you’re confusing him with the younger son (if you respectably double his age) in BBC1’s current all-purpose-repeat-slot-filler of choice, My Family. But don’t mention that to Simon. Anyway, where was I? If you thought my blog meandered under normal circumstances, this is me after staying up late for by-elections. The point I was going to make was that, as usual, Richard had to physically separate me from the buffet and a truly magnificent chocolate cake, though when I filled an entire large plate with snacks it was in fact to distribute them to people in Simon’s study and make sure all his books were covered with the sort of greasy fingermarks I’d be aghast at if some dreadful guest did the same to us. Honest.

Another bad habit is to be found at Canary Wharf where – living on the lower east side of the Isle of Dogs – I frequently find myself changing trains. Along the way, I frequently pass The Square Pie Shop. Now, I’m particularly keen on a good pie, and while these are expensive, they are extraordinarily tasty (I’d recommend the Lamb and Rosemary, which is the only fast food I know that tastes like a really good bit of lamb). Every month they have a speciality pie, and I can never resist trying it. When I last visited, I saw something truly appalling instead: thirty-two limited edition pies for the World Cup. Now, normally I’d not touch anything to do with the football, but sod that! Fortunately they didn’t stock the entire set, or I might have ordered the lot. Just to taste. The two I took were bad enough (or, I should say, good enough. Mmmm). I’ve had to go a different route since, as I simply don’t trust myself.

Incidentally, one of the joys of shopping at Thornton’s – er, not that I do, often – is that it tends to be staffed by friendly and slightly rounded people with whom you can have a sensible conversation about chocolate. I wanted to know what was in one of the pies they had on display at Square Pie last week; “I don’t know,” said the assistant. “We’re not allowed to taste them.” The fiends! Still, it solves the riddle of how it’s staffed by such unfeasibly slim people.

Regular readers will also know that I have a long-term health problem and, with crushing inevitability, it is of course stomach-related. So eating too much is rarely good for me, I know certain foods will make me ill (while many others just surprise me), and when I’m ill and can’t get out, naturally I feel low, and you can guess what I do to cheer myself up. Well, exactly. The very definition of a vicious circle. Incidentally, while I sometimes wouldn’t mind losing a stone or two (if I don’t get out, I don’t get exercise), I did find my first ever TV interview on an old VHS a couple of months ago and, seeing myself underweight, rather than pining for a lost flat stomach, recoiled with a cry of “Oh, my god, it’s Skeletor!” So while I’ve lost count of the bizarre diets I’ve tried, weight loss isn’t my priority. If it’s yours, first I’d suggest getting down to a nudist beach and relaxing with people who won’t be nasty about your body shape, but I’ll also note that the only one that did sharply cut my weight down was the Atkins; though as it made me no more settled, made my skin even worse than usual and meant a month without chocolate, that’s not happening again in a hurry.

Anyway, while things are unpleasant, inconvenient and seemingly never-ending, though fortunately not ‘serious’, it’s something I’ve mostly avoided blogging about, because it’s just beyond embarrassing. However, as the last few weeks have been particularly bad and I’ve been particularly unsociable, I thought I should say why. It really started when I was stuck at home instead of being able to get to the big Ming speech three weeks ago, and was in such a frustrated grump I’ve still not blogged about it. However, I’ve been feeling for the last week that I should get back on the treadmill, particularly after breaking cover and raising blood pressure by posting on Paul Walter’s impressive and intimidatingly prolific blog to help him fisk the loathsome Ann Atkins (a diet people throughout the land find impossible to swallow [groan]). Possibly helped by listening to lots of very loud ELO to raise my level of perk (thank you, Doctor Who), though it’s entirely accidental that Evil Woman now blasts out of the flat when a certain ‘Thought For the Day’ presenter is announced.

Anyway, on a lighter note, here’s a summery recipe you can try at home. Having already changed the habit of a lifetime and referred to the World Cup, despite having even less interest in Wimbledon (the ads for that don’t even have cool CGI or a groovy song by the Who, though admittedly after those the football itself is bound to be an even bigger let-down) I’d like to offer you a carefully measured and calorie-controlled recipe involving strawberries and cream:

Pulverise a load of strawberries
Pour them into a bowl
Add a large container of natural yoghurt
Add a large container of cream
Stir briskly (or whisk)
Add copious quantities of icing sugar and stir in to taste. You might be surprised at how much it’ll take (and, careful - it billows up into the air like smoke, and asphyxiating on icing sugar is an embarrassing way to go)
Yes, I know; very sugary, not very precise quantities. But it’s very easy, tastes jolly nice, and you can pretend it's a healthy yoghurt if anyone asks.

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it’s possible you’re confusing him...

Bah. bah and humbug.
We* keep seeing it and thinking “Spooky! It’s Simon’s little brother!”

But you’re much prettier, obviously, and don’t have an annoying voice.

Besides, we don’t have any of his books.

*Richard wishes me to inform you that this was the Royal ‘We’. Except for your mini-me’s books. He says he doesn’t have any of them either.
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