Food myths

A real 'Funsize' Mars bar wil be two feet long

Rocket salad
Rocket has been kidnapped by Chelsea types, who’ll simply not accept it’s merely a bunch of glorified dock leaves fit only for rabbits. The Chelsea tossers will, however, pay through the nose for it, which I suppose represents some sort of justice.
And who thought of putting rocket on pizza? That’s like putting French dressing on chips.And what’s all this peppery business about? If you want pepper, get your waiter to get busy with the oversized mill and resist the urge to get him to throw to leaves on your 14-inch meat feast. Rocket is absolutely not ‘peppery’ or high-end at all – it’s just a bland green leaf that gets lodged inbetween your teeth. 

‘Soft scoop’ ice cream
Why is it that tubs of ice cream – whatever the brand – insist on putting ‘soft scoop’ on the lid? Simple physics will tell you that if you put food in the freezer it’ll freeze and go hard. Any premature attempt at extracting the contents of the ‘soft scoop’ tub will yield the kind of result that made Uri Geller a household name.  
So what do you do when you want to set some soft scoop from  the tub straight after taking it out of the freezer? 
Well, you turn on the TV, walk about a bit, scratch your behind, prod the tub, then watch a couple of rounds from Deal or No Deal and prod it again. After that it’ll be soft to scoop. 
So, here’s the thing. Wait. Scoop. Eat.

Chicken parfait – posh nosh?
Runny pâté. That’s what this is and if you do get lured by the fancy title in a top-end restaurant then more fool you. Chicken parfait should only be consumed by hospital patients who can’t ingest solids. Chicken kidney isn’t a pleasant foodstuff and liquidising it doesn’t make it any more palatable.  

Herb boxes – a good idea?
Always sounds like a great idea: simply reach out and get a variety of herbs to pep up your cooking. You could have basil, coriander, chives, rosemary, sage, chervil, thyme: it’s a chocolate box of herbiage. 
Problem is, you have to be Alan Titchmarsh to make sure your plants don’t die. Within two weeks your coriander will have wilted, your basil shrivelled, your rosemary will look like pine needles and your sage leaves decayed. Just buy herbs in a packet, try and use it all up within a couple of days and leave all that herb growing nonsense to Jamie Oliver and Nigel Slater.

‘Funsize’ Mars bar
Why’s it fun? Pound for pound it’s overpriced and it’s not as much fun as gorging yourself on a normal sized Mars bar. It’s a small Mars bar, no more, no less.

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Because you’re worth it

This girl's worth a tenner, apparently

Just saw a L’Oreal advert telling me that if I buy some cheap crap from them, it’ll be because I’m worth it.

This advertising slogan surely is an answer to the wrong question. Exactly how much do you think you’re worth? A bottle of this gunk is usually between £4 and £10 and if you don’t think you’re worth that then there are some serious issues you might need to deal with.

Saying, “I’m worth a tenner,” doesn’t bode well so, for all you think that you’re not worth it remember, you are beautiful human beings of great value with wonderful friendships and talents unending.

That’ll be £30 from each of you. Thanks.

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Financial ‘experts’

New York dimwits circa 1963

Today the financial markets are, apparently, going to make decisions based on whether they like, or don’t like, the idea that Greece has formed a coalition and then, once they have made up their minds about this cobbled-together band of nitwits, they’ll start either buying or selling.

Now, here’s a thing. On the radio I have heard countless ‘experts’ from financial institutions give us their best guess as to whether the markets will respond badly or well to the Greek crisis package and it is a wonder to me that they don’t just get a sizeable donkey into the studio and aim a dart firmly at its behind, since the conclusions will be exactly the same.

I have a piss-poor-sized amount of cash in a ‘managed’ investment fund. At the time of purchase my so-called financial advisor told me that the considerable experience of the experts who will ‘manage’ my money will help to get me enough of a return, on maturity (not me, the fund, you dufus) to allow me to buy a substantial Maldive Island where semi-naked girls will feed me lobster and grapes, and then order me to have sex with them. All in that order. If I’m lucky, however, and things go even better than expected, my advisor told me, I might be able to buy Monaco, where I can I have the pleasure of driving around in my 220mph Ferrari at 30mph while wearing oversized sunglasses that have the brand name etched largely on the arms (the sunglasses’ arms, not mine) so people can know what a total, oversized cock I am.

At present my investment, at last viewing, is worth significantly less than the piss-poor amount that I originally invested, which means that, if I sold up now I will have enough disposable cash to buy a bag of cement and four bricks.

The bald fact is financial ‘experts’ know bugger all. They make money when the financial markets are good and they lose money when the financial markets are bad, which is what we all do. They simply do not have the knowledge to elevate themselves above plebs like you or I, and they are absolutely unable to buck the trend. If you are expecting some sort of calm during a storm from these overpaid dimwits, you can forget it.

On any given day expect the lamest excuse for stock market fluctuation. Experts like Robert Peston from BBC Radio 5 Live tell us on an almost hourly basis that the market is suffering become somebody called Ahmed in Almenia found a stag beetle in his underpants, or that the FTSE ‘rallied’ today because Bert from the fruit stall in Bermondsey found a fiver down the side of his sofa. If you look at flow graphs of the FTSE, Dow Jones, Nikkei or Hang Sang or whatever it is over the past few months you might be able to correlate the peaks and troughs with the way the wind is blowing.

You have to understand: financial markets are populated by idiots called Seth or Toby who learned that if you speak loud enough and use the words ‘bonds’ or ‘gilts’ in the same sentence you’ll get a job at some jumped-up financial institution where the chairman has got to where he is because he’s the only one able to work out how to use the percentage button on his calculator.

I know this because I come from Watford, and the most famous person to come from Watford is Nick Leeson. I was at the Watford Observer when Leeson buried Barings Bank. It was a sensation, but the reason why it was a sensation is because nobody had enough emotional intelligence to realise what a monumental thickie Leeson was. We know now that he was not the brightest button in the world, yet he managed to sink £850 million into a financial black hole, and not one management executive in Barings recognised the problem until it was too late.

Er, look at the accounts.

So here’s some valuable consumer advice, if you require it. If you want to invest money for a late-life nest egg, do not take up the services of a financial advisor, simply buy a stupidly expensive car, drive around like an arse until the tyres fall off and know that you are having some fun while the rest of the world watches ever dwindling numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s a much better course of action that you will thank me for.

Er, Toby, pass me the FT I’ve got some info on the QT…

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Who said a kebab’s bad for you?

Good Holy Lord

A chicken kebab or a shish kebab is a wholesome, well-balanced foodstuff that rounds out an evening perfectly and it’s infinitely more appealing than anything that even looks like a beetroot.

The fact is chicken breast or red meat cooked on a grill is perhaps the healthiest way of preparing a kebab. Any excess fat drops into the coals and no calorie-adding oil is needed to aid the cooking process.

So all good then.

Anti-kebabers might point to the weight-inducing carbohydrate from the pitta, but if you can get your local kebab supplier to stock up on some brown pittas then you will have headed carb-hell off at the pass.

The kebab really is the epitome of healthy eating. There’s salad, raw cabbage, tomato, cucumber and, if you are feeling saucy, let the kebab man splash on a bit of homemade chilli sauce. It won’t hurt the digestive process but don’t be surprised if you experience some pain in the back door region in the morning.

Admittedly, the kebab in doner-spec is harder to justify as a healthy meal. The elephant’s leg option does represent a hazardous journey since there is no guarantee that there’s any real meat in it. Still, it’s hard to resist after three pints of low-grade lager even though it’ll clog your heart up like a broken-down Eurotunnel train.

Whatever, my view is the kebab is a food fit for kings and although I simply can’t imagine Prince Charles tucking into a polystyrene trayful of chilli-ed up doner meat after a skinful of Carling Extra Cold, I think he could easily have a go at the entry level kofte following a charity do that has been punctuated by intermittent, yet hearty glugs of Merlot.   

Kebabs aren’t headline delicacies, I accept, but the BBQueue (see what they’ve done there – it’s always packed) in Finsbury Park beats the slop served up by Heston Poshmadeupname any day.

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The Aussie/Kiwi dream

Sharks. Man-eating bastards

This weekend the New Zealand All Blacks won the rugby World Cup, which, if you didn’t know, is a big big deal for the Kiwis.

There’s a good reason why this is so. In New Zealand there are two things to do: 1) play rugby and 2) breathe air.

I know a lot of Kiwis. London’s full of them. I own a property in Watford and a Kiwi lives in it. He moved to London for two reasons: 1) to marry a girl who doesn’t look like a man and 2) to raise enough sterling to get cash rich.

He’s going back to New Zealand because he achieved the first, but didn’t really achieve the second. So, in the next few months he’s off to Woonga Galunga or wherever it is, with his English rose, to look at sheep and cook large chunks of animal flesh while standing in his oversized shorts pronouncing the word fish as ‘fush’.

So he’s going back to where he belongs, and good for him, but he is one of many who buys into a school of thought that suggests that here in London, it’s crap, and that over there, 24 hours’ flying time away, it’s all rather heavenly and wonderful. The first part is almost correct, but the second part beggars belief.

I’ve been to Australia and it’s ok, but it’s not a place you should go to spend the rest of your life. The fact is Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and Perth are bloody miles away from anything except a bunch of dust and a few snakes that’ll kill you if you step on their heads. And that’s just on the land. The sea’s a bloody nightmare. Currently, there’s a warning on Rottnest Island following the third in a series of fatal shark attacks. It’s the same animal, apparently, so the lifeguards have set about catching the Great White by dragging a dead Kangaroo behind a speedboat and shouting, ‘Here fushy fushy!’

Aussies cite the surf as a major attraction but who wants to be a Great White’s mid-morning snack or find themselves on the receiving end of a jellyfish that’ll turn your testicles into basketballs?

Australia is a place for sheep and weird-sounding town names and that’s the way it should stay. Kylie never went back, and Jason Donovan’s still cutting out a fairly lucrative career here as the ‘go-to’ if you want some borrowed moronic wisdom for a radio soundbite and to make even the stupidist Brit look mildly intelligent.

There’s a reason why New Zealand and Australia are a long way away. It’s because people shouldn’t go there. Here’s some sound advice: stay in London, breathe poor quality air, sit in traffic, eat overpriced food, pay exorbitant rent and experience six months of grey drizzly weather and get over yourself.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Sudoku. Better than life itself

A Sudoku grid

I was on the bus the other day, sitting next to a person with a newspaper. Nothing strange about that , but a quick glance told me that this individual was ‘playing’ Sudoku. Later, prior to a pre-arranged lunch date I noticed that another person, with the same newspaper, was also in the midst of a Sudoku game.

Can you think of anything duller than a lunch hour completing a Sudoku grid? This, surely, is a desperate measure, and if you think there isn’t a better way of passing the time then you should get the doctor to have a look at that head injury of yours.

Here’s the thing. All you do when you ‘play’ Sudoku is fill boxes with numbers. This should take no more than a couple of minutes. Just put the numbers wherever you like. If you are stupid enough to apply the rules it’ll take a lot longer. Whatever, your strategy, the result will still remain the same and that is that you filled in boxes with numbers.

This is not in any way fun. Do something else. Buy a Rubik’s Cube, phone someone up, get your fillings done, take up golf, get a goat. If you must, join a chutney-making group, but for the holy love of God do anything but play Sudoku.

You will thank me for this.

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Ed Miliband – really?

Ed Miliband - Morph

Last year the Labour Party chose Ed Miliband as their leader. It was a very bad decision based on the fact that the unions didn’t want his brother David Miliband because he looked too much like Tony Blair and that it would have been too sensible an idea.

Ed Miliband has proved over the past 12 months that he is not a leader in any way shape or form. He might make an extremely good character for Creature Comforts but unless we want Morph as a prime minister, one suspects the barrel of Tory policy is what we will all be staring down for the next ten to 15 years. Indeed, I can hear the words ‘bah, bay, bah’ ‘ ringing loudly in my ears each time I hear the current Labour leader start another useless, meandering sentence.

I simply can’t take Ed Miliband seriously. I drove home yesterday and, inbetween a bout of severe diarrohea that necessitated a hastily planned pitstop at the Old Fox Inn on the A428, I listened to Ed nasal his way through a monumentally bad speech no doubt inspired by back-to-back viewings of Scooby Doo archive material.

‘There’s bad businesses and good businesses, and we want to weed out the bad ones,’ Ed told us in fluent Klingon, and then he explained that the bad businesses would face the full force of his wrath.

So Ed, tell me how do you plan to do the weeding? Are you going to get a large gun? And how would you begin to even establish what’s a good business and a bad one? One suspects a board of directors dressed in masks, stripey T-shirts carrying swagbags, saying things like: ‘I ain’t singing like no canary’, is what Ed and his ragtag, second-rate shadow cabinet is looking for.

‘We need a new bargain,’ Ed rambled on and then he told us about things he felt were wrong in the world, y’know like eating with your mouth open, standing on rakes, peeling back your eyelids, pretending to be a lizard, making squelching noises with your armpits, seeing what happens when you put your index finger in a fan and men that gob in urinals for no apparent reason.

And who the hell understands what a ‘new bargain’ is. This is language dreamed up by committee that couldn’t find a suitable slogan. I reckon Ed passed a pound shop and reasoned it work of genius. I assume there was no-one in the Miliband speechwriting team who didn’t have the foresight or maybe even the gumption to say: ‘Er, Ed. You might want to not say this because it really is utter utter bollocks.’

During his speech Ed made self-deprecatory jokes about having an operation on his nose, telling us that he had had his septum realigned, which kind of begs the question as to why the surgeons didn’t remove the snooker ball residing firmly up his nostrils while they were at it.

I am sad that we have a plasticine man as leader of the opposition because I don’t want to be told on a daily basis that picking up my peas with the fork turned up is wrong. I can’t bear the thought that my journeys home will from now on be punctuated by Ed Miliband-inspired digestion problems. And really, it isn’t a good sign when you realise that the mere sound of Ed Miliband is enough to make you want to shit in your car.

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Your point being…?

 

Fishing trawler. No bloody fish though

Plenty more fish in the sea
Not strictly true. Have you seen the programme Trawlermen? Well, it usually features the trials of Scottish fishermen in their hunt for shoals of cod, haddock and other stuff that tastes nice with batter on it.
The stories work to a standard format. Each week, two or three boats potter out to the North Sea, drop their nets for about five days and catch bugger all.
In the 50s and 60s fishing was a lucrative career because there were plenty of fish in the sea. Now there are not and more people in Scotland have been forced to take menial jobs in supermarkets. If we continue to fish at the current rate, we’ll have nothing more than a few shrimps and a couple of dogfish in our waters.
So if you hear someone say ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’ simply cite the level of fish stocks compared to those in the North Sea in 1970. That’ll shut ’em up. 

How are you?
When people ask you this question they don’t really care about the answer. This is a conversation starter, pure and simple. If you respond to the question ‘How are you?’ with ‘My dad’s died, I’ve been made redundant, my wife’s had an affair and I’ve got terminal cancer’, they’ll retort, ‘Oh lovely. Well I was just calling to see whether you want to come along to the cinema with me to see The Inbetweeners tomorrow night.’
‘How are you?’ has no regard for the response. Why not simply say ‘Hello’ and get down to the real purpose of the conversation?
Listen to Radio Five Live for ‘How are You?’ abuse. Nicky Campbell will be asking listeners to tell us whether they think homosexuals should have their testicles nailed to skateboards because they don’t do what God intended and then some numpty from Carlisle asks Nicky: ‘How are you?’ Nicky, will respond ‘Fine thanks, what do you want to say?’
Campbell does this throughout the show and it is a wonder why he just doesn’t caution: ‘Please do not ask me how I am as a precursor to our brief conversation, because a) you don’t care and b) it’s none of your ruddy business.’

A new day is like a freshly plucked orange
Right, you get up, you open the curtains and it’s grey, dull and miserable. You turn on the television and there’s been another plane crash, traffic is at a standstill, unemployment is at an all-time high, the economy is on its arse and JLS are still making music.
Head for the kitchen. You’ve run out of milk. You put on an overcoat and walk to the local shop. There’s only full fat milk in two-litre sizes. You buy it, you walk back, you make tea.
You go in the bathroom and face the mirror. Still ugly, more grey hairs. You try a shower but your flatmate has taken all the hot water.
You walk to the train station. You get into the carriage. There are no seats. The person standing next to you is holding the overhead rail which means you are getting the full force of his body odour. The person standing behind you has an iPod. It’s at full volume, which means you are getting a tinny version of Lady Gaga blasting in your ear.
You arrive at your destination. You have been told a new round of redundancies is in the offing.
Another day has begun.
Anyone smell orange?

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One-coat paint

Here's a result of my handiwork

I haven’t written much on this site lately and there’s a reason for that – I have spent the past two weeks doing DIY in a house that I own. It’s a painfully dull experience that I simply cannot put into words.

Still, during my home improvement offensive I have learned something: I am on first-name terms with Steve at B&Q (a UK home improvement store if you are from other shores) and I have also learned about the absolute bald, uncompromising lie that is Dulux’s so-called ‘One-Coat’ paint.

On the one-coat paint tin there lies a boast of monumental proportions i.e that with this, all you need is one coat to cover your wall. There’ll be no need for an extra layer, the tin tells you, which is fine if you have an existing white wall and choose to paint it… white. In this event you’ll not baulk at the results yielded from a solitary layer of paint and you’ll skip around like a gay lamb celebrating a pain-free experience and a job well done. And again, if you have a red wall and you cover it with exactly the same colour, you might feel reasonably happy with the results.

But let’s say you are living in rented accommodation and you’ve decided to rid your life of that ochre mess for a more muted colour.

This is another story that’ll inevitably lead to self-harm.

Last week I tried covering a red area with a nice muted, olive green colour with One Coat Dulux and the resultant effect looked like a bad West Indian beef jerky parlour. I spoke to Steve about this and he looked at me with pity. ‘Yeah, that one-coat stuff is a bit crap’, he explained. ‘You’ll need three coats for that.’

I phoned up Dulux’s helpline for an explanation and a small dog answered the phone.

You have to face the fact that one-coat never works. You want orchid white to cover up the blood red? Forget it, you are looking at a four-coat job, at least.

One-coat is a trades-description, underwear-ablaze injustice that you can never fully prepare for. If you get bored with the decorating process you’ll doubtless come to a point of absolute desperation, down tools and claim your handiwork is a ‘wash’. Don’t do this – all your visitors will look at this pinkish experiment and say, ‘One-coat’.

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‘Estimated’ bills

This character will be calculating your next electricity bill

On Friday week I received my first electricity bill from Eon. On it was the ‘estimate’ from its super computer telling me how much power it thinks I ought to have used for the first three months of my tenancy in my new lovepad in Crouch End.

Now, here’s a thing. Unless my flat was the venue for an impromptu night-time Olympic Games for a week, I would suggest that the Eon computer has, how shall we say, ‘over-estimated’.

Power companies have a tried-and-failed way of calculating your bill. Every three months your address appears on a computer that prints out a random selection of digits based on a very precise set of factors. Then they hand the printout to a Capuchin monkey who eats all that information with the help of an overripe banana and then it is invited to randomly poke at a Casio calculator for a few minutes. The figure that ends up on the calculator screen is recorded, and a bill is sent to your home.

Then you, assuming the Capuchin monkey knows what it is doing, agree to pay a stupidly ridiculous sum of money simply to avoid an hour-long conversation with an Eon telephone ‘advisor’ called Michael.

Notionally, the power company accepts there are a few flaws associated with this method so, having bankrupted you once, it will then Capuchin monkey-adjust, and then send you another hopelessly it’s-not-even-in-the-same-vicinity-of-realistic electricity bill. Dejected, you’ll phone Michael for an explanation and, in his soft Irish tone, he will tell you that you are, indeed, a moron.

He will then spout, from a pre-rehearsed cribsheet, that there is a more accurate figure based on previous Capuchin estimates on its way and, as a result, you will be a satisfied customer. A week later another account-emptying bill with a stratospheric number of digits on it will drop through your letterbox.

Within hours you’ll get a Facebook friend request from Michael.

I never trusted any of this, even before I had left my family home. I saw my parents weeping when a brown envelope marked Southern Electric popped through the door. I realised that this was wrong and asked my parents: ‘Why don’t you just pay for what you use?’

The orphanage wasn’t too bad and soon I learned to take care of myself, but during that time I still couldn’t quite grasp why electricity companies employ this monstrously arcane billing system.

Now I am older I realised it’s because it’s too sensible and it’ll also call time on a technique that gives power companies licence to continue sending unreasonable demands for cash. I don’t believe that the recent riots are the result of an marginalised underclass, or a societal breakdown, I think unreasonable electricity bills are the cause. The bills arrived two weeks ago so, for me, this isn’t a coincidence. For too long the need for a quiet life has dictated this process so, sadly, the more aggressive, 32-inch flatscreen, trainer-seeking types took to the streets.

I know I am not alone in my pain. Everyone I know just pays up, knowing full well that if they do take the trouble to phone NPower, Eon or whoever it is, they’ll waste large amounts of time arguing fruitlessly with an underpaid individual whose main task is to get you off the phone.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though: after a period of 10 years of constant adjustment and a total accrued payment of around £4 million of your hard-earned money, the power company you have selected will get your monthly usage just about right. At that point it’ll be time to move and the whole frustrating thing will start all over again.

Molotov cocktail anyone?

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