Category Archives: Food

Mr Fox and Mr Squirrel

Yesterday I saw a fox and a squirrel in Museum Gardens, abutting my housing estate. Seeing as the “Museum” referred to in that name is the V&A Museum of Childhood, it only seems right to then tell this tale as Mister Fox and Mister Squirrel, so here goes.

Mister Squirrel in happier times

Mister Squirrel and Mister Fox lived in Museum Gardens, near the Bethnal Green tube station and Buddhist retreat. (Those are separate places, by the way.) One day, Mister Fox was hungry, and Mister Squirrel was bragging about how many nuts he had stashed away for the long winter months soon upon them. So Mister Fox killed Mister Squirrel, and dragged his lifeless corpse off into the briar to eat without the prying eyes of onlookers.

Mister Fox is a careful eater

The End.

Making Use Of Local Artisans

Interesting review in the Shepherd Express most recent issue.  Jeff Beutner reviews INdustri Café, which besides its twee spelling indulges in a surfeit of locally produced ingredients.  In this early paragraph Beutner describes some of the local favorites for the cannibals amongst us:

The menu at INdustri Café is interesting and thoughtful. In a nod to Milwaukee, there is a liverwurst sandwich and an appetizer of kabobs made with kielbasa and white cheddar cheese. The liverwurst and sausage are made from local artisans.
INdustri Café Highlights Local Ingredients

Pawn was fortunate enough to have visited INdustri on their opening night, along with buddy T, and thoroughly enjoyed the free appetizers.  One wonders how many artisans perished for that snack.

London 2009 – Day 13 – Cheese Toastie Memories

Hurtled back in time to his days as a young lad, learning at his father’s elbow, Pawn is given to reminiscences, all due to the power of a simple cheese toastie. J knows not what she has unleashed with her seemingly simple edict…

Eat a cheese toasty for me. I’m not kidding.
J, in a recent message


One finds, when traveling, that friends will often make seemingly simple, banal or odd requests. “Bring me back a…” [insert obscure object of desire here]. “You must take a picture of…” [insert obvious snapshot locale here]. “Please, oh please, you have to…” [insert impossibly touristy act here]. When J made her request, however, I was a little surprised, and immediately started a little trip down memory lane…

My father was sort of a stranger to us kids on most workdays, until well after dinner. He would be gone well before we were off to school; his presence in the breakfast kitchen mostly confined to making and decanting coffee with the seemingly ancient Melitta. The filters he would pull from a large square box, and carefully fold into quarters, then pop out, into a cone. I marvelled at the topographic implications of this act every time I saw it. He may butter our toast, or threaten to spread his marmalade on it (Yuck! To my young pallet) before applying a suitable slathering of jelly, for me, or jam for my elder sister.

But then he would be gone, and mom would step in to fill out the breakfast routine for the five of us kids, before sending us off to school. My friends, many of them at least, had the added rituals of bag lunches being prepared (before the school lunch program started, about the fifth grade for me) but we lived close enough to school that we were expected to make the trip home and back every lunch hour.

At night dad would get home in time for the evening news, and then it was supper time. My parents would eat in the dining room, where they would talk about their mutual scientific pursuits, what colleagues were up to, and various other impenetrable topics. When one of us children had done something particularly good, or excelled at school or chores, we would get to eat in the dining room, too, where we would try to act as though we understood what was being discussed (my big sister would no doubt claim otherwise), while the rest of the wolf pack ate in the kitchen. This separation of parents and children at dinner time, weekday dinner time, was a core dynamic in our household. It is a large part of what made a holiday dinner so different – it wasn’t just different dishes, or a fancier table cloth, it was our presence all at table together, which made for a holiday meal.

After dinner would come homework and projects and all those little pieces of busy-ness and work which make the life of a young and growing family tick. My father liked to make things from kits. He made our hi-fi, television, harpsichord, grandmother clock, etc. He would buy no end of tools and equipment and justify it by what he would save by hand-crafting our Christmas gifts (I still covet my younger brother’s red and black wooden steam roller). I would hang around and “help” dad with the kit projects. He was rigorous about following every step and instruction and it drove me batty, but to have the time with him made it worthwhile. Though, to be perfectly honest with you, I still, to this day, bridle at following instructions.

This came through in our other big projects, my model making and the train table. I got into making models – cars, planes, war machines, etc. – when I was quite young, and in my father’s eyes that meant that he had to help me. I couldn’t be expected to complete one of these things on my own, and I will grant that this was often borne out in fact when I tried. It was on one of these instances, when I had decided to make an aeroplane model by myself, that dad walked into the kitchen (almost all projects were assembled on the kitchen table, which necessitated that all washing up be completed first). When he saw what I was doing, and I remember this quite clearly to this day, he looked, for just a moment, crestfallen. He quickly regained composure, and asked me what I was up to, and I felt guilty, like I had betrayed him. I ended up asking him for his help, and after playing a little hard to get he eventually assumed his seat at table and got down to the hard work of fixing everything I had mucked up and then progressing, step by careful step, through the instructions. It was at times like this that he would then break the tension by uttering a single, simple term, his term of endearment for me. He would call me “Revere Ware,” or more typically “Copper Bottom.”

Dad was Cockney, and though little of his English heritage showed through (he was a dedicated assimilationist) but the Cockney have a grand tradition of rhyming slang; of constructing new terms through a process of rhyming and contrasting, recombining, etc. My nickname started with my given name, Nicholas. This sounded to dad like “Nickel Ass” which to his Cockney mind could easily be shifted to “Copper Bottom” which was what a Revere Ware pot had, so that’s how you get from Nicholas to Revere Ware.

The train table process was the same as the models. I would have been perfectly happy with a bunch of track and cars and rearranging it all every now and then; add some curves here and there, some switches, etc. Dad, however, took one look at the Kalambach train book I brought home one day, and all he saw was verisimilitude. Next thing I knew we were building a 4′ x 8′ train layout with realistic hills, streets, a pond and bridge, trestles, mines, etc. It was epic, and just never seemed to end. To be honest, it never really did. I lost interest after a few years, and then after dad passed away, when I was 13, nothing more happened with it. Much the same fate for the harpsichord.

Weekends, however, were a different story. On weekends dad would make us breakfast, and often make us lunch as well. He would eat dinner in the kitchen with us, “Eating with the animals,” as he would put it. He had only a fairly limited repertoire of dishes. He could make all sorts of holiday treats: puddings and cookies and bars and such. Or jams and marmalades, etc. But breakfast? That would be soft boiled eggs and soldiers, pancakes or waffles (alternating Sundays). Lunch? The casual sandwich, of course, and then my favourite: grilled cheese. Out would come the griddle, an open and close affair with reversible griddle plates, one side for pancakes and the other for waffles.

A proper grilled cheese, or cheese toastie, starts with some soft bread, butter (though dad used margarine, may he rest in peace) and cheese. Dad would use cheddar or Colby. My more adult tastes have drifted to combinations like Gruyère with white cheddar. You start by buttering one side of each slice of bread, these will be the sides against the griddle plates. You place the first slice butter-side up on the cutting board, and then the next slice butter-side down on top of that. Then, on top of each of these little stacks, you place the sliced cheese. I think that it is better to use more thin slices than fewer thick ones, but your mileage may vary.

Anyway, enough of recipes. Dad’s great contribution to modern sandwich making was the day that he brought his natural gifts of Cockney lateral thinking to the business of sandwich making. We had had a breakfast of waffles that Sunday morning, and for whatever reason – the washing up hadn’t been done or he just had an intuitive flash – whatever it was, the result was that he decided to make the usual cheese toasties with the waffle side of the griddles rather than the flat side. Thus was born the wafflewich and sandwich history would never be the same again.

I have loved and enjoyed the wafflewich ever since that pivotal day, and it has been important to my life. The first meal I made for my prospective wife was wafflewiches (“What wine should I bring?” she asked. I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.) and I have served them to friends at parties and sporting events.

So, to dad, a toast to the humble cheese toastie. I may venture into any number of restaurants, pubs or food stands here in London, but nowhere will I find anything as good as dad made that one Sunday so long ago, when he used the wrong side of the griddle and made one giant step for cheese toastie kind.

[Editor’s note: Pay no attention to the modern poseurs who would have you believe that a wafflewich is a sandwich made with two waffles, rather than bread.  The original and only true wafflewich is made only as described herein.]

London 2009 – Day 3 – Market Day Part II

In which Pawn finds that sometimes life just isn’t what it appears, but a roast almost always is. Further, whilst considering this, makes certain discoveries about the nature of travel.

Oh, what a joy Market Day can be. As I described in this morning’s account, we shopped heartily at the Marylebone Green Market this morning, and tonight we enjoyed the fruits of that effort. But I get ahead of myself. First, then, is an account of our afternoon.

After returning to the flat after marketing, we settled in a bit, and then had a delightful light lunch of a mini-quiche shared amongst us, Florentine, along with some table water crackers, Saint George (a goat’s milk brie), Milano salami, buffalo Cheddar, carrot sticks, Edam and some grapes. Then it was off to see Michael Caine’s new film, “Is Anybody There?” We strolled down Tottenham Court Road/Charing Cross [Ed: an aside is in order. For those of you not familiar with this phenomenon, London streets often change names after only a few blocks. In this case, Tottenham Court Road transmogrifies into Charing Cross about 6 or 7 blocks south of our flat.] towards Leicester Square.

First, however, we let ourselves get side tracked into Chinatown. I was shocked and saddened to find that Lee Ho Fook is gone, replaced by a different new Chinese establishment. An establishment that had survived for many years is gone, just like that, in a little over a year. Oh well, at least I got to eat there once.

The crowds were remarkable, floods of humanity as far as the eye could see. Wall to wall and from one end of the street to the other. We swam through the crowd and finally worked our way back into Leicester Square and the theatre. We were early (a new experience) and got to sit for a spell in the square’s park. I decided to take X over to the edge of the square to show her the Glockenspiel over by the Swiss House. Oops! Not there any more – new works are under way, and the Glockenspiel has apparently gone away. Let’s hope it is merely in storage, waiting to come back for a new perch on the new building.

Then into the theatre. When buying tickets (matinee, £9.95) we have to choose our seats(!) something that comes as a bit of a surprise. We pick Row C, middle, and after getting our popcorn take our seats in an empty theatre. By the time the film starts there are about 12 other people, but it is a small house, so it isn’t empty, at least.

The film was good. It is sentimental to the Nth degree, but that’s what its on about, after all, so no surprise there. Michael Caine turns in a stellar performance as a washed-up caravan magician and is countered by Bill Milner as the young Edward (age 10), whose parents have turned their home into an elderly care centre, and who is chafing at the stress this has put on his life (displacing him from his room, his parents fighting, the old people taking attention away from him). There are at least three scenes in this film where you may find yourself thinking, “Oh, this is the scene that will get the Oscar buzz for Caine.” and yet they are all really that good, and he does really turn in the performance of what is already an exemplary career. Milner, too, is utterly engaging, and pulls you through the angst of his daily life, and the joy of his escapes into investigating the supernatural. Please, overlook the clichés and the pat elements of the storyline, and just let yourself enjoy an uplifting film with some truly stellar performances. [Or just dab at your furtive tears with a popcorn napkin, as Nic surreptitiously tried to. – X]

[Nic has mercifully acknowledged the existence of the London bus system (above ground, with better views) so we were allowed to”Oyster” the 24/7 #24 right to the grocery store. – X] Next we had to do some shopping. When we got home with our market bags we realized that we had nothing to cook the roast in, so we ducked into Sainsbury’s to see if we could score a little roasting pan, you know, the cheap aluminium pans you find in the typical American grocers. Not here! But, as we approached the checkout lane, I spotted an aluminium serving plate (3 pack for £2). Lesson No. 1: In a pinch, use your imagination. [Nic earned one hour of mocking-free time with this shopping coup; the manager he asked knew nothing of this “manager’s special”. – X]


Okay, the dinner, you ask (I imagine you ask…I would ask). Where to begin. X masterfully roasted that little 1kg piece of meat, producing a lovely rare roast (Lesson No. 1A: always travel with a foodie!), while I prepared a quick salad of gem and carrot shavings with a mustard vinaigrette. Lesson No. 2: making your own vinaigrette in a strange and under supplied kitchen? A cocktail shaker, 25ml of balsamic vinegar, 25ml of extra virgin olive oil, pinch of salt, a few dashes of pepper and about a ½ tsp of heavy mustard with seeds. Yum! Also on the menu, a pound of asparagus sautéed on high heat with some sea salt and olive oil, and a delightful tea loaf from market.

How was it? OMG!!! The best meal in ages! Oh, the meat was like red butter, the asparagus was crisp yet yielding and flavourful, the salad a sweet and tangy delight and the bread was so earthy, with a slathering of butter on it. Add to that a precious little screw-top red (Oxford Landing, Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz) and all that was missing was some little piece of chocolate to polish the whole meal off.

Now we are just sitting about in the salon, watching British junk food telly, and listening to our brains slowly melt and drain out of our ears.


London Journal РDay 16 РCr̬me de Brie

Crème de Brie is wonderful stuff. This is the heart of brie without the rind. It is sold by Coeur Lion in little tubs and is great for spreading on biscuits or using in recipes. Yesterday I made the most delightful scrambled eggs with it, here’s the recipe:

2 large eggs (I use free range – happy food and all that)
1 large pat butter (1.5 Tbsp)
50ml milk (3 Tbsp)
15 ml (1 Tbsp) Crème de Brie
2 salad onions (scallions) finely diced

Melt butter in medium frying pan and when at heat, sauté onion in it till translucent (add a dash of salt to speed this up). With fork, briskly mix eggs with milk and brie, do not beat, just mix very well. Add egg mixture to pan all at once, and once it starts to set, draw spatula from outer edges of pan towards the centre turning egg in process. Proceed until egg is done to your liking.

Yum yum!

Requium For A Cupcake

Hostess Cupcake on Farwell Avenue

This is not how you were meant to go
oh cupcake
Your creamy center spilled upon
the sidewalk
like so much spent seed
You are of noble roots
Your surname “Hostess” once meant
so much, meant all
now, not so much
Now you lay, disheveled upon the pavement
your icing pecked off
by birds of fortune
your soul gone, spent
You once noble cupcake, are now wasted
This is your ultimate destiny
all your grandeur for naught
all your sugary goodness