4th June 2010
This week I have a breakfast-y theme to my blog. Man and I flew to the UK yesterday courtesy of Air France. It was an early morning flight and my flight confirmation pronounced that there would be breakfast onboard. Great! I like breakfast…
Shortly after take-off the cabin crew wheeled out the trolleys brimming with breakfast. After a short wait a dashing young gentleman arrived at our row of seats and offered a basket towards me. What delights would this basket contain? Sticky sweet pastries, perhaps? Pillows of pain au chocolat? Perhaps some monstrous muffins of assorted flavours?
In fact the basket contained none of these. The basket contained only croissants of a size which would probably satisfy most guinea pigs. I took one. On reflection I should have taken five or six, but I’m too polite for that. I waited patiently to be offered some margarine, perhaps some strawberry jam… Apparently I was meant to eat my croissant “naked”.
“Something to drink, Madame?” I asked for a coffee. What I received was the cardboard equivalent of a shot glass which was half-full of a very black liquid.
A tiny croissant and a thimble of syrupy coffee is not my idea of breakfast. Where were the spreads? The orange juice? Indeed, where was the BREAKFAST? I’m sorry Air France, but when it comes to breakfast you are definitely Air Pants.
Earlier this week I stayed for a night in a hotel in Belgium. The town of Mechelen lies about half an hour’s drive north of Brussels for most people. For Brussels Airport taxi drivers, Mechelen is a five minute drag race up the autoroute. Considering the G-forces that these guys put their taxis through when braking, accelerating and swerving from lane to lane, I am left to conclude that Fighter Pilot training is mandatory for these people. Maybe that’s why the fares they charge are so outrageous.
I went down to breakfast on the first morning to find the usual continental breakfast buffet. Cheese, meat, pastries, fruits, yoghurts and bread. Nice. But where was the TOASTER???? (Grumble, grumble) Please, NH Hotel Mechelen, spend a few Euros and buy a toaster!
Tonight I shall be staying in a hotel in Durham with Man and Mum to attend the wedding of my step-daughter. The room rate isn’t too bad at all, but that’s because we booked rooms without breakfast. I’m sorry, but I refuse to pay £15 per person for a hotel breakfast! I can go to a café round the corner and get a better breakfast at less than half the price.
Tomorrow morning we intend to meet Adelle in a café for breakfast, but for Sunday morning we are taking all the stuff necessary to have a picnic breakfast sitting by the river in Durham (weather permitting). What a perfect start to a Sunday morning, inshaAllah.
11th June 2010
The wedding of my step-daughter and her fiance was a very happy affair. There were about 80 family and friends in attendance at the Durham County Hall and afterwards at a church hall in a small nearby village called Houghton-Le-Spring. The weather was absolutely perfect mashAllah.
Many of you know that I baked and decorated the wedding cake, the recipe for which is on this website (Rich fruit cake). I can now also reveal that I was asked to be the video camerawoman for the day. It was the first time I’ve ever done anything like that and I was a little apprehensive. But I took all my equipment along to try and do the best I could.
There are some disadvantages to the job, like you never really get to relax during the important parts of the day and you see everything through a four-inch screen. BUT, I quickly discovered that there was one huge advantage. With the powerful zoom feature on my camera I had the best view of everything that happened. I felt at times like I was getting married with them! *Sigh* Young love… I remember what that was like… (Wipes tear away with soggy hanky)
While I was away it seems that my video for Baklava made front page on YouTube France. I really could not believe what I was seeing in the comments that were being posted. It was like watching schoolchildren at playtime arguing over who’s turn it was to be “It”. Clearly some very nationalistic Turkish people were highly offended that I’d used a Greek tune in the background of the video. They also seemed to object to anyone who (quite rightly) stated that the making and eating of Baklava was common in Greece, Egypt, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, …. I could go on and on listing countries.
Anyone who can remember the British comedy series “Goodness Gracious Me” will remember the sequence of sketches where everything was claimed to be “Indian”, including Prince Charles! It just felt like that!
Mind you, it has inspired me for some themes for future videos, including how to make “Frites Français”. Or are they still called “Freedom Fries” since Obama Obama took office?
I’ve been having a bit of trouble with my hearing lately. I think there is something happening today involving a dog called FIFI owned by a bloke called Wayne? And didn’t some acrobatic team known as the Fabulous Capellos win some talent contest?
I do know that many good meals will be replaced by unhealthy snacks over the next four weeks. There is more to snacking than crisps, or chips if you are American, or sheeps if you are French. Try a nice juicy carrot or some sliced pieces of crisp apple instead!
18th June 2010
This week saw the death of someone who changed the way that the British think about food. Some of you will be familiar with the name “Egon Ronay”, a Hungarian immigrant who became a much respected food critic and published a series of restaurant guides that still bear his name.
As a child I remember being on holiday with Mum & Dad and occasionally we would go out in the evening to a restaurant. Part of the deciding factor on where to go was whether it had the famous blue plaque in the window showing that it was in Egon Ronay’s restaurant guide.
There are many quotes associated with Egon Ronay, but here are two of my favourites which are as true today as when he said them 10 or more years ago…
“It won’t be many years before food in this country [the UK] is better than it is in France. But there is an annoying new trend for over-complicated menus that are anything but customer friendly. They read like recipes, with the result that you choose halibut and then fail to find it on your plate. It’s even hard to get a decent dessert: instead, you get a sculpture. It’s ridiculous.”
“Gastronomically speaking, food has no nationality; it is either good or it isn’t.”
Thank you, Mr Ronay, for your contribution to the British gastronomic experience. Rest in Peace.
I get lots of requests for recipes, and unfortunately I don’t have enough hours in the week to make them all – I do have a day-job too! Sometimes the recipe is for something I have never heard of, so I have to do some research and testing before I feel I can make the video…
But sometimes, just sometimes a request for something very simple and familiar will inspire me! This has happened a couple of times this week. Firstly, someone asked me to make scones. SCONES!!!! I haven’t baked scones for so long… They are so quick and easy and my colleagues are enjoying them right now.
The other request was for a recipe for beefburgers. Well, BBQ season is just around the corner and so this weekend I hope to be creating the “Titli MegaWoppaMac”. I wonder who will be the first to sue me? Probably McD. Hey, I’m just trying to do a McJob!
In one of my early blogs I mentioned the people who wander YouTube with the sole purpose of being offensive to people. I saw an uglier side of this phenomenon this week. There are channels out there which promote hate and intolerance of religions, races, genders, sexualities, indeed anything that doesn’t conform to their narrow view of the world. I had a message from one such channel this week, telling me “I was looking for trouble“ if I didn’t “stop promoting halal food which funds Islamic activities”. The message was in French, so I wrote back in English (just to annoy him) telling him to stop being so stupid. Then I added him to my list of blocked YouTubers. I love that feature on YouTube!
25th June 2010
This week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of nights in Cairo. Not only was it nice to get out of the office, but it was a welcome break to go somewhere hot after the rubbish summer we have had here so far.The most convenient (and cheapest) way to get from Geneva to Cairo is the daily direct flight on Egyptair. I first flew Egyptair about 2 years ago when the financial crisis started. The plane smelled like a toilet and looked as though it needed a really good CLEAN. The cabin crew were rude and would insist on waking you up to give you what they insisted was food. There was more taste in the plastic wrapping than its contents.
Over the last 2 years I have seen an impressive transformation. The planes are clean and modern, the staff are more friendly and the food on the flight was quite acceptable. I enjoyed a rather nice piece of poached salmon on the way out, and some breaded chicken on the way back. The accompanying vegetables were nicely cooked and well seasoned. Not gourmet food, but reasonable airline food.
So, Egyptair, I shall no longer refer to you as “ToiletAir” and I congratulate you on the vast improvements you have made in the last two years. Well done.
Apart from the climate, there are two things I always enjoy whenever I visit Cairo and my colleague Samah knows me well enough by now that she always looks after my needs. The first “indulgence” is my one and only vice in this world. I had some very pleasant apple-flavoured shisha in a café shortly after landing. It was a warm evening (35°C) so we sat outside and watched the wildlife come and go. The young women were watching the men, and the men didn’t know which way to turn – the football on the big-screen TV had to compete with the women wearing mini-skirts. I’m used to seeing women scantily-clad in parts of Istanbul, but not Cairo. Even Samah was a little surprised!
My second “indulgence” is the food, and the food at the Abou El Sid restaurant in Cairo is always superb. We skipped lunch, forcing me to survive most of the day on Nescafe, and at 4pm Samah, Miram, Hend and myself ventured forth from the office. Cairo traffic is always an experience, especially as a front-seat passenger. There are few rules, if any, when driving in Cairo. Put simply, the objective is to get from A to B as quickly as you can without being hit by another car. At times the difference between collision and progress can be measured in millimetres and as a passenger you rely on the artistry of your driver to get you to your destination. Samah is a good driver, but still my heart missed a few beats during the journey…
A few hours later my stomach was groaning from delicious fried aubergines with garlic, spicy cheese dip, Egyptian bread, stuffed vine leaves, spicy oriental sausages, and a delightful veal and artichoke “stew”. A light mint-and-lemon shisha rounded off the meal nicely.
Maybe I should move to Cairo…
When my YouTube subscriber count was in the 900’s something strange started to happen. It happened again in the 1900’s, and now again in the 2900’s. Significant numbers of people start to unsubscribe! WHY??? It’s as though they subscribe, see my subscriber count then decide I have too many subscribers.
So keen observers may have noticed that my subscriber count has been hidden for the last week. The exodus has halted. People are undoubtedly the most curious creatures on this planet!