The Creep and The Creepy Clown

We lost three girls.

This can’t simply be a casual error. An empty headed misplacement.

They vanished. A thin air disappearance. Sort of. We know vaguely where they are. All in different places.

At this point, maybe you’re thinking: Car boot, basement dungeon, under the patio. Incorrect! Ha! You and your suspicious minds. We run a supper club, we’re not serial killers. James does look creepy in photographs and I don’t look too dissimilar to a creepy clown just after he’s removed his creepy-clown makeup, red skin and weepy eyes BUT we spent our time prepping food, driving up and down Holloway Road, drinking wine in the kitchen and listening to Action Bronson rap about lamb legs and Bibb lettuce. We didn’t have the time to be vamooshing girls. We had ice cream to make, podcasts to listen to, goat curd to drain, sourdough to toast, ‘crafternoons’ to craft and a cute but damn annoying hound to walk endlessly around a patch of grass in a desperate and usually futile attempt to make the dumb canine urinate.

Maybe we had an accomplice or two? Ah, that’s what you’re thinking is it? The Creep and the Creepy Clown needed help did they? We did. We needed a scruffy, handsome, sockless dude with more ongoing relationships than a bacteria microbe in a dustbin. We needed this woolly jumpered, ripped jean lothario with a penchant for biting. Not to bite the girls! Stop with your degenerate thoughts damnit. We needed this dude to make nice when I was sulking in the kitchen, to heft boxes of plates up from the basement, to serve cocktails and carry plates. We didn’t need him to do anything more nefarious than grin when people were rude, smile when James and I bickered, and wash up without complaint.

Wash up PLATES! Not clear any crime scene! We haven’t killed anyone! Jesus.

Others were involved. Two wives. They are alive! You can check if you don’t believe me. Two wives; one supportive of a weekly vanishing act up to London. The other supportive of a creepy-clown faced dude invading her home on a weekly basis. You’d like these wives. They are suspicious, just like you. Their suspicions don’t lie in murder and corpse disposal however. They suspect homoeroticism, forbidden lust, stubble-on-stubble tongue kissing. You’d like these wives. They are just like you in that THEY ARE WRONG!

The Creep and the Creepy-Clown have never kissed. Never held hands, maybe hugged once (which was weird), never felt stirrings of anything except for a mild nausea when a)The Creepy Clown suggested ‘roasted yeast’ as an ingredient and b) When the Creep made Neneh Cherry’s cornbread recipe for some still unfathomable reason.

We share a creepiness sure, but more than that we share a friendship. James is Northern (urgh) I am a son of the South. He listens to Radio 4 while I listen to puerile podcasts. I chew gum much to his distaste (Shout out to Mr Ramsden senior!). I want to put more burnt things on the menu while he wants to put more of his grandmother’s things on the menu. He calls “Nutmeg!” , I call “Szechuan pepper!”. It doesn’t matter. The Creep invited the Creepy-Clown in. Picked him for the team.

Am I awesome? Yip. I am damn awesome. I cook badass food. I’m your first pick for the team. But, what matters is that the creep didn’t have to pick me. He could have carried on with his supper club. Busting out some lamb shoulders, some cold-ass soup, Granny Ramsden’s Nutmeg and Greengage Posset, Neneh Cherry’s cornbread. Dude writes books, knows people. He didn’t have to ask me on his team.

I’ve cooked a bunch of cool food, learnt a hell of a lot, maybe shared a bit of what I know, drank a bunch of red wine, watched a lot of ‘It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’, wrecked a few pans, and eaten more fucking goat curd than any other dude on the planet other than James.

I’ve also, to wrap this up in a sickly ‘ole pile of schmaltz, made a friend. Which for a miserable, aging, bitter old creepy bastard like me, is weird.

This whole supper club ballyhoo has been awesome, tiring, interesting, stupid, frustrating and all that other nonsense. What comes next will be the same. Here’s hoping it’s as badass as this has been.

Thank you kindly to anyone who came down and enjoyed it. A raised middle finger and a “Fuck you! Ya foamfaces!” to anyone who didn’t… and an apology. I’m polite and guilt-ridden like that. We’re here ’til the end of July. Book a spot and come get it while ye can. We’re doing nowt but good stuff ’til the end. No yeast, no nutmeg.

See you at the place.

Love

Sam

PS- Oh yeah, those girls. The three girls who have rocked front of house with Hugh during my tenure, Flora jumped ship and moved to South America. Sophie quit and moved to Melbourne. Hannah has gone to India*. Three girls who seemingly hated the Larder so much they vanished to the furthest corners of the globe. Weird. I hope we weren’t too creepy. Thank you all, ah miss yis, especially my sister Soph. *We haven’t finished yet, Hannah’s going after we’re done but I wanted the neat circularity of all three of the girls going far away so I could bust out the whole ‘hilarious’ murdering girls schtick.

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No medical Gyllenhaal

“Thank you all from the pit of my burning nauseous stomach”

So said Kurt Cobain unto idiots in black hoodies and tatty Converse who probably dug Stone Temple Pilots hard.

There are few if any similarities between me and Kurt Cobain. Much as my mother may beg to differ, I was never The Voice of a GenerationTM. My wife can be pretty punchy but no Courtney is she. I reckon I made a couple of good records but none of ‘em were ‘In Utero’.

The one thing I had in common with the bloke, the thread between my childhood hero and I, is our horrific painful guts.

For as long as I can remember my stomach just doesn’t play fair. It’s always been a sucker punching, vicious, sadistic, bile-spitting, stone cold nasty bastard. On bad days, a mere sip of water could unleash such tidal waves of hissing pain that I would double over like a pensioner walking in a hurricane. On better days it was merely an irritant griping away to itself.

There was never any understandable reason for it. I stopped smoking, the Gut-Lord rained fire down. I laid off the booze; napalm belly. I put down the bread and the grains like someone in a half-remembered Bible tale; Satan himself toasted his pitchfork in my foul bowels.

I accepted that much as I am expected to cart around this weird red and round face, these guts were mine for keeps. I necked Rennies like I was trying to build a scale model of the Cliffs Of Dover in my stomach and did my best to ignore it.

Then I ate some fish.

That night I awoke with Davy Jones trying to escape his locker via my throat. A briny bile felt like it was streaming from my mouth, out through my eyes and nose. A horrendous paradoxical torrent of sea and flame had me hanging over the edge of the bed crying like a baby.

“It’s Davy Jones! He’s choking me!” I croaked to my dozing wife.

“The Monkee? What?” Replied my uncomprehending bride.

“The devil pirate!”

I swear this was my first explanation. The fictitious sailor’s own devil, the ghost of Jonah was trying to kill me as I slept. As I finally caught my breath, a less ridiculous mind prevailed. I would finally go and see the Doc.

The Doc looked at my tramp chic attire and asked if I was on drugs and/or an alky. Then, looking disapprovingly at my weird red and round face, if I ate a lot of fast-food. I informed him that no drugs, some booze and only the finest culinary masterpieces passed my lips, and the very occasional McChicken Sandwich.

He gave me a mail-order breath-test pack. In the box were two tubes I had to blow into having just drunk a glass of orange juice. I would post it off and the results would tell me whether or not I had a “Scorpion” living in my tummy.

“What do you mean ‘a scorpion’?” I asked.

He drew a crude image of a human with a scorpion lurking in the body. The scorpion filled the entire chest cavity. I rifled my brain for holidays to dangerous locations where this terrible parasite could have set up shop in me. I had never been to the Amazon, or any other alien infested jungle-style shithole. If I had been in ‘Predator‘ I would have been far more terrified of the spiders and the scorpions than the dreadlocked bug-faced loony with the laser.

No way I got a poisonous passenger in Dorset. Axminster is full of dead people and River Cottage tourists looking for Nettle Soup and home baked lentil bread.

“It’s a good illustration” Doc said.

I wasn’t convinced that imagery, poetic license and dumb sketches of abominable bugs had any place in sensible medical diagnostics. All this metaphor fun was explained by the Doc as representing an “amour-plated” virus which “cannot be destroyed” but can be controlled with some tablets taken daily.

I was fed up with the drawing which lay malignant and mean between us on his desk and freaked out by the way he was talking like a movie trailer voiceover. I did like the sound of these magic pills though. He wrote a prescription and handed me the breath tubes.

I did the test and sent it off. No scorpion. Sweet deal.

I took a magic pill every day and for the first time in twenty years, no gut hell. I ate a fish; no Davy Jones. I gulped a tall glass of orange juice; no rolling boil.

The pills were life changing. I’m not over stating “My Suffering”. In the long list of awful afflictions people have to put up with, mine was super-minor I know. It did suck though and the tablets kicked it to the kerb.

I ran out of tablets so went back for a re-up.

Different Doc said he didn’t want to re-prescribe without me having an endoscopy.

“I did the breath-test thing already though. There’s no scorpion!” I pleaded.

“Scorpion? You do not take illegal drugs no?” Doc Two said.

I didn’t bother to argue. He was determined I get a camera down my neck. By his stern look I assumed that he assumed they would see a big pile of smack and acid festering down there.

In conversation, my father-in-law seemed to think that down the throat was much better than up the arse. I didn’t really want to get into a discussion with my father-in-law about the relative merits of anything up any arse but I did ponder on it. I didn’t want to come out in strong support of things up my arse in front of my father-in-law especially as he was so anti things up the arse. In pondering I decided that arse was actually preferable to throat. People put stuff up their arse for fun, no one puts anything all the way down their throats for fun. Excepting sword swallowers, who are basically circus folk, so basically high-end jugglers, so basically idiots. Arse was not on the table though, it was all throat. I was to be medical Lovelace not medical Gyllenhaal from ‘Brokeback Mountain’. I wasn’t going to explain my thinking to my father-in-law. Some things are better left unsaid.

I waited for my turn on the choking camera game. Me and a bunch of old dudes. I was the coolest dude there. Rarely is this true in a room full of anyone. I was called into an office. The lady asked whether I wanted to be knocked out or just have a local anesthetic. I manned up and called local. She said the procedure wasn’t that bad. She’d had three herself. Three of this nonsense and I would definitely have begged for something up the arse, just for varieties sake. She said they would spray the back of my throat with a numbing spray that tasted of hot bananas and then get to it. I signed away my throat virginity and prepared to get done.

I fucking loathe bananas. There is little I don’t eat, but monkey meals are it. Grim yellow bastards. The nurse sprayed my throat with the hot banana tincture. Hot banana bile flavour roasting my adenoids. I nearly threw up and I was close to tears in seconds. Chimp treats are bad enough but this gaggy bile sauce made the flavour the most foul I have ever tasted. Then I’m lying on my side and it feels like there is a golf ball stuck in my neck. Then this sinister black hose is getting uncoiled and its in my mouth and the other nurse is telling me to relax and breathe. I would imagine every person at this point in the game is thinking:

“YOU TRY FUCKING BREATHING WITH A RUBBER ANACONDA DOWN YOUR THROAT!”

They start telling me to swallow but I can’t feel my throat so I’m just trying to remember how. With all that numbing, it’s like someone has snipped the wires of communication between your brain and your muscles. The numbing spray is River Phoenix and Robert Redford and my swallowing mechanics are bald Ben Kingsley and the whole scene is the awesome flick ‘Sneakers’ but with throats and guts and entirely unawesome.

I think I’m swallowing loads but actually I’m just drooling banana gob all over my face and over the pillow. I’ve never wanted something up my arse more.

So I’m lying there, dying. Then this prodding starts up at the lowest depths of my guts. It is followed by an instant bloat where I imagine my stomach as a gut-skin hot-air balloon straining against it’s tethers in some crappy Terry Gilliam flick. A blimp of veiny translucent gut flesh chafing against rough twine ropes. You know what I mean.

I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink for eight hours before this nonsense so they have to inflate my wizened stomach with a burst of air to get a good look at the scorpion or the drug stash.

The black hose’s terrible work is done. The nurse pulls out with all the grace and care of a client at the climax of a hooker visit. On the computer screen the thumbnail photos look like old glass slides of heinous disease cultures.

“Nothing there. All fine. Just take what you’ve been taking”

“No scorpion?”

“What?”

I stagger out into the bright white light of the waiting room. The waiting crowd all turn to look. My eyes are bright red and teary. There is yellow dribble down my jawline. They all start calling for the nurse.

“Knock me out!”

“Please knock me out”

I have to wait an hour for the numbing to wear off before I can drink anything. If you go too early, you can just pour whatever you are drinking directly into your lungs. I take a tiny sip of water, eyes shut, terrified I’m about to drown in a kitchen.

As the water slips down I look out the window into the garden and I’m sure I see the pond at my father in law’s house ripple. The wind isn’t blowing, there are no fish to disturb the surface…..it’s him!

“Davy Jones!” I shout.

“I love the Monkees!” Says my father in law.

 

 

 

Clownshoes

Pesto is fucking clownshoes.

The first time I ate it, the green slop baffled me. There was pasta. There was this pesto. It tasted like floral bile. As if I had gone munchies in a flower shop and then heaved into a bowl of fusilli. Chomped through a wreath, some hospital bunches, one of those modern arrangements with banana leaf fronds and weird bamboo twirls; then puked.

I’m told everyone loves the stuff. There is jar after jar of this trash in the supermarket. There is recipe after recipe in magazines, upon The Information Superhighway, in books. Pesto recipes: Mama’s, Nonna’s, Tuscan’s, Sicilian’s, Red Injun’s, My Mate Kev The Gasman’s Pukka Pesto Gut Explosion.

Pesto is fucking clownshoes.

Pesto varietals: Rocket, four cheese, six cheese, dead nettle, crow leg, cow ball.

Pesto sucks.

My recipe for pesto is as follows:

PESTO:

INGREDIENTS:

You

A bridge

1- Jump off bridge.

2- Be dead.

Another thing which is/was clownshoes is/was the pop group, The Beautiful South. For a few years, a few years ago, every other song I heard was by them. Paul Heaton and that lady from ‘Birds Of A Feather’ crooned these strange songs at one another while dressed as Etam or Millets-The Hiking Specialists mannequins. The more I ponder on The Beautiful South, the weirder they appear. I do not know what genre of music they were. A strange slow paced ballady thing. I think of them as sort of droning but not in any art-rock sense. I think they sounded like the slow lowing of a British cow in a shopping centre carpark outside a ringroad somewhere North, somewhere shit.

They were just too odd to make up. Why name a song ‘Rotterdam’? What is missing in the human evolutionary journey to nudge a mind in the direction of a song named ‘Rotterdam’? Rotterdam. A punk song maybe. A gurning ranting screech over tin drums and an out of tune twenty quid guitar. ‘Rotterdam‘ by Das Brickshit or ‘Rotterdam‘ by Ein Wormlung Army.

RO’ER, RO’ER, RO’ER, RO’ER, RO’ERDAAAAAMMMM!

RO’ER, RO’ER, RO’ER, RO’ER, RO’ERDAAAAAMMMM!

ROTTAH DAM IS SHIT! DICKS!

Instead the lady from ‘Birds Of A Feather’ spends the song confusing Rotterdam with Liverpool or Rome and want’s to be at home, or thinks that she is alone, and loses her phone, and applies for a loan and probably digs in the loam, with the new HandyHike Multitool she got for free as part of the Millets/Beautiful South commercial opportunity link-up situation they had.

There are drums playing but they don’t do anything. Nothing does anything. Guitars are there because I’ve seen the guitarist’s fleece. Paul Heaton is there being all National Treasure (according to idiot music journalists who love lineage, and kitchen sink dramatists and Gruff Northern Poets) with his hands in his pockets and a wry aside for the insanely huge crowds they pulled to their ‘shows’. They weren’t playing to sheep, they were playing to fleeces. A gently swaying sea of Marks and Spencers fleeces. Always the slow lowing of a Friesian by a B & Q in some grey hinterland between England and Hell.

Only in this country could The Beautiful South be fucking vast. Our staple band. The most British band ever. Only in this greyscale Tescos of a country could they fill arenas full of us: nylon, tupperware, commercial radio, driveways and garden centre cafe gossips, all of us.

We’re all fucking clownshoes.

There is no snobbery here. Yes this does all read like an upper-middle class howitzer of sneer scorching the earth north of Lahndan. Indeed I type this from a Mac, in West Sussex. I use words like ‘indeed’. I’m as bad though. I’m probably worse. I just can’t leave these people alone can I? I cannot live and let live. I have to spit and gripe like a mouthy streetside bitter alky at everyone else’s enjoyment. So what if you want to kick back with some ‘B’South’. Why do retail parks irritate me? I use ‘em. I have emulsion needs on occasion. I have perused a trellis aisle in the rain and ummed and ahhed over a gravel choice. The late 1990s saw me bust out a solid Duffer of St George fleece performance. Garden centres; I’ve hit them up. Shrubbery and perennials, fat-balls for songbirds in winter and tins of boiled sweets from the counter, I have history. Indeed, I’m happy when I pour leftover casserole into a tupperware box to freeze and am secure in the knowledge that that lid ain’t leaking. Tupperware is a solid bit of kit. Indeed.

It’s staples which bug me. The consensus that this is what will happen, forever. It happens with food all the time. Staple dinners. Pesto.

Why is it such a staple?

“Aw, aw, aw. Aw kids just lohve pasto. Aw, aw, aw. We just lohve the clarsic pasto parsta”

Why? It tastes like gulch. Your children are idiots.

Risotto. It doesn’t matter which swanky rice you use. One for fish risotto, one for meat, one for vegetable. It’s all porridge. It ain’t ethereal, it’s not redolent of sweet Tuscany or the high plains of Milan, it’s Ready Brek with cheese in it. It can’t be ease of preparation that gives the stuff it’s high standing. The time and wrist hassle it takes to stir the motherfucker negates that angle. The vast history of Italian culinary endeavor, and we boil it down to boiled rice.

The only good risotto is made by my wife. It’s lush, but it’s only lush if you have it only say, twice a year. Any more than that and you are basically front row in the Hull Arena for a Beautiful South gig, wearing hiking boot/trainers and worrying that someone might break into your Ford saloon and nick your boiled sweets from the glove compartment.

The Only Risotto Ever Worth Eating: Serves 2 unless you have issues in which case cook two birds and go wild like Gloop at a birthday buffet.

INGREDIENTS:

A chicken and stuff to roast it with: Butter, carrots onion, garlic cloves, half a lemon, half a lemon

Half a bottle of cider

  1. Put lemon, garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs up the bird. Season fowl like you mean it.
  2. Butter the damn goose.
  3. Put in a tray on top of a few onions and carrots and a few more unpeeled garlic cloves
  4. Put it in the oven at about 200c for half and hour til it’s a bit brown then pour in the cider and give it another hour at 160c. I think that’s what I do. If I’m wrong, cook it til it won’t kill you dead.
  5. Take it out and rest the bird. Skim some, not all, the fat out of the tray and reduce the gravy til it looks like gravy. Strain it through a sieve and mash the vegetables as you go. This is gravy people, not jus so thick and bitty is the way.
  6. Eat roast chicken with stuff, potatoes and salad or whatever. Sunday lunch is crazy overrated.
  7. Don’t eat it all. Unless you are super greedy guts Happy Eaters, you will probably have all the leg meat and carcass meat left and a small pot of gravy. Let it cool and fridge that half gnawed beast until the next day.
  8. Get all the meat off the bones whilst singing ‘Dem Bones’ by Alice in Chains in your head and reserve. Throw the bones back in a hot oven until they are brown and smell like roast chicken again.
  9. Put the roasted bones in a pot of simmering chicken stock. Maybe another chopped carrot.
  10. Make a risotto with this bad ass chicken stock.*

*Find a risotto recipe someplace else y’all. I cannot do everything for you. The gist is: sweat onion, add rice, add wine and be annoyed you have to waste a glass of it into this bloody rice extravaganza, add liquid, stir for ages, get a tired wrist, get bored, add liquid, regret making it.

11.  When the rice is cooked (either all toothy and chalky or all mushy and sloppy, no one agrees how it should be done, no one, so just cook it however you want to eat it) stir in the leftover chicken gravy and its accompanying fat and throw a load of parmesan in too.

12.  Eat it. You can thank me later Clownshoes.

 

 

Welcome to the service industry, loser

A great opening sentence both in structure and in sense:

Apart from a bunch of the greatest songs ever written, balls to John Lennon.

Dude could write a song. I just listened to ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. Holds up like a rough lover of mothers.

At one point Lennon went deep into a grim badger sett of LSD usage in some addled attempt to kill his ego. Clearly he failed. Looking back at the ‘heady’, ‘earth-changing’, ‘bollocks’, of ‘The Sixties’; it seems like an arbitrary thing to want to kill. Why kill your own ego? Why not take down a villain? Murder a murderer? Or if it has to be something of yourself, why not slaughter a veruca? Assassinate your earlobe? Liquidate one’s pointless lurking appendix?

An ego is also a pretty amorphous thing. It’s not even a thing. It’s an idea, like communism, maths or Dream Lizards*

*I keep dreaming about scaly lizards with blood red tongues. It’s nothing weird, the background music in the dreams is always the theme from ‘Jurassic Park’. I‘ve read loads recently about the new ‘J-Park‘ movie that is: coming to a cinema near you in two years time when we finally write a script that doesn’t suck as hard as ‘The Lost World‘ did all the while pretending to Spielberg who’s name we need as exec producer or something, that ‘The Lost World’ did in fact not suck twelve thousand gallons of rear through a party straw.

P.S: ‘J-Park’. Sweet re-boot title idea. Jennifer Lopez is eaten by an angry lizard for not keeping it real enough. Laura Dern wears tan shorts and bores everyone. A hologram of Richard Attenborough is played by a CGI Oliver Reed. Jaden Smith dies and Jazzy Jeff gets lifted into the sky by a lizard bird from behind his decks as he spins some laid back grooves at a beach party on Isla Nublar (Where the actual Jurassic Park is).

My point is that John Lennon didn’t need to huff acid like a kid from the wrong side of the tracks huffs glue in a cautionary episode of ‘Grange Hill’ from the late Eighties, to kill his ego. He should have done what I did. Get a job in the service industry.

My early employment history consisted of hefting piles of fibrous itchy paper made in India from the guts of a roasting hot shipping container whilst being yelled at by a woman who didn’t wear deodorant: “For spiritual reasons”. I lasted a few days and then quit with paltry recompense and lungs filled with Mumbai dust and baobab bark threads.

I then got my first job in the service industry. A pizza chain popular with middle class families and idiots who would compare the chain’s menu with what they had chowed down on in Florence or Naples or some other dirty and rude Italian city. The chain’s menu invariably failed to hold a flickering Renaissance cathedral votive candle to the dough and tomato miracles they were used to.

At first they wouldn’t give me a waiter job. Much like I am now, I was surly and dirty looking. I was a kitchen porter. I washed dishes, bladed myself on a meat slicer, got locked in the walk in freezer and stunk of garlic butter and oregano. Also much like I am now, I was always hungry. When people didn’t finish what looked like a pretty good looking pizza, I would scan the dining room for the light eater in question. If they looked clean, with few communicable diseases, I may have taken a bite or two or stashed the leftovers on top of the steaming hot dishwasher hood to keep warm until later like some sort of foul and greedy human/squirrel hybrid. Allegedly.

After a few months chipping away at baked-on cheese and removing clods of sodden napkins from wine glasses I finally got a spot as a waiter.

I may have looked a bit grubby. I may indeed have had a bad attitude. I did however have some serious game. These people had money. Fat tips to hand over, that I wanted. I could do smarmy, funny and charming.

“Haw haw! Yes our waiter does look a little, feral, but look how he provides balloons for our darling children! See how he plays polite but enraptured by my wife’s haggard, Laura Ashley be-dressed beauty! Hear him regale us with his entirely fabricated knowledge of the pizzerias and vineyards of Northern Italy! Oh! Oh yes! Watch him provide refills of water (Tap, tap is fine!) without being asked! I shall pay on American Express! I call it ‘Amex’ because I am successful! I am considering taking him under my wing, this waiter, this lowly servant waiter. I shall train him in the ways of my world and lift him up by his scuffed shoes to a place of higher knowledge where us great winners, those of us who are monied and dripping with achievement, can afford to take our family to Pizza Express, weekly no less!”

I made a fortune from these cawing goons. These dreadful chinoed Chichester idiots who somehow missed the point of the place. Decent enough pizza at a pretty low price. PIzza Express is a notch above Pizza Hut. It’s the same place with thinner crusts, no salad buffet and less cheese-greased inbreeds. That is all it was. Somehow in Chichester, it became some weird beacon, homed in on by middle management egomaniacs who wanted to treat  the place like some hellish fiefdom. I was their Baldrick, their very own mangy lapdog bringing them disappointing pizza, incorrect salads, and superheated kids menu items to blister their children’s mouths, but charming and entertaining with it. So they coughed up the fat tips.

My friends and I took over the floor, carved up the prime table sections and made money. Any new waiters were cast aside to the low money Siberias of the tables by the door or in the window. No tips there. We took the money canyons of the garden in the summer and the big tables by the kitchen. We necked vodka and RedBulls behind the counter and sped around in a sweaty blur of ‘Waiter’s Arse’ (The painful chafing of sweaty arse and Next boxer-short beneath acrylic waiter trousers) and dough balls.

My next service industry job was at a marina bar one summer. A job in a marina bar suggested to me: Pimms, boat shoes, attractive rich women, maybe hot boat owning widows!, invites to parties onboard super-yachts, hefty Black Amex tips.

Not at this dump.

The marina in question was more like a boat wrecker’s yard. A few rusting, listing buckets, piles of oily ropes and stacks of leaking oil drums. The owner was the only dude with money. The ‘clientele’ looked like silver halide images of scurvy-ridden turn of the century seamen but dressed in sportswear. The bar soundtrack was not some smooth summer jazz compilation, gently caressed piano melodies mingling with the calming ring of boat lanyard wires. It was ‘Now 38’. Whigfield, Steps, Daniel Beddingfield, Black Lace blasting full volume, on a loop, all day. The bar did not contain a wide selection of spirits and fine wines from around the globe. There was warm frothy Carling lager or Smirnoff Ice. Everyone wanted at least one of each at all times. I was threatened, called ‘Gayboy’, ‘Captain Longhair’, ‘Oasis’ and ‘BlurBender’, every time another human error approached the bar. I lugged barrel after barrel of lager up to the pumps and soaked myself when the fucking tube wouldn’t attach properly. After a few days I began to see the appeal of the sunburnt, screeching women with bellies hanging over their bikinis and ciggie ash on their flipflops. I tried to bust some suave lines out. I thought of myself as Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’. I knew one of these boat-stunners would be keen. I was Tom damn Cruise!

“Anything extra with your four Smirnoff Ices?……..” A saucy but smooth smile……

“‘Ere Kev! This Oasis queer behind the bar is trying to get on these tits!”

I scuttled away to refill the lager barrel.

The other drawback to this watery pit was the food situation. Once again I was starving, always. The catering was provided by a ratty dude who looked like Freddie Mercury. He had halved an oil barrel with a acetylene cutter on my first day and propped it up on two wooden stands. God knows what had been in the barrel beforehand. He just threw some charcoal in it and sparked it up with a tossed Benson and Hedges. The thing shot a pillar of green flame twenty foot into the air and then belched a thick black smoke tower for the next four hours. He paid no mind to this and threw down some sausages immediately. My food allowance was a single hotdog per day, from seven thirty am until one am. They tasted of hull barnacle removal fluid and hell but that was all there was. The marina owner only allowed me one gratis per day so I had to ply Freddie Mercury with free Smirnoff Ices to get another of the sooty pigfingers. He was a creepy weirdo who hummed nursery rhymes to himself as he peered through the chemical smog at the cremated swinedigits.

Then I got a record deal and life was awesome.

Then we split up and I spent all my money in Greggs (See previous blogfest for the sordid shame of all that).

I needed a job.

I had no qualifications or sensible employment history.

Rocking the London Astoria hard and creating sweet, pricy, album artwork held little cache in the job market.

I got a job in a chain coffee shop.

I have a stupid coffee shop order. My go-to order is not super complex but it does have a couple of caveats. A few alterations are required to the menu offering. I’m not ashamed of it. It seems a strange aspect of one’s character to be mocked for. Usually the mocker tends to be someone who is themselves ‘into’ coffee. The mocker will enjoy grinding their own beans, buying the right beans, only drinking pure unadulterated coffee. They will mock the dude who buys a coffee of some other description, from a chain no less, as somehow dumb and without taste. This helpfully ignores the fact that their own coffee usually tastes like Nescafe cut with woodchippings and cat dung. Fuck ‘em. Yeah I roll with a grande four shot skinny mocha with two pumps, not three, of mocha syrup. I ain’t ashamed. That is honing! That is a pure distillation of the taste I’m looking for. I don’t want my flavour profile defined by a Puerto Rican farmer or a dude in a plaid shirt on a fixed-gear bike in Brooklyn.

Anyway, the big benefit of my new job was that I got free coffee and I could perfect my stupid order myself. The big drawback to my new job was that I was a grown-man, ex-semi semi semi successful musician, probably with too big an ego for what I had actually achieved in life, working in Starbucks.

Everyday I walked to work listening to song demos I had written. If it hadn’t have been so dramatic I probably would have wept as I walked. When I woke up in the morning I would sit up, put my feet on the floor and emit a sigh that could have moved mountains such was the sorrow and self-pity it contained.

My work mates were an odd mess of people. My boss was an insane Australian woman. She liked me and let me do what I wanted which was generally sitting on the roof chainsmoking, drinking free coffee and eating my fourth tuna melt panini thing of the day. I was hungry again, always. There was a fitness fanatic bloke their who I thought was probably a virgin such was his inner rage. One day he tried to throttle me for some reason. I think because I had longer hair than he did. And a penis unshrunk by retardation of the pituitary gland. A girl with the voice of a cartoon character was super nice. A dude who was blindly, happily signing up for the army, was good fun to hang out with. There was a lovely Japanese woman who talked to me in halting English about all things Japanese, especially ramen and the japanese countryside.

They were all fine, minus the gym-gimp. Then they started Googling me. Then the friendly faces became slightly sad looking. That I had ended up here having rocked the London Astoria hard. I was slinging lattes instead of creating awesome, pricy, album artwork. I was heating up fruit toast and asking: “Jam? Strawberry or apricot?” instead of bowling around on tourbuses.

It got worse on the few occasions when someone who had been a fan of the band caught sight of me.

“Um…er….Are you Sam?”

“Er….yeah. I guess”

“Oh right…Cool…Yeah, so are you still doing music then? Or….”

“Er. No. Not anymore.”

“Oh right…yeah. Cool. Okay.”

“Tall, skinny latte with an extra shot?”

“Er…Yeah. That’s mine. Thanks.”

“Thanks”

“I just wanted to say..um. I really loved ‘The Lost Riots’.”

“Great. Thanks a lot. Okay. Bye.”

Then I died.

I can’t think of another word to begin with so I will go with:

Whatever.

I had bills to pay and a new baby so whatever. I sucked it up, chugged the free coffee, hid when anyone I knew came in. I was rude to people who were rude to me. Woman with curly hair who complained every single day, hell has a sweet and toasty spot waiting, with hellish bells upon it for you. Crazy bearded dude who dribbled on the counter and asked the time every few minutes. You are mental I know, but you are still fucking irritating. Schoolkids ordering fifty frappuccinos at a time, I loathe every single one of you and you all smell of pencils, manmade fibres and of arse, human arse. I genuinely don’t know how teachers can teach, school kids actually smell really bad.

Whatever. It paid the bills and reminded me how badly people treat waiters, servers, baristas.

Maybe it was me, in all of these jobs. Maybe I always looked like I felt I was better than the job. I didn’t, at all, not the first job or the last one. As Jay says in some Kevin Smith movie:

“You know we gots to get paid!”

Maybe my big fat face just annoys people. It annoys me too.

Let’s wrap up in a sickly puddle of cliche and fake truisms about ‘life’ and ‘around the next corner’, ‘learning experiences’, ‘regrets’. Let’s get sage and wise with some ‘journey’, some ‘honest’. I’ll throw some ‘do what you have to do’ in there, a little bit more ‘regret’.

Whatever. Be nice.

The Unfathomable Depths Of Sadness in a Lonely Greggs in Holloway (Mouthful)

I used to be in a band.

That’s my line. That’s what I say when anyone asks me what I do now.

“What do you do?”

“I used to be in a band”

“Oh really? What band?”

“You wouldn’t have heard of us”

“Oh”

Even though I’m the one who implied that they wouldn’t have heard of us, I’m still annoyed and ego bruised that they don’t know WHO I AM. So I come out swinging.

“It was a proper band though. Signed to Sony. Two albums. Toured the world”

“Oh”

Then I feel embarrassed, and fatter than I used to be.

You may not have heard my band or seen a show. We sold few albums. If you can find any of our music online and it moves you enough to hunt down a record, good luck. The remaining stock of our two albums was burnt in a warehouse fire caused by rioting Londoners in 2011. Seriously, you couldn’t make up how cursed we were.

So, the music doesn’t live on. The memories of what I ate around the world as an unsuccessful touring musician do though. Here are the tour-dates. Tickets still available, unfortunately. I blame the promoter, the weather, religious holidays, sporting events, the record label. Why can’t I shift these tickets?

ANYWHERE IN ENGLAND- REHEARSAL ROOM:

A classic rehearsal menu of ingredients purchased in a petrol station:

-Crisp varietals from childhood: Pickled Onion Monster Munch, Cheeseburger Quarterbacks, Frazzles.

-Sweets, chewy things that stick in tooth crevices. Gum burning holdouts like hick survivalists in bunkers, with rifles. But sweets.

-Peperami, a terrible spicy cured sausage probably made from rubber and dead gutter pigeons.

-A packaged baked item created by Ginsters: Steak Slice, Chicken Slice, Ham and Cheese Slice*. Served cold. Also Ginsters Buffet Bar; coleslaw incased in mechanically recovered sausage meat incased in insanely over-peppered breadcrumbs. Strangest food item I can think of. The technique involved to create it, impressive. The taste, less so.

*A witty/heartbreaking aside concerning slices for y’all. When the band split up I spent six months watching my bank account dwindle while sitting in a horrible flat in Holloway. Every morning I got up, walked to Greggs and bought a Chicken Slice for breakfast. I ate it while sat on a sofa with a digital piano across my lap trying to write songs. At lunchtime I walked backed to Greggs and purchased a Steak Slice. I ate it while sat on a sofa with a digital piano across my lap trying to write songs. I waited for my flatmate to finish work and come home. When I heard his key in the lock, (Human contact other than the counter staff at Greggs!) I leapt to my feet and plied him with vodka tonics, expansively prepared meals and long winded lies about all the great new songs I had written that day. I hid the Greggs packets deep in the bin.

BARCELONA, SPAIN:

We are going to sign a record deal. Our silly dream of signing a real record deal, of recording albums and touring the world, is actually going to happen. We need to celebrate and they’ve flown out to try and sweet talk us even though we’ve already probably decided. The least they can do is buy dinner. Plates of jamon, room-temperature fat melting on our lips. Grilled langoustines, razor-clams, bright red salt flecked prawns. Our manager is crunching through the shells and bellowing for more Albarino.

“Ice-cold! Like Arctic fucking cold!”

There is nothing heroic and working class about us. Not all bands are the same. We are fat and greedy and happy. We have reached a goal and we want to celebrate it. We are greedy but we are grateful. The table is dusted with cigarette ash, shells and spills of sauce. Someone is predicting great success.

The next time I come to Spain, I look for this place. I search up and down the alleys but don’t find it again.

LONDON, ENGLAND- ‘THE ASTORIA’ VENUE:

Pre-show nerves mean that the only food to be eaten is picked at from the rider. Band at the height of their popularity means this rider:

Four pack of dip- Sour cream, salsa, guacamole, blue cheese. Tex-Mex themed dip platter all of which tastes like melted plastic and all of which coats your mouth like axle grease.

Houmous- Texture of road salt post-thaw. Flavour of old garlic and road salt.

Pringles- Always Pringles. Once you pop you cannot, indeed, stop. This leads to unwanted dip consumption, greasemouth, salt burn.

Aged carrot- Not ‘aged’, old. Wilting. Curiously dry, almost lacy edges. Smells and tastes of bubblewrap.

Alcohol- Jack Daniels bottle half drunk neat then refilled with semi-flat cola. Indigestion and early onset liver failure.

MESQUITE, NEVADA- A LOW-END CASINO:

Breakfast is a buffet. Everything is a buffet here. There is a buffet for lunch and dinner. A buffet for losing money. A buffet of crystal meth out behind the trash bins. A buffet of weird sort of ‘snaky’ looking hookers in acidwash denim and lipsores.

The breakfast is strange bacon. Thin, crackly red stuff that breaks like overcooked meringue but with the flavour of nothing but stainless steel and old oil. A pure distillation of the flavour of gun barrels. There are strange eggs. They are white and pools of yellow in a sliceable mass. Melon. I am unsure why.

I’m also unsure why the driver of our tourbus has parked us here for three days between shows. The soundtrack is modern country music and gambling hillbillies calling us ‘faggots’. I wish we were in LA.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA- THE HOUSE OF BLUES:

The last night of the tour. As pasty Englishmen there is only one meal choice: American! We want to eat the Land Of Hope And Glory and drink Bud and know what the Mason-Dixon line is. John Kerry is delivering a stilted wooden beatdown to Bush Jr on the presidential debates and we are filling up on cheap gasoline, Pepperidge Farm cookies and the Sunset Strip.

Isn’t this the place where John Belushi died? Didn’t he choke on this sugary wing ‘n rib combo? Onion rings? We’ll take fifty four, stacked up to the ceiling like some terrible obelisk to artery death and deep-fried aortas. Burgers. We had In-N-Out yesterday. These are not burgers. Why do we live in such a woeful country with no In-N-Out? You can take the old buildings, all of our damn trees and all our florid history and in return we would like a single In-N-Out. We need some new menu terminology though. English people are way too uptight and buttoned to ask for anything ‘Animal-Style’.

Afterwards we stagger to a rodeo themed frat-bar. Our manager is flung from an animatronic bucking bronco and his flying legs break a girl’s nose. We drink watery margaritas and try and avoid being beaten up by the bleeding girl’s frat-boy boyfriend. There is ‘cue sauce on my shirt and sorority girl blood on my shoes.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK- LES HALLES:

Yeah I read ‘Kitchen Confidential’. I’m sold on the rock and roll debauchery and carnage of a kitchen. I’m thinking it sounds far more fun than the reality of being in my band. It turns out that our shows are filled with geeks who want to talk about guitar effects-pedals or weird gothy girls who want me to sign their well thumbed copies of the fucking ‘Bell Jar’. There is no sex, few drugs and we have a violinist in our band so rock and roll is thin on the ground too.

We expense account a big dinner in Les Halles and it’s great. Rossini burgers, awesome frites, choucroute, some pickled fish. Someone’s eating belly pork, everyone’s drinking heavy French red wine and the waiter will not shut up about taking us out to see some Venezuelan prostitutes. Thanks but no thanks Timmy Tips.

OMAHA, NEBRASKA- RED LOBSTER:

We are in a carpark in the middle of nowhere. Dining options are Red Lobster or IHOP. Neither is currently known to us. I take a risky punt on Red Lobster.

Parrot-Isle Jumbo Shrimp or Walt’s Shrimp? Both in high-vis jacket orange breadcrumbs. Who is Walt? He is a nasty bastard with a palate fashioned from rotting wood if these ‘shrimp’ belonged to him. Where did he store them? In a bin full of rat corpses? Under his scrotum before heading out on a long motorcycle ride across a desert?

Where is Parrot-Isle? Bhopal? A few yards from Reactor Two at Chernobyl?

The taste of these things is the flavour equivalent of being forced to watch snuff movies and that Nine Inch Nails video where everything dies, time-lapse rotting foxes and mouldy meat.

The others come back from IHOP and we loll, bloated, around the tourbus slagging off Americans and fast food. Someone throws up and we feel smug and English. We cleverly forget just how awful food back home usually is, especially in carparks. In an English carpark the only things to eat would likely be discarded shopping trollies, old condoms and dirty needles.

TOKYO- RAMEN:

Cliche after cliche. Jet-lag, wonder, neon, harajuku girls, neon, efficiency, weird porn, tricked out toilets, feeling like the Beatles even though your band are nobodies. We gather the courage to push through a steamed up door and sit at a counter lined with bowl-hunched businessmen, kids with huge headphones on, a woman wearing white gloves. We point at what the bloke next to us is having.

This doesn’t exist back home. This paradoxical broth of heavy delicious flavour but utter lightness simultaneously. The slices of pork, bean sprouts, nori, noodles slurped along with everyone else. English reserve forgotten over a bowl that steam mists our foreheads. After a flight, exhaustion, strange interviews, utter disorientation, probably the most satisfying thing I’ve ever eaten.

TOKYO- SHABU SHABU:

The woman from the label is suspicious of me. I’ve told her that we love food. I told her that we want to eat whatever she eats. We are not like the band who were here last. That idiot band who brought their own idiotic food from home. Suitcases full of baked beans and Marmite. We are different. Fearless, interested and eager like just re-homed rescue puppies.

She takes us for dip-dip. It’s okay. Oh it’s the place from ‘Lost In Translation’. Ha Ha! That menu! All the dishes look identical! Ha Ha! Silly gaijin! Ha Ha!

The next night, dip-dip. Seriously, we are keen. We want to try everything. We do. Come on! Help us out, show us the real stuff.

“So tonight Hope Of The States, we are going…..FOR DIP DIP! Yeah! You know the ‘Lost In Translation’? You know it? Yeah! DIP DIP!”

“We are familiar with both the film and the shabu-shabu restaurant in said movie but please God. No more fucking dip-dip!”

TOKYO- KOREAN BBQ:

She finally believes me. I told her about the ramen place. She doesn’t believe we went in and ordered, and ate. She takes us six-stories up to a place she goes sometimes with her husband. We all kneel uncomfortably around a table with grill smoldering down the middle. They start bringing platters of meat, fish, shellfish, vegetables. There are fat mushrooms which taste of age and meat. There are spicy coils of some sort of skin which crackles and burns your tongue. They keep bringing food and we keep grilling. We’re drinking warm sake and icy beers and outside it’s raining on the set of ‘Bladerunner’. I’ve never felt further from home and been happier.

NEWPORT, WALES- RESIDENTIAL RECORDING STUDIO:

Studio food is identical across the country; gargantuan portions of something baked. Pasta bakes, tuna bakes, mince bakes, baked potato bakes are all regular offerings. Alongside these one dish monstrosities of molten cheese and dirty oven stench will sit an undressed, and usually untouched, mound of tired wilted salad. Clumsily hacked shards of raw onion bring a continental flair to the greenery.

The studio cook will always offer a pudding post meal, also baked, also vast. As your stomach is by now distended so far you look like a snake, post-buffalo take down, the dessert remains uneaten.

Helpfully, the cook will place mountains of whatever fruity cement they have concocted in individual bowls, top with cheap ice cream and leave them in a row on the table for later. At two in morning, ravenous with hunger, you will heartily down a bowl of curdled, separating ice-cream over midge spotted crumble mix and an oddly oil flecked compote. Through your booze and cigarette destroyed taste buds, the only flavour you can detect is that of cow blood from ice-cream drowned mosquitos, expiring in the sweet gruel.

REHEARSAL ROOM REDUX:

I’m back in the rehearsal room. I’m eating the same things. They still taste the same. I’m having the same conversations I had in rehearsal rooms when I was thirteen. Now I’m thirty. I should be eating new, adult, crisp flavours. Kettle Chips! I know about food now so why am I eating another Peperami? I am genuinely shocked that there is still a market for the Ginsters Buffet Bar and still unsure of how they make it.

It’s the only place I still drink cans of fizzy drink. It’s the only place where I have my own packet of sweets instead of stealing from my children.

I can’t believe I’m still here and still eating all this crap. Now the sugar and carbs hang about my bones for longer. The creep of middle age, laying heavy across my gut, over my shoulders, a fat cloak. My teeth like old boots, more patch than leather. The caffeine will keep me up past eleven, too late when I have to take the kids to school, wake up in the night with the baby. The sugar makes me moody. The salt intake needs monitoring. Indigestion always.

I haven’t even got a record deal anymore and all the albums I didn’t sell caught fire.

 

 

 

Bad back

When I was a kid I broke my nose. I fell from the top of a helter-skelter on an army base playground and landed nose first. When I say “fell” I mean I was pushed, by a dude. When I say “dude” I mean a kid with some sort of spinal disease.

I was trying to get into the little elf house at the top of the helter-skelter where you sat down to get going on the slide. This kid wouldn’t move and let me in the elf house. I figured I’ll clamber around the dude. He had his torso in some sort of blue medical armour thing and his head faced at a funny angle so I thought he wouldn’t be able to stop me but also I couldn’t punch him or push him to shift him because, you know, he was poorly or ill or somesuch.

I started trying to climb around the outside of him and he started yelling at me. Calling me names I don’t recall and getting pretty flustered. He didn’t even want to get in the elf house himself. He just didn’t want me to get on that slide. The dude was suffering from something but still that didn’t make him the king of this elf tower. As my foot swung around him he starts properly screaming at me and bits of his ill spit are hitting me. I smell medicine and feel a bit sickly, then I look down and the rubber tarmac stuff looks pretty far below all of a sudden. Then he fucking shoves me off.

I’m sure time froze. Suspended in the air somehow and I just glared at the spinal dude in shock. Even as I fell, as I tried in vain to angle some way other than face-first, I was pretty embarrassed that that kid, in his medical spinal armour, in his condition, had properly done me.

Boom! My nose just smears across my face. I start up wailing and there is blood gushing out of my face. Over my siren screams I can hear old BackAttack laughing it up. My mum comes running over, looking a bit annoyed that I interrupted her chat with her friend. She picks me up and I start bawling about how the cripple kid just pushed me off and she starts telling me off for saying “cripple” and she’s making excuses for the bastard and saying that he’s got learning difficulties and I might have frightened him! Seriously, my nose looks like mince and Ma is blaming ME for scaring the psycho into pushing me from the top of a helter-skelter. I’m livid and looking for the kid’s helper or whatever to step in and apologize or at least belt the kid one but there’s only a creepy looking old git in a tracksuit smoking by the playground gate paying no attention to his vicious back-troubled charge. I’m in agony and I’m furious with everyone and it only gets worse.

At the hospital they hit me up with plenty of painkillers so I’m in some sort of Calpol haze when Ma gets me dressed for my second playdate of the day. I’m supposed to be going to my best friend Thomas’ house. His sister has a Curiosity Killed The Cat poster and he has a sweet garden with a fort we built in it. I’m dozy and my face stings but I’m still super keen for the playdate. In my drugged up stupor, Ma totally stitches me up.

A few weeks prior to this nose disaster she’d bought me this terrible green tracksuit from like M and S or somewhere not a cool shop like Fosters or Benetton. It was super baggy, silly bright green and worst of all it had a gross navy blue zip up polo neck on it. It was the shittest tracksuit ever and I had flat out refused to wear it. I had even balled it up at the back of my drawer along with some pajamas I had wet one night and been too embarrassed to tell Ma about. I never expected to see the thing again.

As we waited at Thomas’ front door for his mum to answer, my neck itched. I was still floating around somewhere on the kid drugs but now the colour in which I had been incased, came into focus. Green! My mother had taken advantage of my condition to dress me in the woeful green tracksuit with the grim navy blue zip up polo neck! She’d even zipped the fucking thing up! To the top! Thomas’ mum opens the door and she looks shocked at my dry blooded and bandaged face. Thomas looks shocked, not at my face, but at how dreadful my outfit is. I get that Ma had to change me out of my sweet McClaren F1 teeshirt and lemon yellow Tottenham Hotspur FC away-kit shorts, they were covered in blood and gravel. I understand I needed to change. But to this? That was blatantly stitching me up, getting at least one use out of the green M and S trackie. I was too tired and in pain to yell at her there and I was already super embarrassed that she had no doubt located the hidden pee jammies. I’d had one. I spent my time at Thomas’ house that day rubbing against anything that would stain or rip the damn thing. I came home covered in blood (my nose kept bleeding), creosote, grass, moss, mud and I even sprayed the arms with a can of WD40 we nicked from the shed. I got in trouble for the tracksuit but Ma didn’t go mental about it and she didn’t mention the pajamas which was cool. I still think she blames me for the run-in with the poorly kid though. She told me to be grateful that I could walk and she was quoting the Dalai Lama: “All that is asked of us is that we be kind to one another” even though I had to walk around with a smashed-to-bits nose, in a fucking vile trackie. It was a bad day.

In much the same way that I was forced to wear a bad getup by the actions of others, I have been forced to eat badly by the actions of others. By “others” I mean my wife. By “actions” I mean actions that I did. By “badly” I actually mean, differently, with less coriander and chillies than usual. By “In much the same way” I mean “Yes I am genuinely seguing from the tale of a childhood run-in with a spinal disease afflicted dude on a helter-skelter and a terrible green trackie my mum made me wear, to some food talk”.

My “action” was the poisoning of my wife. This was an accident. Even though I cooked them, because raw ones basically condemn her to the gastro equivalent of twelve hours of stomach punches by Tyson, it turns out that spring onions and my wife go together like me and cheekbones. She was in agony.*

*She will want it on record that the spring onions caused her PAIN and nothing else. There were no other grim symptoms whatsoever. Now it seems like I’m over-protesting on her behalf, I’m not! This is the truth y’all.

This sucked because it meant I had to do everything family-style for days instead of rolling around writing funnybook blogzillas like this one. Her pain caused me a shed load of hassle. I had to become Father Of The Year, husband most extraordinary, a no-blogging legend of the household. I was basically a solid gold hero. A Man Legend. Even though it was an accident, I’d cooked the damn things. I definitely did not want to get the blame for my poor wife’s suffering. I tried to avert attention from dinner to lunch, that she’d had at her mum’s! Ha! Surely it was something there? Maybe “a bug that’s going around”? No dice. When it comes to catching me doing things wrong, my wife is fucking Lassie. She sniffed out the truth within hours. Spring onions! She glared at me like I had actually tried to take her out Russian Government poisoning style.*

*Please don’t kill me Putin. Roman?

To make amends, I have been forced to change my cooking style. Out with my usual spicy Asian Szechuan hipster fatty nonsense and in with plainer food. More simple food? No, I can still render our kitchen as downtown Nagasaki if a fridge had exploded instead of an atom bomb. Quicker food? Nope, I can still take four hours over the cooking. Nicer food? Nah, it’s not my world this butter and potato and rosemary planet. My food is trying to be ‘Bladerunner’ and Raiden from ‘Mortal Kombat’ and this stuff is all period drama Keira Knightly and Mr Darcy britches or something.

It’s okay though. This is what we had last night. It was pretty good. The gist of it comes from the Joe Beef cookbook which is one of the greatest books, let alone cookbooks, in the history of me buying cookbooks. You should get it.

Skirt Steak with Epoisses, Escargot Butter fries, a salad of stuff

Skirt steak-Enough for two people. I eat twice or thrice what my wife does. Maybe you are in some sort of three way marriage thing? Buy more polygamist carnivore! You eat with your kids? Good on you, the middle class dream is being lived! Buy more. I do not know how much meat you want to eat.

A few sprigs of rosemary and thyme-I said “sprigs” not DVD boxsets of ‘Rosemary and Thyme”. Ha Ha! What wit. I’ve never seen it. I don’t even know what it is to be honest. Is it a cop show in the Yorkshire Dales? Ha Ha Ha. Shut up.

A load of garlic-sliced

Salt/Pepper

Olive oil

-Take the steak out of the fridge an age before you want to cook it. Cold steak is stupid and you are stupid for trying to cook it.

-Marinade the meat in all them boring herbs for as long as you have. A few days would be awesome, but who has a few days? Add ludicrous amounts of garlic if you don’t have much time or else you may as well not bother with it at all.

-Heat a heavy as hell pan till super hot. Brush all the nonsense off the steak and brown on both sides. When it’s got some proper brown on it (Maillard reaction caramelization, not heroin) throw it in a 220c oven until a thermometer says, 63 in the middle. Take it out and rest it and it will drift up to the early seventies which is medium ish. According to my dumb thermometer anyway. Overcooked skirt steak tastes like overcooked skirts, if we’re talking heavy leather Roman Centurion dude war-skirts.

Escargot Butter:

It’s just a garlic butter that you could put on snails or you can be a playa and put it on fries like this.

Half a pack of unsalted butter-room temp

Half a bunch of parsley-How big is your bunch? I do not care but mine is about as big as Terry Waite’s beard.

Four or five large cloves of garlic-sliced*

Splash of Pernod-I didn’t have any so I used Ouzo, which was weird, but sort of worked.

Few drops of Tabasco

Salt/Pepper

*I cooked the slices until lightly browned in butter. Raw garlic is nearly as dangerous to my wife as spring onion.

Blend in a food processor until a solid lump of Snail Butter forms. Then toss it through hot fries or oven chips until it melts and makes your house smell like a crappy French bistro.

Epoisses Cheese:

This cheese stinks like death and trench foot but it tastes awesome. Buy 100g for two people, throw a bit of olive oil on it and soften it up in the oven until it is melty and properly hums. Spoon some on the steak, dip yr snail chips in it.

Now your kitchen smells like a crappy French bistro in which someone died, ages ago.

A salad of stuff:

I cannot give a salad recipe. It’s green stuff in a bowl. I know I know, Ah sweet vinaigrette! Ah gentle mache! Kindly romaine and piquant olive of truth! Whatever. I put blanched green beans in a bowl with little gem, rocket, chopped almonds, maybe capers, I don’t recall. I made a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Then I mixed it up, and we ate it.

Do not plan for intimacy afterwards. This is not a meal of romance. You smell like snails and dead feet. If you get tappin’ after this, yr gross, or in love. I dunno.

‘Til next time y’all. Beware the afflicted on helter-skelters yeah?

Sweet technique

Just trust me okay. Just go with it. It all makes sense, sort of, eventually.*

*Brilliant. I’ve opened with what seem to be the words of a child-snatcher or a date-rapist. Well played Sam. This is exactly how one gets a book deal or a TV show.

catcher

The path to success

Food is not the new rock. Where they bump together is a weird place. Especially now. I saw one of Pavement’s final shows before they split up the first time. I stood amid a crunching wash of dropped plastic beer cups and watched them wrap it all up. Malkmus looked a bit stern. Ibold looked a bit sad. The next time I saw Malkmus, he was playing a guitar solo of technique and precision. The next time I saw Ibold he was grinning out from the ‘Momofuku’ cookbook. He looked a lot happier then. Malkmus still looks a bit stern. But listen to that technique!

I have no technique. In music; this is a good thing usually. When writing music, the guitarist with the technique, the million mile an hour fingers, the specced up super-laminate-human-bone fretted Clapton signature model hand carved from Hobbit oak strung with Rapunzel’s hair strings. That dude, you know the one. He is always the one to avoid. The smell of warm amp, guitarshop hell, ‘Smoke On The Water’, leather clothing other than belt or shoes, something sort of lute-like to him. Wood, varnish, FastFret string lubricant. That man (it is a man, women are generally far too intelligent to spend that much time with an inanimate object) cannot and will not ever write a decent song. It’s all that technique. It’s all that awful ‘ability’ hanging around his neck like an albatross shaped anchor formed of heavy pig iron. That terrible affliction of ‘skill‘ has rendered his songwriting imbecilic. He creates music with all the subtlety of a trepanned stadium rave group, on bad drugs. His flawless aptitude will infect and poison every bar of every song. It will creep between the notes, minute pauses seemingly offering respite from the foul aural disasterpiece instead fill like drowning lungs with more, more woe and more catastrophic musical horror.

I was never a great singer, some described me as ‘tone deaf’, ‘utterly useless’ and once, most hurtfully, in a national newspaper no less, as ‘a podgy Paul McCartney’.

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The Podgy Macca

I spent most of my guitar playing moments bleeding from a skinned knuckle or gashed fingertip. If you look in the sound-hole of any of my guitars, it looks like a cute wooden abattoir for mice or other wooden hole dwelling mammals, blood spray up the walls. My piano playing carried a definite sense of school-hymn time, bang, bang, bang. Use one finger on the left hand and never play more than ten notes a minute on the right. Little Richard on slowing tape, a quarter-speed concerto, in syrup, on downers.

This big ‘ole pile of inability served me well. It meant I wrote some great songs. My parents and my wife still tell me how great some of them were. They do.

My lack of technique in the kitchen is less of an asset. I may dream of perfectly executed dishes. I may actually use terms such as ‘executed’ instead of the less twattish ‘cooked’ or ‘made’. I may strive for flawless plates but then I also try to not have a face like an tomato rotting on an old greenhouse shelf, red and brown and sort of foully overripe.

Copyright © 2010 Michael Michaelsen photomichael@bigfoot.com 775-304-0445

Me

I don’t mean to dress like a photofit of a creepy 1970’s Geography teacher (WANTED! Last seen in a rusting Austin Allegro near Carlisle! Bearded! Bastard! Pervert!)

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Rollin’ in Carlisle

and I’m not trying to write sentences with around five hundred words in them; but dreams don’t come true. My plates are riven with faults because of my lack of technique. My face looks like le tomate de mort avec le merde noir, I am banned from the Greater Carlisle area and this sentence is highly likely to last longer than the tube journey I took once where I had to escort an old bloke with no tongue, one eye, an incontinent dog and a loudly racist |(but fortunately largely indecipherable due to his lack of tongue) manner across London to attend a War Veteran’s convention or expo or I don’t know Club-meet, while dressed as a WW1 frontline trench medic, because it made the old bastard feel safer or something from the hordes of youths he was convinced were out to mug him on every London street corner.*

*Surreal man. I am the Walrus. He is the Eggman.

samIAmTheWalrus

Sam am the Walrus, Sam am the Eggman

I am a paisley shirt in the Haight. And none of this is true whatsoever, man. I just needed a really long sentence and I thought, you know, let it flow brother. Lets just ride the vibe yeah? Let’s just let the word-wave wash over the page beach yeah? Let no editor snap that high, that freedom high, down to the cold ground man. Sweet wordy vibe-high sister. Nod that head and breathe in the mellow stream of Ginsberg and kaftan Yogi Joss stick and Joss Stone solar solstice runescape mind-bell teepee peace love, yeah? 

Cooking is different. Decent kitchens may hum to silence or rattle loud to LCD Soundsystem, Pavement, maybe Arcade Fire if they are properly hip and knowing, and a bit miserable. They let the dude from LCD cook noodles in their kitchen. They turn up the Stones if they are blase and shrugging-cool. They throw some Father John Misty on, some MF Doom, maybe some Godspeed You! Black Emperor if they are really doomy and they are serving some gross bloody pile of offal on a barbed-wire plate. These are who the coolio chefs are aligning themselves with.*

*Not Coolio, the rapper turned chef. He is aligned only with his own insane ego. His cookbook, ‘Cookin’ With Coolio’ is required reading for people missing a cerebral cortex or sentient thought. If your mind has been wizened and palsied by crack cocaine you too can whip up some Karate Meat: “Not ‘cos it’s got an Asian kick to it, but because it will beat you up like a pigeon in prison”. Or maybe you want to learn his tips and techniques. “Having the right utensils is a good start, but then you gotta show them who’s the boss up in this bitch”.

At this juncture, this moment in the message, this position in the parable; I need to level with y’all. I have sort of lost a grip on whatever my point was going to be. I know it was something to do with comparing technique in food to technique in music because people (some people, not many but some at least) keep saying that food is the new rock and roll etc and blah and etc. I was thinking that the having or not having of technique is what separates them and makes them utterly different. So this grand idea, this monumental thought, was going to be strung out like all of these bloggenhaus are; with some self-hatred, some funny funny gags, probably some hilarious images plucked from the internet, a few references to my wife, some to Eighties TV shows or films, and then I was going to wrap it all up with some gross recipe I have ‘come up with’ (Read; stolen from somewhere obscure enough that no one will bother to A) Cook it and B) Catch me thieving). Ever since that weird ride into the surreal a few paragraphs ago, I can’t seem to recapture my point. The grand idea seems patently obvious and clearly self-evident. This all feels like standing in front of McDonalds and informing passersby that: “They sell burgers in there”. Or like standing in front of me and informing passersby that: “This could be a drunk David Baddiel probably just a sickly tramp though”.

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Baddiel and Skinner

The monumental thought has now crumbled into a tiny desiccated mess of this, this meta-rambling. This circular drivel. I am looking for the exit. Okay, deep breaths people. 

This is ‘The Poseidon Adventure now’. This blog has become a listing ship. The surreal bit was the large lady with the brown stockings and the runny eye makeup who looked like the ‘Murder She Wrote’ lady but a bit inflated. DO NOT FOLLOW HER! She is a lemming. This way is up now! She’s leading the Reverend and Professor Plum to the Library! There is nothing but seawater and death there. Follow me. I am the gargoyle faced dude in the white vest and braces who is a bit misogynist and looks like he has a large stash of fifties porn on slides and microfilm.

THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE

Ernest Borgnine in ‘The Poseidon Adventure’

Let’s try this way. 

Chefs always call for the louche and unimpressed musicians. Never, ever, the earnest technique afflicted lot. Never that hobbity dude from Muse. Never Vai, or Satriani and definitely not the dude from Extreme who now plays with Rihanna and makes all her songs sound like Extreme b-sides.

Obviously there is a need for technique that doesn’t exist in music. If you can bash a guitar ‘interestingly’ thats good enough for the band. Bashing a knife around in an ‘interesting’ fashion is going to lose you a finger or at least a few pints of your dumb blood. However does flawless, perfect technique always lead to perfect flawless food or does the technical pin the creative down WWF-style? Yokozuna blubber-crushing Ultimate Warrior until his wild, freedom-fighting steroid enhanced magic expires rib-bust and wheezing on the mat of the squared circle. “Tell ‘em Mean Gene…”

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The Ultimate Warrior

Is there a point at which having too much technique will chain your food to a hotel banqueting group? To a one star Michelin drudge in The City? A restaurant with carpet? A place with moody black and white photographs of shells, fucking shells, on the walls? If I stepped into that kitchen, the dude would paste me over the walls with his technique but is there a chance, a slim possibility, that I could beat him on scrappily gathered, plucky as hell, excited hands-down flavour? I know a kitchen isn’t a stage or a studio but where maybe there is a crossing point is there, at just deliciousness. His bisque is all proper and flavour extracted and shell-crushed and flambéed with brandy and garnished just so. My SOUP is heavy and spicy and full of stuff and topped with a handful of torn herbs and there’s big hunks of I dunno, sea animal!, ocean beast!, floating in it’s murky red depths. Who wins? He is Emerson Lake and Palmer and I’m Crosby Stills Nash and Young, drunk and on piles of loopy coke. Actually I’m just Young, the others seemed to have too much technique for my liking, especially Crosby.

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Crosby Stills Nash and Me

I have no conclusion. I may have led you from the depths of the capsized SS Poseidon (Yes, I’m still playing this game. Jesus.) to safety but I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t expect anyone will leave any comments. It’s awful quiet round these parts (Yes, I’ve now turned into a melancholy farmer in a black and white movie for no sensible reason I can fathom)

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Awful quiet

but I dunno. I don’t know what the technique/creativity answer is. David Chang is sad that the great military-style bootcamp hell kitchens of yore are vanishing like culinary Brigadoons into a wispy mist of nostalgia and lost tradition. Now it’s a bunch of job switchers and mouthy kids with Korean soybean pastes and cold smokers manning restaurants. But whose food do you want to eat? Escoffier schooled divs in paper toques? Tattooed egomaniac dude-food idiots in Converse and trucker caps? I dunno. Don’t ask me, I just work here. (Yes, the farmer is now a sullen barman or mechanic).

mechanic

New career?

A final ‘Yes’, I have indeed written this entire thing with barely a clue. I hope I have at least entertained a little along this wild ride, man.