Things ending in 'olly'

Ho, ho, ho. Or so it goes. Clinically obese, he gorges on sherry and mince pies, whilst being chauffeured around by his host of reindeer. He doesn't even make the bloody presents! Those elves need to form a union, take industrial action. I bet he stops off at McDonalds on his trip around the world, after all, McDonald's employees are people too. I'm sure the fat man tries hard to lose weight, but then he is an anthropomorphic personifaction, given shape by the belief we have in his appeareance. Poor bloke doesn't really stand much chance in losing much weight does he?

What is it with Christmas adverts? I must have seen the same ad for Lockets three times within an hour today. My New Year's resolution is to never buy Lockets again. Christmas adverts in general are sickeningly kitsch, so covered in syrup that it amazes me that anyone can even consider buying that product. The marketing power that comes with Christmas is so great that even the image of Santa (have you ever noticed that Santa is an anagram of Satan?) is corporately whored by megacorps such as Coca-Cola. These images become so subconsciously ingrained into our psyche that we never even realise it's happened. It's the ultimate subliminal marketing strategy. If someone were to ask me what the first image that comes into my head when the word Christmas is mentioned, and it would be that of a Coca-Cola advert. Either the Polar bears drinking coke, or the legion of gas guzzling, environment choking, trucks, dutifully delivering thousands of litres of the sugar infested drink to small children everywhere. It wouldn't be Christmas without Coke.

Bring on New Year.


He's her lobster!

Learnt a bit about lobsters yesterday. They are not my favourite crustacean, crabs win that one, but nevertheless they are pretty tasty! Walking around the local produce market yesterday, I stopped by the shellfish stall and the fisherman behind it was talking about how old one particular lobster was. I always thought it was about 10 years per lb, and this lobster was around 1 3/4lbs, around 14/5 years old apparently. We were then treated to an overview of exactly how a lobster grows from being an egg desperatly clutching to its mother's tail, to eventually star in a Beastie Boys music video.

Apparently a female lobster will hold around 40,000 eggs until they hatch, all originally black in colour. The main difference between a male and female lobster is the protecting ridges that run down the tail of the lobster. These triangular shaped ridges, higher on females than males, protect the eggs as they are clustered along the underside of the lobster's tail. Once the time to hatch arrives, the eggs will turn a reddy-brown colour, if caught at this time it is not unusual for fisherman to throw the lobster back in order to let the eggs hatch.

Once born, the miniscule hatchlings will visciously fight each other for survival in a true survival of the fittest battle. There is around a 23 per cent initial survival rate for the small lobsters, and once the first few days of fighting are over they will settle under sea bed, or under rocks, filter feeding as they slowly begin to grow. Lobster younger than five years old are rarely found in pots, if they are then it is usually due to some fluke of tide that they managed to find themselves caught. Of course fishing law states that undesized lobsters need to be put back if they are under 87mm.

Lobster can be cooked and eaten in a variety of different ways, but I think my favourite is possibly just a bit of lobster in a roll with some salad. Proper job. Supposedly the eggs can be used to mix with sauces, and the fisherman I was talking to said that he sometimes grabs the eggs and puts them in his cheese and pickle sandwiches when he's out on the water, though I think he was joking with that comment!

“If you work on a lobster boat, sneaking up behind someone and pinching him is probably a joke that gets old real fast.”


June in December

Ok, so this is the last post I do on food for a while, but this is mainly so that I remember the name of a little delicacy that I ate yesterday afternoon. Dolma, or dolmades, are a small snack food that are wrapped in a grape leaf. They can contain meat, or pretty much anything, but the ones that I have always had mostly consisted of rice inside. Usually I'm at Uni on a Tuesday, but yesterday I was able to drop into town because we only had tutorials instead of lectures. The main reason was to see my girlfriend for lunch, but I ended up with the extra bonus of seeing these lovely grape leaf parcels for sale on a stall at the farmer's market.

I've had dolmades twice before, the last time was when I was helping a friend do some building, and his wife came back from the recently opened Deli with many small tubs of fine food - one of which contained a couple of dolmades. My first time was at Glastonbury 2005, and my god they tasted like the best thing I had ever eaten. It had been so hot on the Thursday, this was before the torrential downpour on Friday, and I remember we were all trying not too move too much in order to reduce sweating. Along came a lovely old fella who had a basket full of goodies. On closer inspection we saw these little green things, and the dude recommended them, he said we would find them very refreshing. I think he gave us one for free so we could taste it, and upon doing so I think we all bought two or three each. He wasn't wrong! They are coated in olive oil, and contained rice, pine nuts and other herbs (nothing illegal I don't think), and were an instant refreshment in the stagnant summer heat. We never saw him again, but if so I would have definitely bought some more.

So I was very happy to find out, after 18 months, what they were actually called. Actually, after I bought a tub I had only walked 400 yards before forgetting what they were called again - thank the Gods for Google! It was a lovely moment finding these at the farmer's market, on a stall full of what looked like incredibly tasty types of Mediterranean food. They all looked good, but it was the dolmades that I wanted. It made me realise just how excellent farmer's markets can be. They give an opportunity for local food producers to showcase and sell their food, on a scale and marketability that they can't always afford. What I liked about this stand though, was that it was taking locally sourced food, but creating food that is culturally different to our own. I love trying as many varied types of food as I can, and I was pleased to able to revisit that hot afternoon in Pilton in a single bit of a dolmade.

If you fancy trying them yourself and can't find anywhere that sells them, here's a tasty recipe. Making dolmades


The greatest thing

I wonder why certain fish love bread? Mullet like bread, so do trout, but is it any particular type of bread? Do they only go for wholemeal, or are they more fond of naan; do coeliac fish exist? Ducks are also partial to a bit of bread, and there are kids up and down the land who have probably fed ducks at some point in their past. Bread appears to be enjoyed by many different species, but in recent years it has been slowly pushed away by many people, usually those on some pseudo scientific diet, cooked up by some woman who claims to be a doctor, yet has never received any accredited qualification.

I really like bread, all types, and especially the different spreads that you can put on it - except marmite! The history of bread probably dates back to around Neolithic times, and many early civilisation such as the Sumerians would have eaten bread as part of their diet. There are historical reports of the Gauls skimming the foam off the top of fermenting beer to use to make lighter type of bread, and other ancient civilisations reportedly used a wine bed method to create yeast for leavening bread.

It's important to expand the view that bread extends well beyond that of the loaf. There are the obvious variations of rolls, baguettes and bagels. But the basic recipe for bread extends to the making of pizzas, tortillas, pretzels and many more delicious eateries. I don't think I would ever voluntarily stop eating bread, and I feel bad for those people who can't actually eat due to medical conditions. How can you even begin to resist the smell of freshly baked bread, especially if you bang a couple of bit of bacon in too with some pepper and brown sauce.

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to the kitchen...