Author Archives: nick

Aldi’s ‘Traditional’ Values? (Warning this post may contain traces of ‘Imazalil’)

Traditional Orangery?Traditional Orangery?

I must take issue with supermarket group Herr Aldi & Co, the (“it’s amazing how much I saved”) toast of all Perfect Shire dinner parties these days; despite the perfectly passable quality of the clementines, therein, this “traditional grocer’s box” bears no resemblance to the pale and splintery stapled wooden ‘slatted’ boxes which characterised such fruit and veg sellers’ receptacles of yore.

Aldi's 'traditional' Christmas 'Orange' Day Parade?Aldi’s ‘traditional’ Christmas ‘Orange’ Day Parade?

Indeed, I would go so far as to say that far from being ‘traditional’, this is a very ‘modern’ form of packaging indeed, based on compressed mdf-like material, perhaps even with the hint of hygenic ‘wipe clean’ plasticisers added for good measure, but poor authenticity?

My traditional Christmas (or ‘Festive’, as per the label on the box) now ruined. Bah humbug Aldi!!!

clementine 2 of 2 20151129_132933

May contain traditional values and ‘Imazaliil’ [sic] wax? Presumably non-connection to potential carcinogen ‘Imazalil

See also The Guardian’s 2006 “Survey points to unsafe levels of pesticide residues in food” and an interesting 2015 (United States) alert site – ‘Food Sentry‘ – documenting regular Imazalil contamination. There’s also a routine Daily Mail ‘shock horror’ type story from 2012 which mentions Imazalil and other fungicides, too.

The Martian: “In space, no one can hear you yawn…”?

Interested in growing potatoes in space? Then this is definitely the film for you.

...baked, chipped, fries, Dauphinoise...?…baked, chipped, fries, Dauphinoise…? The range of potato-based action on Mars is endless…

“You’re shitting me?” I hear you say. No, seriously; over much of The Martian‘s 134 minutes running time, Matt Damon shows us how high-tech human composting techniques can contribute not just to modern space potato growing techniques, but also Ridley Scott’s latest Hollywood space opera script. The film — based on a book by Andy Weir — comes over as a silly re-telling of the Defoe’s ‘Robinson Crusoe‘ (without the TV-version’s lush and romantic soundtrack and poignancy), managing to underwhelm and disappoint in equal measure.

In space no one can hear you yawn?

In space no one can hear you yawn?

It also lacks any warning that it contains explicit and repeated scenes of a technical nature. Think ‘The A-Team’s’ “torque-wrenches-and-bombs-can-overcome-all” vibe (but with weaker humour), rescripted by the producers of sci-tech educational programme ‘Mythbusters‘.

It is striking that Zemeckis’  Cast Away‘, whilst overlong, still manages to make us concerned about the fate of marooned Tom Hanks. In ‘The Martian’, however, do we really care about what happens to Damon or any of the other characters? Indeed, even the potatoes, for much of this film, manage to push the actors into the wings.  “In space no one can hear you scream”. Nor yawn, in this case?

A disappointing film and the second time since ‘Prometheus‘ that Ridley Scott has failed to breath life into a space opera. Come on man it’s *not* rocket science…!

An emphatic Soviet-era space programme ‘niet’ from me, though apparently popular amongst critics and punters alike on Rotten Tomatoes.

matt-damon-potato farmer ‘No shitting?’ – Matt Damon explains how human composting can contribute to both modern space potato growing needs and Ridley Scott space opera scripts.

“‘Bring him home” screams the Martian’s logline:


‘Bring him home?’ Better still ‘Go home’?

My response: maybe don’t bother?,

One positive for fellow correspondents in Winchester – I rather liked the new Everyman Cinema layout. Not least as the new sofas now provide the opportunity for taking 40 winks during such movies…

sofa-erage of a kind similar to that now available at the Everyman Winchester

..sofa-age of a kind similar to that now available at the Everyman Winchester


Continue reading

BBC’s The Kitchen… #thekitchen

“Think Googlebox – yeah – but.., with the TV replaced by an oven?… ”
“Mmmm, by Jove, you might be on to something… ”

“Do you like pheasant, Cresidda? What? No, mother has to wear a leather hat when she makes gin… what, well, it’s about authenticity…”

Omelette Arnold Bennett trumped by ‘s Omelettes Alan Bennett…?

…Mozarella eating, leather hat wearing, Mongolian holidaying, ennui’d tribes of London fail to see Benefits Street parallels?

Blanc Brasserie: McDonald’s for the Middle Classes?

I have nothing against Raymond Blanc as a man; he is a fine, passionate chef; he clearly loves his mum, he doesn’t have a silly hair cut to televisually define him (although the accent helps), and I dare say he is kind to animals – apart from those gastropods and mammals whose life expectancy is shortened by the fine diners at the Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons .
Raymond Blanc learning the secrets of supersized Garlic from Maman

Raymond Blanc learning the secrets of supersized Garlic from Maman

Indeed, he appears to be that rarity – a Frenchmen I would like to count as a friend – despite his web biography featuring the rather chillingly tautologous lines:Strangely it was the love of people that brought Raymond into restaurants, he arrived in England, in 1972,…By an act of serendipity the Head Chef took ill and Raymond took over the mantle.

My question is what on earth possessed him to get into the branding biz with ‘Brasserie Blanc’? – a kind of McDonalds for the middle classes? True there is a market here, as the denizens of our perfect shires try to recapture the perfect moments of this year’s French holiday by force feeding Harry and Harriet cassoulet (a foodie envelope to disguise their shameful secret that, rather than moules the kids actually prefer beans on toast for tea).
The half-way house that is a brasserie – between cafe and restaurant, should be an ideal playground for us, CBT-wise, to cope with the stress of putting food into our mouths in public.  (Odd that in our perfect shires from Bristol, Cheltenham, Bedfordshire, Oxfordshire, Hampshire and beyond, we have no such reservation about magicking it back up at pub closing time).  But this is the ‘idea’ of a brasserie, managed by scallop counting financial directors and brand agency folk who think a chalky menu, red leatherette seats and a pot of dijon cuts the mustard.
Would you like fries - I mean frites - with that? Blanc Brasserie, coming to a Perfectshire near you soon...?

Would you like fries - I mean frites - with that? Blanc Brasserie, coming to a Perfectshire near you soon...?

Like perfectshires themselves, this place has become a parody of what it should represent; “I know” – the agency man says “let’s take some publicity shots, you know a bit Facebook like with some nice Mrs Bosomy-type yummy mum’s having a well-earned break from pilates, and-yes-go-on-I-will have the 175cl glass of wine…”, mix it up with some black-and-white pics of pig trotters (“which of course we’d never serve!”), some sizzling meat for the men, and a food porn pic of a chocolate tart (a sort of foodie replacement for sex toys?), and then watch the demographically targeted punters of perfectshire literally lap it all up.

But in reality there is as much portion control, and as little love seasoning the dishes as your average fast food restaurant – whilst being equally calorific. Even ‘pricing’ set in a reassuringly expensive way to make one feel that it has been a ‘good meal’ and indeed must be better than any cheaper alternative.

I am all for Maman Blanc’s miscellany of salads (“Cucumbers and dill, celeriac salad, cherry tomato and shallot,fennel and coriander, Russian salad of summer vegetables, carrots vinaigrette”); not only is it impressively Scrabble-high-scoring, and more poetic than Andrew Motion’s motions, but probably more literate than most of Brasserie Blancs staff, press ganged in from the local sixth form college to try and pass muster as careerist French waiters. Note to branding agency – some ironic toothpicks & long apron-clad staff do not a waiter make. I really love popping into local eateries for a glass of something nice from Limoux – though being told “that bottle’s open already been opened we’ll use it up first” is discouraging. But what I hate most is the faux ness of it all – there’s no heart, there’s no love, there’s no passion which is why – in many ways, the formula works, reflecting as it does the lack of heart that is dining in perfectshire.