One perfectly offsetting the other

I went for a run yesterday morning, then in the afternoon made my regular annual purchase of new running shoes. I’m trying Nike’s Air Structure Triaxthis year.

Yesterday evening we also got together with the Neighbours for some food and drink, which resulted in me consuming an immense amount of barbequed sea bass and potato salad.

It’s all about balance.

On the plus side, we’ve located a pretty good fishmonger quite close to us. You can chuck a whole sea bass on the barbeque and cook it as-is, which really couldn’t be easier.

Blog comments (nearly) becoming reality

I’m a big fan of Marmite. I know that makes me a rare creature, learning t enjoy the stuff at 32, but that’s what happened. Now I love it. It should also be noted that I’m the only one in my household that does.

Longtime readers of the Plummet Onions may recall that early last year I purchased some limited-run Guinness Marmite, and that I said it was very tasty. Those posts generated some comments, one of which came from the lovely and insightful Miss B, who said, “Whatever next…Peanut Butter with champagne?”

Well, you were close, B. Behold: Champagne Marmite (click to enlarge and read the label).

Because I’m the only lover of Marmite in the house, I had to gift it to myself. It’s delicious. And it really does have a touch of champagne flavour.

I’m Melting

Once again, my good friends at Qype are taking care of those of us who are obsessively populating their website with reviews. Last night about a dozen of us were invited to a chocolate-tasting event in Notting Hill at a life-altering little shop called Melt.

It was, in a word, amazing.

Now I like chocolate as much as the next guy, but I don’t consider myself a chocoholic (that is, I don’t like it as much as the next girl). But this was something special. Master Chocolatier Keith Hurdman was there to give us a demonstration of how chocolate is made; how the Swiss, Belgian and French schools differ; samples of different chocolate types; and a demonstration of how truffles are made.

It was informative. We ate a lot of chocolate. Not actually all that much volume-wise, but it was so rich and luxurious that it was really filling and satisfying. We were there about 90 minutes, and Hurdman made it a light, fun, delicious experience. I was stunned to learn that it took him seven years of apprenticeship in Switzerland to become a Master Chocolatier. And then he did three years of art school as well.

We all bought something, in addition to what we’d eaten and the gift bag we were given. I’d recommend Melt to anyone who likes an affordable luxury, and the private booking experience to anyone looking for an unusual group event.

Right now, I feel like I never want to eat a Mars bar again.

What should you eat?

I’ve just finished reading a book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-Food World. It’s an interesting read for anyone interested in food production, especially in the US and Canada. It asks a good question: if you can eat anything, what should you eat?

The book is divided into three sections, in each of which authour Michael Pollan investigates what’s involved in creating and eating a different type of meal. The first feast is a drive-through McDonald’s meal for his family. The second comes from organic farms. The final meal is one he hunts and gathers himself. The background behind each meal provides dozens of compelling stories.

For the fast food meal, Pollan describes the chain of mass-produced food in America and how so much of it relies on corn: from high-fructose corn syrup to “nutraceutical” derivatives to feed for cattle and chicken and pigs, there’s some element of corn in nearly half of everything North Americans eat. He also explains the history and lobbying reasons why this is so (and not so in other parts of the world), as well as the amount of oil used in creating fertilizers.

In the organic section, Pollan looks at how “organic” has changed meaning with its popularity, and much of what now bears that label has additives and – because it needs to be distributed in the “regular” food distribution system – is still unsustainable because of the oil required for packaging and shipping. He does eat a meal from a dedicated true-local organic farm, though.

The hunting and gathering section is the most personal, as Pollan describes learning to hunt wild pigs in northern California, and the trials and tribulations of identifying mushrooms that are safe to eat.

Pollan is a journalist, not a nutritionist or scientist. His approach works well, because he’s thorough, and likes peeling back layers of things. In the end, he admits that while we’d all have a much better relationship with, and understanding of, nature if we hunted and gathered our own food that’s a pretty unsustainable idea in today’s world. Similarly, he thinks the high-sugar, high-fat, mass-industry mainstream food business is just as unsustainable, from a health and resource point of view; and, he worries that large industrial organic isn’t much better.

He lets the quality of the meal at the end of each section illuminate his views on what the perfect meal is. As for as solutions, he suggests that buying locally and asking questions of the meat and vegetable producers is the best idea (which is really only possible when you buy locally).

Pie-eyed

I met up with you.know.who, aka Impish Scribe, today for the first time in a long time. We decided to hit one of those great British institutions: the pie and mash shop.

Down Tower Bridge Road we found one of Manze’s legendary shops. It was really something. Some very busy ladies slinging some tasty, locally-made dishes at an eager queue of eastenders (and us). They don’t do much here – just pie, mash, and eels – so they do it right. We each had a pie and mash, and shared a bowl of stewed eels. The eels were okay, but I think I prefer my minced beef pies. The whole thing was covered with a lot of parsley sauce, which I think I’d get them to go lighter on next time. I also had a cup of their sasparilla. It was cheap, tasty, and fun, and proper comfort food.

Afterwards we continued our catch-up at my favourite pub near London Bridge, the George Inn, which is as busy as it is ancient. Good times.

“I was one the Internets, using the Googles…”

This has been a super weekend.

On Friday night we went down to Shepherd’s Bush with one of neighbours. We stopped in to The Defector’s Weld pub and had a bite and a drink. Afterwards we went across the green to the cinema to see No Country For Old Men. It lived up to the hype: what a serious, slow-burning, well-crafted film. What a portrait of evil from Javier Bardem. I definitely need to see it again.

Saturday was jam packed.

  • I got up early and went for a 10km run, ate breakfast, got cleaned up.
  • Went to The Social, a cool bar on Little Portland Street, where The Duke Spirit were having a CD playback of their upcoming album,Neptune. It sounded great, just like their other stuff. It was a laid-back atmosphere, with a couple of dozen people and a couple of guys from the band hanging out around metal tables and dimmed light bulbs.
  • Met up with a couple of friends at The Ship on Wardour Street, had a few drinks, and sold one of them a Queens of the Stone Age ticket I can no longer use. After catching up, we had a tasty dinner at Neal’s Yard Salad Bar since one person is vegan, and then had a quick drink at The Boardwalk in Soho (half-price drinks before 8pm, and the place was empty!).
  • Afterwards, Kitty and I broke from the crowd, because we had tickets to see Henry Rollins at the Hammersmith Apollo. It was a spoken-word event, which is Henry’s shtick these days. He came on promptly at 8pm, and didn’t stop ranting, even for a drink of water, until just after 11pm. He’s nearly 50 but he still channels that punk rage, and in a really entertaining way. He talked about his penchant for visiting places like Islamabad, Damascus, Tehran, and Beirut on his own, wandering the streets and meeting people (he was in Pakistan when Bhutto was assassinated). He talked about being disappointed by heroes like Ted Nugent in his youth, but finding new ones like Van Halen. He talked about being an obsessive musical collector. He talked about loving – and then getting a chance to perform with – The Ruts. He talked about how awesome Canadians are. He apologised just a little for George Bush: since his days in office are numbered he suggested we simply sit back and laugh, since without Karl Rove the president is saying stupider things than ever. Henry’s irascible and funny and loud and inquisitive; it was a good show.
  • I got home in time to enjoy the tail end of a dinner party thrown by our neighbour two doors down.

So far, the only excitement Sunday has held is doing some laundry. Even if that’s it, it’s been an excellent weekend.

…and my seven-year transformation into a Brit is complete

This morning, my breakfast comprised two pieces of toast on a plate (burned on one side, soft and uncooked on the other), covered with a ladle’s worth of baked beans (probably taken from a tin bigger than my torso), and with a packet of brown sauce squeezed out on top.

Please note that I chose this for my breakfast: I selected the elements, arranged them, and ate them of my own free will. There were many other food choices at hand, but I eschewed them all in favour of my beans on toast.

Finally, and most importantly, I quite enjoyed my breakfast. I found it pleasant in appearance; interesting to eat, with different textures and elements to be arranged on the fork; and damnably tasty.