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THE SUSPENSE IS OVER!
The Queen of Gastroporn’s new book “Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home” will be published on 2 September 2010.
There’s something intensely satisfying about cooking and eating, says the Queen of Gastroporn – whether it’s feeding family or snatching a greedy treat – and the kitchen, her ‘messy, ramshackle sanctuary’, is no place for guilt or self-denial. Here, introducing her new cookbook, she explains what the kitchen means to her, and why food is not just for body but for soul, too:
In everything I do, I try to beat the drum for the non-expert: I am not interested in some romantic idyll, but real life; call it making a virtue of necessity, but I declare myself, hand on cynical heart, the anti-perfectionist. But it appears that it’s hard to enthuse about the kitchen without either seeming to be whimsically nostalgic or bustlingly virtuous. I am neither. But still, the kitchen is my favoured space, my messy haven and ramshackle sanctuary – the place I feel most myself and yet most part of the world.
Maybe it is ungracious to admit this publicly, but I often feel that those of us who like cooking get an unfairly good press: we are hailed as loving, warm and nurturing. And it’s true that I am – to a fault – a feeder; there is scarcely a person who can leave my kitchen without something wrapped in foil to eat later, and just thinking about what I might cook for the next meal gives me a surge of absolute if greedy delight.
But sometimes I wonder if the interest I pay to what I might be giving someone to eat is more selfish than anything else. Of course, I want to give pleasure, but life in the kitchen is, for me, as much about personal gratification.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not such a bad thing. Of course, when you set it against the model of the ideal cook, that all-giving provider of good things, it doesn’t sound so great. But as I get older, I appreciate more and more that enjoying what makes you happy in the everyday is crucially important, and that self-denial (never my forte, let’s be frank) is not the path to virtue but to unhappiness.
So yes, for me the kitchen is not merely a room, but a pleasure palace, an interior garden of sensual delights – and all the better for it. While I could take the line that those who turn away from all that – whether it be the gorgeous, fatty richness of some long-braised belly of pork, or the melting intensity of a chocolate lime cake, dolloped shamelessly with margarita cream – must surely be blessed in their lives if they can so casually afford to deprive themselves of extra occasions of pleasure, I don’t really believe that; my admiration is sarcastic.
The joys of food are so great that I really do believe that those who cannot allow themselves to wallow in them have lesser lives. Of course, they have lesser dress sizes, too, and I can see that the trade-off works for many. It just doesn’t for me – or not that way around.
I know I eat a lot, but my refusal to bow down to the daily diet and all-round self-denial doesn’t mean I believe in indiscriminate gluttony. For me, it’s about savouring food without guilt or shame and not thinking that less flesh (either on your plate or your skeleton) is necessarily better.
Besides, I do think that enjoying food is a way of celebrating being alive. People often say that no one lies on their deathbed wishing they’d spent more time at the office and what I’d add is that I am sure that no one lies on their deathbed saying I’m so glad I turned down the bread, the cheese, the pudding, so thrilled I spent all those years on a diet.
We are all shaped by different things in our lives, but the memory of my perpetually dieting, self-denying mother saying – once she knew she had only a few weeks to live – that this was the first time she had eaten what she wanted and could enjoy it, is still shocking to me. She was such a fantastic cook and actually understood food and the joys it could bring, but the lesson I have learnt from her self-inflicted deprivation is as much a part of her legacy to me as is My Mother’s Praised Chicken, which is the fundamental, actually essential, dish to emanate from my kitchen, as it did from hers.
The joys that emanate from the kitchen are not just about consumption, however delectable, but creation, too. Yes, giving oneself the task of putting together some elaborate, I-must-impress dinner party would be absolute hell, but real cooking contains an element of play that I can’t help but delight in. Mixing up a cake or a batch of muffins is as near as I feel I can get now to the thrill of making mud pies. And I love the feel of food in my hands, almost as much as I like the taste of it in my mouth.
For as much as I find food interesting to think about – and as pretty much a food obsessive, I think about it a lot – what I gain most pleasure from is the fact that cooking is about touch and feel, occupying – tangibly – the realm of the senses.
And I think that is partly why, despite being busy, despite being short of time and despite being able to find a great range of food out there that is already made, we still cook. We need to feel involved in the production, not just the consumption of food; we need to feel that satisfaction that comes from making something to eat, and then enjoying what it tastes like.
But one last request: this isn’t about turning ingredients or cooking into some sort of fetish. I don’t feel guilty that I make my Slut’s Spaghetti more or less by opening a few jars; indeed I revel in it. I believe that the only unhealthy food is not real food, and I feel I eat very healthily, just a lot. So yes, I allow butter, cream and other unfashionable delights into my recipes.
I don’t eat cake every day, but when I do make one I don’t feel bad about eating a slice; having said that, even food that I can’t quite make a case for, such as crisps, I am grateful for. In the kitchen I may be more of an Italophile than a Francophile, but still I cleave to the French saying, ‘Everything in moderation – even moderation’. I may have immoderate appetites, but that gives me immoderate pleasure. And for that I am greedily grateful.
I must have sex with Nigella Lawson before I die. She eats, she writes, she cooks, she drinks, she fucks. The perfect woman.
How deliciously comic (I lick my lips at the thought) that this appalling shit, who fucked, or tried to fuck, every woman he met, meanwhile pissing on everyone else (including his wives and children) and getting legless shit-faced drunk every single night of his life, should find himself, at the age of 50, unable to get it up; when he managed a wank, he wrote a letter to Philip Larkin.
A real fucking twat.
If there was an Emmy for the best supported actress, sweater stretcher Christina Hendricks would have won it hands down. The 35-year-old star of Mad Men wore a plunging lavender gown by Zac Posen – with ostrich feathers at the sleeves and skirt – which emphasised her hourglass figure, not to mention her huge rack, at the recent Emmy awards ceremony.
However, stunning bra busting Mad Men star Christina Hendricks, who was voted Sexiest Woman Alive by female readers of Esquire and called the perfect physical role model by equalities minister Lynne Featherstone, claims she still finds it hard to borrow a designer dress.
This could be because she destroys them with her massive melons. Christ, how much do they weigh?
I would splash out on a new dress and give her a pearl necklace. A dead heat in a Zeppelin race.
Bowling balls, jugs, funbags, dirty pillows, bangers, rib balloons, milk cans, etc., etc.
What an excellent idea this is!
Letting the gays prance through the streets on the August bank holiday weekend means they’re not so in your face the rest of the year.
From my complete collection of Good Housekeeping cookery cards, here’s another revolting recipe from the 1970s.
1½ lb. new potatoes, peeled
a few chives
¼ pint mayonnaise
8 slices ham
4 oz. cream cheese
16 oz. can pineapple rings, drained
salt and pepper
carton of mustard and cress
Cook potatoes in salted water till nearly tender. Drain and dice. Snip the chives into mayonnaise and mix well. If too thick add a tablespoonful of milk. Toss the potatoes in this while they are still warm. Chill.
Meanwhile, roll ham slices into cone shapes and fill with a mixture of cream cheese and two chopped pineapple rings, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.
Pile potato salad in the centre of a plate, arrange the cornets around the edge. Place a small bunch of cress behind each cornet and a quarter of a pineapple ring on each cornet. Make a cut in the last pineapple ring, twist and place on top of the potato salad.
(Source: Manchester Evening News)
The man who is leading the BBC’s move to Salford has hit out against a ‘pathetic’ slur campaign against the north.
Peter Salmon, director of BBC North, took the extraordinary step of speaking out after a series of ‘grim up north’ stories in the national press claimed there was a revolt among staff unprepared to give up their London homes for MediaCityUK. Mr Salmon, who has been involved in programme making in Manchester and London for 20 years, accused critics of a ‘mud-throwing campaign’ against Salford. He said it was ‘unforgivable’ for London-based media to peddle old stereotypes and mislead people into thinking the city was an undesirable place to live. He said stories suggesting BBC bosses – including himself – were not committed to the project were ‘outrageous’.
Mr Salmon told the M.E.N: “People are throwing mud and hoping it might stick at the north which I think is unforgivable. We are trying to build on what Manchester has had in its DNA for years and years – lots of entertainers, great storytellers, wonderful journalists, a great television company, the world’s first soap opera. Instead, they dredge out all those old stereotypes about why it is so dreadful in the north and so wonderful in the south which I think is out of date and pathetic.”
Flagship shows including Match of the Day, BBC Breakfast and Blue Peter, will begin moving to MediaCityUK next year. But the national press has run a string of stories – illustrated with what Mr Salmon called ‘misleading’ images of the Salford Quays site – claiming that staff would rather quit than move.
Last weekend, it was announced that human resources director Paul Gaskin was quitting his £190,000-a-year job because of concerns. Mr Salmon’s deputy, Richard Deverell, will not be moving immediately – a decision the director said was due to ‘complex’ family reasons.
Mr Salmon’s own commitment was questioned in some quarters after he revealed that he and actress wife Sarah Lancashire – best known as dippy Coronation Street barmaid Raquel Watts – would only be renting a home in the north west. He has now confirmed they plan to buy a family home in the region as soon as the move would not disturb their children’s education.
He’s a typical Salford lad: shaved head, shifty eyes, slight swagger in his walk as he barks into his mobile phone.
She’s a slapper: 22 going on 50, fake tan, ripped jeans, bleached hair, shit jewellery.
From Drummer Dick’s Discharge to Shag: The Story of a Dog, there are plenty of contenders from literary history for the Guardian award for smuttiest book title.
The Wankh Award is named in honour of that classic of science-fiction, Jack Vance’s Servants of the Wankh (1969).
The best book of this type that I’ve come across is Penetrating Wagner’s Ring and I keep a well-thumbed copy in my bathroom. Indeed, I will have to replace it because so many of the pages are stuck together.
I am reminded of poor old Robert Browning’s lines in Pippa Passes:
But at night, brother Howlet, far over the woods,
Toll the world to thy chantry;
Sing to the bats’ sleek sisterhoods
Full complines with gallantry:
Then, owls and bats, cowls and twats,
Monks and nuns, in a cloister’s moods,
Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!
Browning was under the misapprehension that “twat” was part of a nun’s habit.
I am further reminded of the occasion when my young friend Melissa walked into a bar in Manchester and ordered a double entendre. So the barman gave her one.
Bored by Barber, Bernstein, Britten, Tippett and Tchaikovsky? Try Claude Vivier! Never heard of him? Neither had I, but when I saw the announcement of a DVD from De Nederlandse Opera, Amsterdam my curiosity was aroused and I ordered it. Those Dutch are producing the most astonishing array of new opera productions. And I always saw them as a dull and unimaginative tribe. Pierre Audi, the artistic director of De Nederlandse Opera, has become one of my favourite directors since I saw his Ring, now my favourite Ring video, shoving the Harry Kupfer/Daniel Barenboim off its pedestal, at least in the video category.
I can’t possible give you a blow-by-blow report of the opera Kopernikus I watched yesterday. It is not called an opera, but a “ritual opera of death”. I never heard any of the singers, nor the conductor, who, surprisingly, took his applause in a protestant minister’s outfit, his real occupational garb. The performance took place in a cavernous old building, former warehouse or factory or something with a stage-like rectangle covered by a deep layer of sand, matching the general lighting throughout! Same with the costumes; very thick sheets of heavy felt. It might be moulded foam, I couldn’t tell, which the singers use skilfully to wrap themselves in, or their fellow actors. The “furniture” sets are wooden crates.
All this is mostly the background, my eyes were busy following the action. No orchestra, but musicians, in costume and make-up, are on stage, acting while playing their instruments. One brilliant slide trombonist doing a duo with the bass actor-singer, even while flat on his back. The female violinist moved all over the sand, wearing a billowy grey outfit with a very long train, and of course no stand for her notes. It is almost an hour of music she has to memorise. A few woodwind players, percussionists and a solo piano complete the “orchestra”. The music is not as strange as I had expected from a student of Ligeti and Stockhausen; of course I won’t walk around humming it.
Watching the singers gave my eyes more to do. Singing with the open hand occasionally tapping the lips to vibrate the sound created something new, not unpleasant to hear. A soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass, plus the narrator completed the cast. I have to include the musicians in the cast, because they were just as skilful actors as the singers. The language is “invented” but a running translation in English helps tremendously to let me know what is going on.
I think I shall watch Götterdämmerung tomorrow, give myself a day of respite from Claude Vivier, and then maybe his Marco Polo during the weekend.
Anybody seriously interested in new music, new composers, new ways to be a spectator and listener of an exciting experience, do try this DVD. Also it would be great to see a gay composer getting more recognition for a change.
All I need to add is that even Stockhausen thought this guy was weird.