Archive | Taste RSS feed for this section

My Eleventh Summer

27 May

This Monday was Memorial Day in America, which has traditionally marked the beginning of summer. When I was young, Memorial Day always meant the opening of our city swimming pool, an event which had even the most uncoordinated and physically unappealing kids in our neighbourhood giddy with excitement. Unfortunately, my siblings and I were not allowed to go to the pool, because my mother was afraid we’d get warts and be unable to wear sandals.

Instead, our Memorial Day ritual involved helping my mother move her winter wardrobe into the attic.

That was until my eleventh year, which is when I solved my first crime. It wasn’t a murder or anything like that. But still, it sets that year apart.

c8b7c1860273f5dda0e6a301576d75aaThe night before this Memorial Day, my parents had attended a party at the Flanagans’. Mrs Flanagan wore clogs. Apparently my mother found this unacceptable. There were words and then shouting, and then my parents returned home, where there was more words and shouting and then a cigarette was put out in a gin and tonic. That’s when I decided to get up from the top of the stairs and go to bed. When I woke up in the morning, my father was sleeping on the sofa. I pushed on his shoulder until he woke up. He looked at me and said, “I want crepes.”

Because I was (and still am) his favourite, he and I left before anyone else was awake. We went to our special restaurant where he never took my mother, and he ordered us each some crepes and black coffee. While we were there, a truck pulled up outside and a man who was wearing an undershirt as a shirt came in. He smiled at my father and my father smiled back. Because that’s the kind of man he is.

The rest of the breakfast passed normally. We slowly made our way home, both of us dreading the inevitable appearance of my mother’s clipboard and complicated storage system. Three police cars passed us as we walked.

“I bet they’re arresting that truck man,” I said to my father.

“You’re probably right,” my father said. He laughed a little and then added, “You don’t need to mention him to your mother.”

On the evening news, there was a bulletin saying that a shoe store had been robbed. The guy got away with the safe and five pairs of girls’ saddle shoes. My mother said the man was probably a pervert.

My father winked at me.

Fruit Season

12 May

Even though the weather’s warming up, it doesn’t mean it’s time to start stripping off in public. Is what the policeman advised Christopher after cautioning him on the village green. I don’t normally turn to coppers for fashion advice, but he did have a point.

But in fairness to Christopher, it has been quite nice. The weather people claim we’ll have a real scorcher on our hands this summer. So all sensible people should be getting their bods and wardrobes sorted pronto. I’m no slave to fashion, but there seems to be some generally accepted guidelines bandied about by glossy magazine editors. The first step is to determine your body type.

Naturally, doctors and/or fashionistas have decided to classify women’s bodies by species of fruit. I can only presume they base this on shape, rather than flavour or ability to be made into marmalade, but there are some surprising other similarities as well.


If you have broader shoulders than hips, you are an Apple.

Fashion-wise, it’s helpful to wear to wear the biggest shoulder pads available to really highlight this feature. I’m talking proper Dynasty style babies. This means you can also wear whatever you fancy on the bottom, because no one will be able to look past your huge, manly shoulders.

Apples also tend to keep doctors away so you can give up on any ideas of living beyond your station.


If you’re bigger on the bottom, you’re a pear.  Get over it.

Pears want to keep things simple in terms of trousers and skirts.  No leopard prints or ruffles. Seriously.

Pears, like most pear-shaped women, feel bad they’re not apples. In society, there are negative connotations to big-bottomed shapes, which is, in my opinion, is a crying shame.


Bananas are long and lean.

Wear a belt. Problem solved.

This is probably hearsay but if you peel off a banana-shaped woman’s skin and bake it, you can make LSD. Just something to think about.


If your body looks like this, seek medical help immediately.

The truth is when we’re born, we all have bodies and while these bodies do grow, they stay the same basic shape our whole lives (except women get titties obviously). There’s no reason to begrudge yourself your body’s shape: it is what it is. Look after it, adorn it in pretty clothes and shiny baubles if you want. Bare it if you dare (and the setting is appropriate). It’s important to accept your body and even embrace it (if you’re into that thing).

My Final Word on Men’s Facial Hair

11 Nov

I am sick of being asked about this.

At least twice a day, someone contacts me via telephone, post, email or “tweet” to ask my advice about men’s facial hair. While it is an important and complicated issue, I’m bloody sick of addressing it. So I am going to do it one final time: this is it. Pay attention and take notes because I shan’t be saying it again.

Cleanly Shaved Face:

This is an ideal option for very young and very old men. Because the whole hair-on-the-face-thing is new and fascinating to young men, they tend to want to show it off; however, wearing a sparse moustache or beard indicates their newness to puberty, and for legal reasons, women find it less than appealing. Also, many employers refuse to hire young men because they think they are stupid and lazy. Because both are likely to be true, shaving one’s face can counteract this by showing one is bright enough at least to maneuver a possibly deadly weapon and take the time to do a nice job.

The primary issue old men have with hair is that it is disappearing from their head and sprouting in their ears. Shaving their faces helps them hold on to some kind of control.

Moustache Alone:

In my heart of hearts, I would never suggest that any man wear a moustache but no beard. It’s shameful.

Beard Alone:

Too many men refuse to consider this option and therefore it is ideal for a man who wants to stand out among his peers (without going overboard, see below). It’s ideal for men with especially fanciable lips, those in artistic professions or those trying to unite a divided nation. I personally find it strangely alluring.

Moustache and Beard Combo:

“Hide your flaws” is a famous beauty maxim: all butt ugly men should keep as much hair on their faces as possible. Luckily, others can wear beards and moustaches so the presence of a lot of facial hair doesn’t necessarily indicate a hideous face underneath. In fact, particularly good looking men are encouraged to let their facial hair grow for at least one month out of the year, as long as they permit women to stroke their faces the day they shave it off.

This choice is also appropriate for men who like adventure, those who live in cold climates, and those who have lost their hands in tragic farming accidents. Generally, this type of facial hair should be kept tidy and relatively short, though men with nubs needn’t bother about that.

Unusual Variations:

The only men who wear bizarre facial hairstyles are complete geniuses or utter twats. If you think you’re a genius, you’re likely a twat so you’re safe either way.

Why I’ve tired of addressing this issue is because ultimately there are three things that should guide a man’s choice about how to shave this face: his god, his partner and his common sense. Apparently if he’s lacking all three, he turns to me. Aren’t I the lucky one?

Over the River and Through The Woods: The Season of Giving

21 Nov

Although one should be charitable all year, we are of course entering the season of giving. I do confess to missing my American holidays in the autumn. Both Halloween and Thanksgiving perpetuate the pleasures of graciousness and generosity that have made America famous all over the world. Somehow the English holiday of Bonfire Night, where effigies of baddies are burnt in public fires, seems just too barbaric compared to the simple pleasure of opening one’s door to appreciative children all dressed up, thoughtfully raising their hands to request a single sweet on All Hallows Eve.

Thanksgiving is the most American of American holidays. For those unfamiliar with it, its name is derived from the English words “thanks” and “giving.” It’s a time when Americans pause and reflect on all that they have received over the year (excluding, of course, court subpoenas and STDs).  Oh, how I used to love to sit at a fine table, covered with the fruits of my hard labour. It was a time to stop and be thankful for my incredible talent which allowed me to provide such sustenance to myself and those lucky enough to spend the holiday with me. The scrumptious meal was always a sight to behold. The fat turkey carcass so packed with chestnut stuffing that it fell in clumps from between its legs; the preternaturally magenta display of congealed cranberries; the sweet potatoes bathing in an almost solidified river of syrup, holding tightly to marshmallow flotation devices; and the lard dumplings so filling that my great grandfather used the very same recipe as mortar to bond the bricks of his bomb shelter. Beautiful food for a beautiful nation. Thanksgiving reminds us to look outside of ourselves and appreciate all the people who have helped us to reap such a harvest.

However, those people are not acknowledged just on one Thursday of November because Thanksgiving is also the official opening of the Christmas season, when we give them gifts to show our thanks.  Of course, I don’t mean that we literally buy presents for those who have grown and harvested our food; those people make plenty of money off me already with the ridiculous price of fresh pineapple and mangoes. Instead we symbolize our appreciation of those people through gifts to friends and family, people we actually care about.

As we are on the cusp of Thanksgiving, I know my American compatriots are busily stocking their cupboards and refrigerators with food that they will undoubtedly end up throwing in the bin by next Monday. I imagine the shopping lists and the car boots filled to the rim. I miss such rituals! As a way to ease my homesickness, Christopher has promised to dine with me tomorrow, having arranged a turkey supper to be delivered from the Rose and Crown. He has also been working all weekend to construct a cornucopia in my drinks cabinets to symbolize the abundance of my earthly rewards. I can say without hesitation that I am very thankful for Christopher, and I only hope that the generous pay packet I give him each week goes some way in showing my gratitude. It’s never quite the same, though, having a Thanksgiving dinner just for two; I only wish more of my neighbours could join me in the feast. However, they are mostly dicks and therefore I do not invite them.

But I hope all my readers, whether American or not, will follow my model of wishing the world a wonderful holiday season. Please be charitable to those less fortunate and give thanks to those you appreciate!

NOTE: To donate to the “I’m So Thankful for Miss Agatha Whitt-Wellington that I’d Like to Help Her Retile Her Roof” Fund, please contact Christopher directly with your credit card details.

Today is A Saturday

17 Mar

Saturdays are good days for most people: the first day off from the work week, but not the last. A day to sleep in. A day to spend doing whatever it is you (not your boss) want you to do.

But if you live in America, this Saturday is not a good day. This Saturday is a very bad day.

Why? Because today is St. Patrick’s Day. Now if you’re Irish, St. Patrick’s Day will probably mean something to you—after all, St. Patrick is your patron saint and God knows patron saints are important on this side of the Atlantic (one of the prep questions for the British citizenship test requires would-be citizens to name the four saints and put their holidays in calendar order, though this hardly seems indicative of being ready to be British). So Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you lot. I’ve got nothing against the Irish (except Bono): you gave us Graham Linehan and Dara O Briain, so no doubt you’ll be relieved to know you’re all right by me.

But I do have something against the American celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. First off, for almost every other day of the year, Americans are all about America. If you say you’re African-American, that’s political correctness gone mad and you’re asked to show papers indicating that you or one of your parents actually came from Africa (and it’d better be from one of the countries in Africa that Americans actually know). You might hear the term “Arab-American” bandied about; this is just fancy talk for terrorist. And if someone calls themselves Mexican-American, this is likely to mean: drug smuggler, job stealer, and/or lazy bones. Americans like Americans (Native ones the exceptions, of course). The USA is all about only full-blooded Americans.

Except on St. Patrick’s Day.

Then all of a sudden, everyone is Irish-American. Proving you’re Irish-American is relatively easy, no papers need to be produced. Here is the test:

1. Are you from Boston? If so, you pass.

2. Have you heard of u2, the potato famine or Riverdance? Please go to the head of the class.

3. Do you like drinking and do you own anything green? That’s good enough.

From TheOnion.Com. Read it, then read this: LiterallyUnbelievable.Org

St. Patrick’s Day in America is not about celebrating Irish heritage or any of St. Patrick’s super great deeds (apparently we’re talking a thousand miracles here, people). St. Patrick’s Day in America is about getting drunk. Then getting drunk again. And if you’ve got the time, you can sneak in one more getting drunk. This means it is also about vomiting, and since many drink green beer (because they’re hardcore Irish, you see), this means green vomit. And the fact that this year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday when most (save vicars) don’t need to get up to work the next morning, well, it’s going to get ugly.

In case you think I’m hating on Americans, I’m not. As you know there is plenty to love about my little old United States of America. I don’t hate Americans. I don’t hate anyone. Except Bono.

I hate Bono.

Note: Yes, I do also hate Jeremy Irons. But I’m saving that wrath for 23 April.

Stake Your Future on A Hell of A Past

12 Nov

Tonight ends the reign of Silvio Berlusconi. According to the Guardian, the resignation of “the 75-year-old billionaire brought down the curtain on a government that has played a significant role in taking the European single currency and the global economy to the brink of catastrophe.”

Those not familiar with his sterling performance as an economic leader may remember for him for his admirable respect for women (calling Angela Merkel “an unfuckable fat arse,” his bunga-bunga parties), his hilarious legal cases (tax fraud, embezzlement, attempting to bribe a member of the police, corrupting a judge, paying for sex with a minor and more!), his undeniable compassion for his country (in 2009, he suggested that the tens of thousands of Italians made homeless by an earthquake should see it as “weekend camping”) or his top notch anti-Semitic, homophobic and all around offensive perspectives (describing the Obamas as having great suntans).

However, as we bid him farewell, it’s perhaps better to remember him through the eyes of the one person who knew him better than anyone else: the man himself.

“When asked if they would like to have sex with me, 30% of women said, ‘Yes’, while the other 70% replied, ‘What, again?'”

“Women are lining up to marry me. Legend has it, I know how to do it.”

“I am without doubt the person who’s been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man.”

“In my opinion, and not only mine, I am the best prime minister we can find today.”

“I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I put up with everyone, I sacrifice myself for everyone.”

Silvio, now it’s time to go, you got an open door.

Put Me In, Coach, I’m Ready to Play Today

1 Apr

I’ve never tried to deny the fact that I’m a keen athletic supporter. There’s really nothing I find more fulfilling than watching a group of young men (or young women now, in our more progressive times) running, bending and stretching while working together as a team to rise to the crescendo of victory. It nearly takes one’s breath away, or at the very least sets the pulse pounding and the cheeks blushing. I’m not too particular even when it comes to sporting activities, though clearly anyone who enjoys American football is an imbecile.

I suppose if I had a gun to my head and were being forced to choose only one sport to watch for the rest of my life (a position it’s unlikely I’m ever to be in, I’m aware), I’d have to negotiate with my captors for a pair of favourites, cricket and baseball. If, after a short deliberation which may or may not include a phone call to “Mister Big,” they insisted I choose only one, I’m afraid I must plump for baseball, if only because of the importance it played in my childhood and because, when it comes to wood, I prefer to see a man holding a long, thin one over a man with a short, wide one.

Since I’ve been in England, a day hasn’t passed when I haven’t been asked to explain the rules of baseball. I have and will continue to refuse to do so. Explaining the rules of baseball to English readers is like explaining the rules of cricket to Americans; each one is so complicated, it takes a real clever clogs (such as I) to understand them. I mean, look at the Australians—they’ve been playing cricket for a good number of years, and they still haven’t grasped the basic rules.

Instead of focusing on how to play, I’d rather share a few more important aspects of the sport of baseball, as we near the opening of the season over in the US.

A baseball field is in the shape of a diamond because baseball is considered the sport of kings and everyone knows kings like diamonds. Technically, I suppose it’s really a square at an angle (with a base at each corner), but we mustn’t quibble. A grassy area extends beyond the top of the diamond; this is where outfielders (generally considered weaker players or those who drink excessively) are banished as most of the action takes place primarily between the bases. The importance of the bases is, of course, key to baseball. I think it’s common knowledge all over the world that a man who can get past first base, second base, third and then goes all the way is an extremely satisfied man.

Baseball players are an interesting breed. They are extremely superstitious as a group and many of their personal playing rituals involve the grabbing of their, shall I say, areas.  Many players need to clutch their (or a teammate’s) crotch at least once or twice before even getting to the plate. (I once dated a catcher who refused to even get out of bed without first giving his jewels a tug). One less pleasant feature of baseball players is their penchant for spitting. You can’t be in the presence of a shortstop without his spitting at least once every 2.4 seconds (this statistic is based on credible research as well as my own personal observation). The spitting fetish is undoubtedly tied to the early baseballers’ faith in the medicinal properties of tobacco, which they would chew in the misguided belief that it gave them superpowers (this myth remains despite the discovery of anabolic steroids). Interestingly, a baseball player is allowed, nay, encouraged to spit anywhere and everywhere within the ballpark, except on the ball itself (italics added). If he spits on the ball, it is considered an ironically named “spitball,” and that fucker is thrown out of the game.

Baseball has created a number of debonair heartthrobs and wacky characters over the years whose legacies have endured. Superstar Babe Ruth, of course, married Marilyn Monroe and later went on to invent a candy bar. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson changed his name to Ray Liotta and starred in a number of major motion pictures. Joe Dimaggio was immortalized in the Simon and Garfunkel song, “The Boxer.” Yogi Berra, a profoundly intellectual player and manager, later became known the world round for his hilarious pic-a-nic basket hijinks in Jellystone Park. I look forward to meeting the characters who will be swinging their bats and popping their flies this season.

Finally, the thing that I love most about baseball is not the complicated rules, the action on the field or the tight trousers of the players, but it’s the atmosphere of a baseball game that I find so delightful. The way the fans encourage their local team and offensively abuse both the opposition and the umpires is so heartwarming.  Of course, everyone joins in during the “Seventh Inning Stretch,” where those who have managed to stay seated for much longer than beer consumption should have allowed can stand up, stretch their legs, nip to the toilet, and sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” There’s a real sense of camaraderie in baseball stadiums when everyone comes together to support all that is good about America. Who wouldn’t love such a relaxing and friendly environment? It’s fun for the whole family.

To all those oiling up their gloves and dusting off their jerseys in preparation for Opening Days all over the country (most of which are bound to be called off due to bad weather), I take my cap off to you. Enjoy your day and root, root, root for the home team for if they don’t win, it’s a shame though they will have at least 161 more opportunities so quit your crying, pussies.

Campaign for Real Taste

14 Feb

You’ve undoubtedly read about the brouhaha this week over a new “taste” being available for purchase in British supermarkets. It’s called umami,which apparently means “deliciousness” in some language or another.  A refined palette such as my own, of course, did not need Mr Waitrose to introduce me to this flavour: I’ve been familiar with it since Master Satõ Matsumoto and I first gorged ourselves on gherkins in that German beer garden oh so many years ago.  I do find the brand name and promotional material visually pleasing and have therefore sent Christopher out to purchase a tube, but primarily to display as an aesthetically gorgeous trinket, rather than as some breakthrough culinary ingredient.

For I do not accept that this so-called umami deserves to be championed as a “new taste.” (Friends, remember, just because Sky News reports something does not make it so.) Previously, our tastes were sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness.  Quite a bit of variety in there already, and despite its similar suffix, I just don’t think “deliciousness” fits in with the four classics. Personally, I believe we should stick with the originals and if you find yourself aching for a word to describe that olive-like, anchovy-ish, seaweedy flavour that this “new” taste supposedly embodies, may I suggest you simply use olive-like, anchovy-ish or seaweedy. They may not be found in the OED (yet), but you knew what I meant, and let’s just leave it at that.

However, if I were to propose a new taste, a true “No. 5,” I feel most strongly it should be Parma Violets. Think about it: now there’s a taste that is truly like no other.

Breakfast, the Breakfast of Champions

16 Sep

I have to say that H1N1 (I refuse to refer to it by its more colloquial name) is not one of my favourite pandemics. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Plague of Justinian, and I certainly don’t see it becoming as creatively inspiring as say cholera or the Hong Kong flu. So what can we learn from H1N1? Is it that international travel is a bad idea? Ridiculous. Is it that our global community is simply weaker now due to poor financial and environmental conditions? I doubt it: my garden produced an excellent harvest this year, and my bank book is as strong as ever so it can’t be that. Are we just looking for another reason to quarantine Irish cooks?


The simple lesson that lies behind the whole H1N1 debacle is that people should eat breakfast. My grandmother Boots had a little saying that went something along the lines of “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I only wish she had shared that truism with people outside our family. I, for one, start every day with a slice of toast, half a grapefruit and a cup of tea. It provides me with energy to work, to play, to effectively and eloquently communicate and to ward off pesky infectious diseases.

Sadly, breakfast is being completely ignored by most of our population and if it is eaten, too often it is only at the weekend. In America, diners load up on pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage patties, sausage links, steak, fried potatoes, hash browns,  toast, eggs, omelets, frittatas, gravy, syrup, French toast, bagels, grits, quiche, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, crepes, and orange juice. What’s wrong with that you say? Nothing except that it’s only eaten on Sunday mornings. Americans need breakfasts like that everyday to stay flu-fighting fit.

Of course, English tastes are slightly more refined, and they tend to nibble on bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, scones, porridge, eggs and cigarettes. Again, save for the unemployed and old-aged pensioners, these important food groups are only taken at the weekends. We are just asking for trouble by ignoring this meal.

People, come on. The word breakfast actually means “break fast.” If we want to break H1N1 fast, there’s a simple way to do that. When you wake up tomorrow, don’t rush out the door before putting some food in your belly. If you do and you get sick, you’ll have no one to blame except yourself. And the Mexicans.

Why Can’t They Leave Well Enough Alone?

16 Jun

As summer is now upon us and the rain shows hints of sunlight, I’ve become aware of a trend that is both dangerous and immoral. Normally I have a woman come to me to do my hair, but on occasion I frequent a local beauty parlor. While under the dryer, I often flip through the pages of whatever magazines they have available. I find this keeps me up-to-date on the social issues of the day while saving me the shame of actually purchasing one of these gossip gazettes myself.

Yesterday I was at said salon having my hair done in preparation for last night’s gala at our own Museum of the Mundane, when I noticed page after page of young women whom I can only describe as orange. Bernard, my coiffeur, explained that “having” a “tan” was “all the rage” amongst these young “celebrities.”

The tone of one’s skin (whatever that may be) is a gift from above, and to try to deliberately alter it is quite frankly blasphemy. I myself am rather fair-skinned and, while I do not intend to imply that my complexion is perfect, my complexion is in fact perfect. This is because I have never deliberately tried to alter it. It has changed, of course; after all, I have travelled the world and one does not spend days building a hospital in the Chalbi Desert without getting some sun. But that was the result of the good work I was doing, not a vain attempt to change the hue of my epidermis. If these young ladies could manage to do a decent day’s work, they might find that, in addition to a helpful pay packet, they will earn the bronze glow of a job well done.

What I find even more alarming is that some of these starlets do not even gain their colour from the sunshine, but rather apply to it to their own persons through the use of a cream which changes their skin’s shade. Christopher informs me that this is why they appear so orange, rather than tanned. Ludicrous! I think we would all agree that harlots use artificial colour to paint their cheeks—-what on Earth must we call those women who paint their whole bodies? I shudder to think and am thankful that I am unfamiliar with the names that Christopher has suggested as possibilities.

Despite all my worldliness, I still find myself shocked by some of the things people find in vogue. Call me a fuddy-duddy, call me a prude, call me an award-winning writer with fans based all over the northern and southern hemispheres, call me what you will. But I am comfortable enough with myself as I was made to have stayed ignorant of this trend for as long as I have, and I am glad of it.

Note: I may be away from the computer for a day as tomorrow I am having one of my tattoos removed. We shall speak soon.