Archive for the Food & Drink Category

Snacks Bygraves

Posted in Food & Drink, Grave News, Sort-of-News on April 22, 2013 by Johnnie


A pleasant cup of tea?  Then I’ll meet you at the cemetery gates.

For a blog with the preoccupations this one has, how pleasant to find that a quaint tea room has opened in the quiet surroundings of Deansgrange Cemetery in South Dublin. In a place I like to visit often, this is a very welcome addition to the local area.

Rumours of “a tea room in the graveyard” has circulated for some time; I’m never sure where these start and how they get around but it was quite enticing. For years I’ve thought it would a great idea – how morbidly jolly, munching themed snacks in the shadow of tombstones, like a kind of permanent Hallowe’en. Then I thought, no, locals might find the notion a little lugubrious. And then I recalled that it’s apparently an Irish tradition to visit cemeteries on Christmas Day to remember departed relatives as part of the celebration – ‘Ho Ho Ho’ indeed.

Here it is, then: a (so far) nameless tea room, in a newly refurbished office building just inside the main cemetery gates.   Continue reading

Grills & Boys

Posted in Food & Drink, U Lads on May 29, 2012 by Johnnie

Originally published in U Magazine, June 2008

Can you get the stench of burning flesh in the air? It’s that time of year again. Any day now, invitations to friends’ barbecues will come flooding in.

No one invites you to dinner during this period, no one says they’re having a few nibbles and cocktails in their garden, or in their 4’ X 3’ yard, in summer, you only ever get invites to barbecues.  And because there’s been a week of sunshine, they’ve been out in force early this year.  Apparently, it’s against the law to burn garden rubbish, but boy are you permitted to turn a small corner of your rear end into a funeral pyre for chunks of indeterminable animal offcuts.  I’m sure many of you are now wearing tops that were out on the washing line when one of your neighbours threw one of these acts of wilful fire-raising; smells yummy, your t-shirt, doesn’t it? I bet you were delighted when you first noticed what was happening. First you catch the scent of hot charcoal, then your throat and eyes begin to sting and choke, and finally you see the black plume snaking over the fence, the universally understood smoke signal meaning, “Man. Cooking. Now.” Continue reading

Memoir of a Soho square

Posted in Food & Drink, Pointless Nostalgia, Travel on May 21, 2012 by Johnnie

Lately, I’ve been catching up with a month’s worth of weekend supplements. It’s a nice thing to do, especially when you have very little money. All that culture, most of it out of reach and well out of the range of my rather functionless wallet.

One thing I love above all else is to read reviews of London restaurants. For the life of me, I can’t work out how I ever managed to eat out when I lived there – but it must be something to do with the fact that I had no dependents. But that’s besides the point – the restaurants that get reviewed by Messrs Rayner, Coren, Lanchester and Gill are very rarely of the type I could afford to eat in.

However, when I read AA Gill’s review of the restaurant 10 Greek Street in 6th May’s Sunday Times Style and I found myself becoming slightly emotional, for several reasons – mainly nostalgic ones.

Continue reading

Embracing hunger for Lent

Posted in Ecumenical Matters, Food & Drink on February 20, 2012 by Johnnie


I don’t normally observe the annual Shrove/pancake/ fat  Tuesday routine.  To me, it’s always been, as Curiosity Killed The Cat would say, just another ordinary day.  Nor have I ever thought about giving anything up for Lent – not for any anti-religious purpose,  just because I couldn’t be bothered thinking about sacrifices.  Well, that’s about to change.  This year, I’m going all ‘austerity’ and embracing hunger.

I don’t mean that to sound flippant, pious or patronising; there is neither a political nor a charitable motivation, it’s not about solidarity or empathy.  It’s not about trying to make anyone feel guilty either.  It is, perhaps, my acceptance that gluttony is too easy for those of us fortunate enough to be able to buy food.  Even that sounds vaguely Bono-like.  All I mean is that I’d like to take ownership of my own hunger and actually enjoy it as a controllable urge. Continue reading

Working class heroes?

Posted in Food & Drink, Music, Pointless Nostalgia, TV on January 31, 2012 by Johnnie

A wafer, God’s sake.  For some obscure reason, the shockingly awful song “Blue Riband Blues” is stuck in my head today.  This song, sung by Mike Berry in the 1980s’ commercial, advertised Blue Riband biscuits – lightweight chocolate-covered wafers that were “the very thing”, as my late Granny used to say, to have with a wee cuppa tea.  I remember a few arguments between family members as to how to pronounce it: Rib-and or Rib-and.  I still don’t know where to put the stress – answers to the usual address.

Actually, I hated the advert back in the day but I was a big fan of the biscuits.  Continue reading

Mastermind – more exciting than you think

Posted in Food & Drink, Rude Things, TV on January 12, 2011 by Johnnie

Good to read the great John Humphrys happily acknowledging just how sexy his presentation style is on BBC’s Mastermind.  In an interview for The Guardian about celebrity breakfasts, Humphrys says he has two breakfasts per day.  His first (“a large bowl of fruit, muesli and yoghurt, and a banana”) before Radio 4’s Today programme and then another one later on.

“When I get home,” he says, “I have toast with Marmite or blackcurrant and apple jam made by a nice lady who comes when I do Mastermind.”  Continue reading

No mo’ Haribo woe

Posted in Food & Drink on September 24, 2010 by Johnnie

Much to the delight of my children, I recently stumbled upon the existence of vegetarian Haribo.  They’re rather good too, coming in a mix of Strawberry shape/flavour, Cola Bottles and Lemon Starfish.  Jellies have always been a source of woe for my veggie kids; they love the bright colours and aromas but they also have a mortal terror of eating anything “with cow in it”.

Parties are therefore a bit of a nightmare at times, when all the other kids are stuffing their faces with bovine jelly and mine are left out.  Well-meaning friends and relatives have always given them jellies too, in genuine ignorance of the ingredients.  Some of them insisted, “no, they’re Natural ones,” as if gelatine isn’t a natural thing that grows inside cows.  There are other jellies available, usually in health stores, but few of them ever look or feel like a decent alternative to the beef ones. Continue reading

Arthur and the nights around the pub table

Posted in Food & Drink, Music on September 23, 2010 by Johnnie

A doffed hat and little bow to Irish Times’ reader Michael McEvaney, who had this excellent letter published in today’s paper:

Madam, – Happy Arthur’s Day, our annual celebration of Guinness’s stranglehold on the Irish brewing industry for the past 50 years or more, a stranglehold that means Ireland is the only beer-drinking country in the world where nearly every one of its thousands of pubs have the same handful of flavourless, mass-produced beers.

Devotees of Guinness’s stout refer to it regularly as the “real” thing: how something that’s churned out by the lorryload with preservatives and pasteurisation can be called the real thing is beyond the understanding of this particular beer drinker.

Real beer must be microbrewed – chemical-free in small batches, as is standard practice in other countries. This process allows the flavours to develop and emerge. These days there are several small, independent breweries, both in and outside Dublin, brewing stout and other beers in this fashion – in other words, brewing the “real” thing, and that’s what this particular beer-drinker will be celebrating this Arthur’s Day.

– Yours, etc,


For the life of me, I’ve never worked out how a nation famed worldwide for its ability to put away drink puts up with the spectacular lack of choice available.  As Mr McEvaney says, there only are a handful of the same flavourless beers in almost every pub, ones people are apparently happy to drink by the pint until they fall over.  One must therefore conclude that people drink them only to get drunk – it’s certainly not for reasons of palate or discernment. Continue reading

When a McMuffin top will no longer do…

Posted in Americans, Food & Drink, New Stuff on September 6, 2010 by Johnnie

It’s “grow your winter layer” time of year and no one seems more keen to give you a better weather-resistant, wind-cheating midriff than old Burger King.   We’ve covered  American contempt for the concept of  pizza here before, but this vile object really should have anyone with tastebuds and a modicum of self-respect reaching for their sick bags. 

It’s allegedly a “homage” to New York.  A 9.5-inch bun, a slab of meat, “mozzarella”, pepperoni and a no-doubt “authentic” pesto and marinara sauce.  Would you keep those ingredients in the same fridge, never mind lump it all together?   Just look at it – all 2,500 calories of it.  I’m not sure Elvis himself would have got off his throne to fetch one.  Even for Scots, the idea of such calorific intake in one gluttonous sitting is worth serious consideration.  And training.   In any case, it’s a prohibitive $13 – £8.40 in real money. Continue reading

Weed ‘em and reap

Posted in Food & Drink, New Stuff on August 9, 2010 by Johnnie

I wonder when the gardening bug will finally strike.  When am I going to start feeling like growing my own vegetables?  I’ve been waiting a while but so far, despite a fine family tradition and many presents of kitchen garden books, I’m no closer to taking it up.

Obviously I’m writing this to give myself some sort of kick.  The photos on this post are of my mother’s garden.  She’s a genius, you see.  She’s turned an old, hilly Devon farmhouse into an exquisite terrace garden right out of her native Tuscany, full of the most beautiful flora and the most mouthwatering vegetable patches you’ll ever see.  What’s more, you can eat your dinner out of them.  In the picture above, there are, amongst other things, beetroot (complete with their delicious tops), courgettes (complete with their delicious flowers), spinach, radicchio and two types of rocket.  There’s a complete meal in itself, as far as I’m concerned.  My mum also grows the most delicious potatoes I’ve ever tasted.  Boiled and dressed simply in olive oil and chives, they are heavenly.  So why haven’t I done anything like that myself? Continue reading


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