Al Fresco Cuisine


While away in Scotland I ate out every evening and finding somewhere easy to park, with edible food that didn’t break the bank and all for ‘early doors’ wasn’t easy. The choices, just like anywhere in the UK fall to a range of eateries where shallow pockets meet pretentious dining. The ‘Harvesters’, ‘Marstons’, ‘Brewers Fayres’ and the like now proliferate offering inexpensive mass produced food that is almost interchangeable. One man’s ‘Harvest Chicken’ is another woman’s ‘Chicken Newyorker’ and there are variations on a theme of fish & chips, scampi in a basket or hamburgers just about everywhere.

Its better than in my youth when eating out cheaply meant scoffing chips with your fingers from a newspaper wrapping and ‘pub grub’ never rose above the towering heights of a pickled egg and a bag of plain crisps with a blue paper twist filled with salt. Those who could afford to push the boat out went to a steak house, those of us who were strapped for cash had a square deal of sandpaper clad plaice, anaemic chips and tinned peas in Lyon’s Corner House or the like.

OK… eating out is better than it was but unless you want to spend thirty or forty quid a head or more then you are either confined to the above mentioned bland land eateries, or your local Chinese or Indian restaurant… and many of these are heading up market

So most of us queue up to be seated as close to the ‘all you can eat’ salad bar as we can get, order our ‘bottomless glass’ of rola cola or half pint of non-specific beer and scan the menu for ‘early bird’ specials or ‘classic meal deals’.

If, like me, you are not a meat eater the choices are really restricted. Fish & Chips, Salmon somehow and a variation of prawns or scampi for fish eaters but true veggies get dealt the meanest hand… pasta with tomatoes or a tart with goats cheese is as far as the imagination of these mass caterers can stretch. Go to a carvery and you’ll find that many offer a veggie alternative to go with the roast veg that is completely inappropriate… who wants a Mediterranean type tart with their roast potatoes and veggie gravy? Why not offer some meat substitute like veggie sausages or a quorn-based pie? Not that I’d go for that always finding in the best places that veggie gravy and all the roast trimmings minus the meat suits me.

Away from home in the UK for more than a day and I find myself having to repeat meals through lack of choice… it really is time that these companies looked at their meat-free meals and, instead of trying to cater for some notional stereotypical vegetarian they just had more meals without meat… not all non meat eaters want root vegetables, goat’s cheese and wholemeal pastry!

There seems too, to be a growing trend in such places to ape the ridiculous overblown culinary descriptions so favoured by gastro pubs… do we want ‘mixed veg’, or a ‘panaché of crispy garden vegetables’? What is better, a ‘fillet of bass with mash and buttered vegetables’, or a ‘parvé of bass on a bed of crushed new potatoes with lemon and a diced medley of Mediterranean vegetables in a beurre blanc’? Will they ever run out of pretention I wonder… and if you, like me, had to look up parvé, it’s French for ‘paving stones’ and refers to anything rectangular!

After perusing so many menus in down market ‘gastro pubs’ I have decided on a meal for my own tea… I’m going for the broiled haricot beans with salsa pomodoro rosso on a tranche de pain grillé, gratinated with country fresh, locally sourced, mature, farmhouse, cheddar cheese. Or, to cut the crap, cheesy beans on toast.

What were you thinking?


zombiesFor the first time in my life I was overseas when the general election took place. My local authority didn’t send me out my postal voter early enough, despite a request so I was disenfranchised. But I left in the certain knowledge that the vast majority of the UK population didn’t want the cabinet of millionaires and their city loving policies. I knew they would see right through all the attacks on claimants and low wage earners and all their hand-outs to tax dodging companies and fat cats. I knew that you could fool some of the people all the time and all of the people for four years but they would most certainly get their come-uppance!

I looked forward to the compassion of the man in the street triumphing and that the idiots who labelled my life-long beliefs the ‘politics of envy’. Somehow the ‘politics of greed’ hasn’t stuck to their Teflon hides, but surely the great British public would punish the liberals for grabbing power without honour and the grasping Tories for the bedroom tax, the rise in food banks and zero-hour contracts.

I awoke the morning after the election and opened my iPad… and almost dropped it in shock as I watched the right steadily climbing toward an outright majority.

I never though that it would happen but I was glad to see a Tory elected in my own constituency because he stopped the leader of UKIP from getting a toehold… then found out I would return to the only UKIP local authority in the UK!

I watched a decent caring man ousted from leadership and rejected by the great British public because he looked like grommet eating a bacon sandwich. I saw a million people who care about the world their kids will inherit represented by just one MP while eleven million Tories got over three hundred seats.

I watched my fellow Brits in the far north abandon me to wage slavery and the money god as they strive to break away from the land of lower middle-class sheep who obviously honestly believe the cant about the nation with no understanding that no nation is rich when its people are poor.

What were you thinking middle Britain?

Don’t you care about the lives of those with less opportunity, less wealth and less handed to them on a plate? Don’t you care that the myth of continuous growth will deplete the world’s resources and bring on pestilence and destruction? Can you honestly not see that inequality is an anathema?

Like zombies sleep-walking into the pit you have paved the way for the privatisation of the NHS, the decimation of all public services and a society where only money counts and our leaders know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

If only their climate was warmer I’d be applying for Scottish citizenship!