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November 13, 2005

Food history geek site

Just came across this piece of loveliness.

Welcome to the cartography of hip

It had to happen, really. No neighbourhood can claim to be truly on the map until it's got itself a farmer's market.

So on the way to the park, Clem and I shuffled along to mingle with the so solid redwing, parka and toddlers on a string crew to admire the earthy parsnips and squeeze a few deserving caulis. There was meat and treats and even egg-'n'-dairy-free cupcakes to tempt the NW6 control mothers off the path of righteousness and self-abnegation. And I just know that copies of the River Cafe Green book are being dusted off right about now as the eager shoppers figure out what in the name of god they're going to do with the 2kg of cavolo nero they simply had to buy.

Delicious Lincoln sausages sizzled courtesy of Grasmere Farm (Clemmie wolfed down two stuffed in a lovely squidgy bun).

Today felt the first real chill of autumn so a coffee wagon was a welcome sight. However the lattes it was selling were made with unpasteurised milk and when I (being seven months' pregnant and a bit sensitive on that front) inquired after bastardised pasteurised, I could have sworn I heard "bloody townie" passing the homespun barista's lips. Insult your market, that's a good plan, you Hertfordshire tosser. Any old how, it was kinda sweet seeing the worthy hordes of NW Sixers washing down their mutton burgers with a swiftie from Starbucks which has also moved in down the road, more proof if it were needed that Queen's Park est arrivé.

All bitching aside, I'll definitely be going back for Grasmere's Lincoln bangers, the leg roasts of Gloucester Old Spot and punnets of green tomatoes. And let's face it, three big green cabbages for £1.50 is a good deal no matter what your postcode.

November 11, 2005

Tatties

I've always wondered why Waitrose, a supermarket admirably dedicated to regionalism and diversity, utterly fails on the labelling side, particularly when it comes to its potatoes.

This is a small point, but one that has driven me nuts for ages. Why does Waitrose label its non-organic tatties clearly as Maris Piper, King Edwards, Desiree etc but can only muster "Red" or "White Potatoes" as a description of its organic range. Organic shoppers are many things, but I seriously doubt they are colourblind, so the least helpful thing that could go on the label of an otherwise transparent plastic bag is the colour of the spud therein. I can see they're red, but which variety are they? I (and I would imagine most other shoppers who choose organic) want to know how they cook not what to put them beside in the kitchen for maximum aesthetic impact.

So, this morning, I got on my high retail horse and I brought it up with the fruit & veg manager at the Finchley Road branch. Sensing a great deal of "yeah, yeah, whatever," in his response (although politely and attentively put), I thought I might just give the press office a ring and ask the same question along with some other stuff I needed to find out.

You could have knocked me down with a potato peeling when Peter Cook, the fruit & veg buyer, rang me up a couple of hours later with a full explanation of this labelling anomally.

So the skinny is this: Waitrose, true to its spirit of promoting the little guy, buy so many varieties of organic potato from so many different producers throughout the year that it would cost the company a fortune to print up bags naming all the spuds.

Fair enough, I said, but why not print up a paper shelf label identifying the spuds instead? They do it for mushrooms and apples and all manner of other stuff so why not potatoes, particularly at this time of year when the domestic tatty season is in full swing?

Good idea, said Mr Cook. We're working on our packaging as we speak and will bear in mind your suggestion.

So who knows? Blow off or customer service in action? If, all of a sudden, labels appear in Waitrose identifying organic Kerr's Pinks, Maris Piper or Pentland Hawk, you can send your letters of grateful thanks to me here and I'll forward them to the charming Peter Cook.

I wonder if he's as funny as the other more famous one?

For all those interested in what's what in the land of the spud, here's a link I dug up courtesy of our friends at the foodie supermarket

Mourning my SKK pan

Friday 11 November is a sad day indeed. Not only for the Armistice Day ceremonials which are becoming more and more poignant as the peace rages in Iraq, but on a small personal level.

Today, I have called time on my SKK frying pan. This wonderful piece of kit has long been top gun in my kitchen battery but after only four years' service it has finally bitten the dust. Or at least has been officially demoted to the ranks of the mediocre and culpably sticky non-stick.

I know it's pathetic to become attached to objects, particularly cook stuff, but I loved that pan and did everything with it. It was so much more than just a frying pan. Happy were the days when we skipped hand in hand through the park, kicking leaves and laughing about...

OK. Not really, but seriously if you've never heard of SKK you should find out. They're great. They're German and as non-stick as Bill Clinton. Every pan is hand cast from heavy gauge aluminium so they all weigh a ton but give fantastic, even heat distribution. In the durability stakes they win by a mile. The non-stick is titanium-based meaning you can use metal implements on it and not damage it, you can cook on any surface be it gas, halogen, Aga or an open fire if the urge grabs you.

And it comes with a five-year guarantee. Is this worth pursuing, or after four years, three months and 20 days, will the manufacturer just shrug and say tough? Well, not that tough, actually. I (probably mistakenly) tend to believe that a guarantee is a minimum life expectancy, not a maximum, but here I could be wrong. Is i just guaranteeing what it guarantees and I could well have a point since my pan fell in sight of the finishing post?

Anyway, we'll see what the nice people at SKK say. If they tell me to get lost, I may find myself pledging allegiance to another flag, but if they're nice, I may find myself with a shiny, new, hard-as-nails pan and the prospect of at least five more years' happy cooking.

Here's hoping.

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