Mushy Peas: Food of the Gods

Power Food.

Power Food.

“Where did this dish come from? What’s the matter with peas? Why did people start mushing them? [tastes mushy peas] Oh, that’s why.” – Anthony Bourdain

To do mushy peas justice you need to ensure the following:

  • You are outside. Preferably on a chilly evening. Preferably at a fairground.
  • The mushy peas are served to you in a polystyrene cup.
  • You have access to copious amounts of mint sauce and vinegar.
  • You are with people you aren’t ashamed to fart in front of.

Tasty, nutritious (one of your five a day!) and cheap. A true superfood.


Oh, excuse me.

Thoughts on Mindful Eating

An American In Paris

An American In Paris

The tall handsome American takes a seat outside a Parisian cafe. He takes a sip of coffee and looks out at the French city life unfolding before him. With a thoughtful pause, he sums up his experience:

“It’s no accident that the institution, the cafe is so closely associated with the French. What do we have here? We have a cup of coffee, and a ham sandwich. Basically a row of chairs pointing in one direction, and a little table, staring out into the street. What a simple thing. Sit in a chair, and observe. The simplest of life’s pleasures. And yet for most Parisians, or many Parisians, this can be an afternoon’s entertainment and I think this gets right to the kernel of what distinguishes the French.

What are the French famous for? Perfume that smells good, sense of smell. Food that tastes good, sense of taste. Art, architecture, visual sense. OK, there’s really no explanation for their crap pop music, but, you know, three out of four is not bad. These are all matters of the senses, it’s their attitude towards pleasure and sensuality. And food in general, being the best example. In the English-speaking world, there’s always been a certain ambivalence about taking pleasure at the table. There’s been this notion, this puritanical notion, that if you take too much pleasure in your food, that it might somehow lead to bad character. Might lead to harder stuff, like sex for instance. I think the French have always understood that yeah, hell yeah, it does lead to sex. And it should. That residual sense of food being good, food being important, food being worth waiting for and food being worth spending time with. Eating is, and should be, a joyous occasion. As should the use of all your senses.

So, America, perhaps you should try it. Maybe duck out of the office when the boss isn’t looking, or call in sick for that boring meeting, pull up a chair at a local joint. Grab a tasty beverage and eat a ham sandwich, really eat a ham sandwich. You just may find that not only do you love the French again, but you may also love life and ultimately, the world.”

That was the first episode of No Reservations, and that closing speech really hit home to me. I thought I liked food. It appeared what I liked doing was shoving things in my mouth, getting stomach ache and feeling guilty. Rather a strange thing to like. I could eat and eat and eat and if you asked me to describe the taste, I couldn’t tell you. Some foods didn’t even touch the sides.

“…really eat a ham sandwich.”

That episode, entitled Why The French Don’t Suck was to me all about slowing down and noticing. Really using your senses. Taking the time to fully appreciate where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with and what you’re eating. Savour every moment, because every moment is worth savouring. Slow down and enjoy.

Since I started calorie counting, everything I eat has to be worth the ‘spend’. Hoovering up food like it’ll disintegrate before my eyes if I don’t eat it quick enough… That’s no longer an option. It’s no longer appealing. How can eating be a pleasure if I don’t take the time to even notice what I’m putting in my mouth?

Now I slow down and pay attention to flavour and texture. I try to find the words to describe what I’m tasting, but I often fail. It’s brought a whole different kind of pleasure to eating, maybe the correct kind of pleasure rather than the manic “I must eat everything I see in order to feel satisfied” feeling I used to call pleasure.

Just another example of how Anthony Bourdain continues to inspire me, impress me and make me really want to go Paris.

I’m not the only one inspired by Tony. My friend Sarah found her calling in life after watching No Reservations – read her story here.

How Anthony Bourdain made my 2012.

Parcel from a Californian Goddess

The first time I saw Tony was on The Colbert Report. His interview with Stephen made him come across as a badass Ramsey-esque f-bomb loving food writer. About six months after that he was a guest on The Daily Show. That was the point when my interest in this man and his work increased to the point of wishing to devour each and every piece of work I could find with his name on it.

This man’s work is hard to track down here in the UK, but I found enough to be so inspired by him that he has indeed made my year. Here’s why:

He’s a role model for the “late bloomers”.

Tony’s career as “The Man With The Best Job In The World” began in his mid-forties. I’m forty next year and currently have no career to speak of. He inspires me to keep looking for opportunities and never to give up hope.

He helped me to fall in love with food.

I thought I liked food before. Turns out what I really liked was mindlessly shoving any old rubbish in my face until my stomach ballooned and I hated my very existence. His passion for food and his way with words had me searching for similar experiences, and I learned how to truly love what I ate. Before, if you’d asked me to describe the flavours and textures of a recently enjoyed meal, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Now, I’ve slowed down. I eat properly, I eat well, and I don’t eat anywhere near as much as I used to because quality is better than quantity.

He helped me lose weight!

Yes, you read that right. Anthony Bourdain, well-known for his love of rich, fatty foods, has helped me to shed over 60lbs in the last year. Not just from re-wiring my appetite, but by fuelling my desire to travel.

He is a gateway drug.

Through watching “No Reservations”, “A Cook’s Tour” and “The Layover” I’ve been introduced to more wonderful people, food and restaurants. The budget for my dream trip to New York City will have to be trebled as I now need to visit Le Bernadin (Eric Ripert’s restaurant), Momofuku (David Chang’s restaurant), Les Halles (the brasserie where Tony is “chef at large”) and Big Gay Ice Cream (home of the Salty Pimp and the Bea Arthur).

And thanks to him, this year I’ve watched Apocalypse Now and bought my first graphic novel (his first graphic novel, “Get Jiro”).

On the off-chance he’s managed to see this post amidst the deluge of tweets he gets daily from his million-plus followers, I’d just like to say…

Thank you. You’ve made my year. Here’s to Parts Unknown and 2013.

Bringing the Bourdain – for the lucky ducks getting INtoxicated with Zamir.

The following is a little piece I wrote for the Facebook page of an event celebrating the last ever episode of Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations:

So you’re going to the No Reservations party at Hotel at The Lafayette. You lucky duck.

And you’ve registered for the Anthony Bourdain Lookalike Contest? You incredibly attractive lucky duck!

Allow me, a devoted NoRes fangirl with many hundreds of viewing hours under her belt, to impart to you a little advice to give you that winning edge.

Tall is a state of mind.

You might think your chances of success are slim if you would struggle to reach six foot four standing on a chair. It’s all in the attitude, baby. If you believe you tower over your comrades, then you will tower over your comrades.

Unleashing the Silver Fox

One of Bourdain’s most beguiling features is his delightful silver hair. If you’re not blessed with silver fox locks yourself, do not panic. Thanks to the cosplay boom there are wigs a’plenty available. For the Bourdain look, pick one with quite a bit of curl and trim it back. Or, get a grey Afro, some flares and go as Disco Bourdain!

The Clothes Maketh The Man

So let’s run through your wardrobe options. Got a baggy Ramones t-shirt? That’s an essential for Early Bourdain. For a more up to date look, a dress shirt, or t-shirt and blazer combo would work. But for me, you can’t go wrong with the classic black tee and leather jacket. Don’t forget the sunglasses.

Think Ink!

Don’t forget Tony’s impressive array of tattoos. From the ouroboros and skull on his shoulders to the snake and sun tats on his forearms.

It’s all in the -isms.

If you really want to convey all that is Mr Anthony Bourdain, then it’s all in the wit. Well-scattered f-bombs, the odd excitable “Oh yeah!”, the frequent proclamation that what you are experiencing is “a beautiful thing” and of course, regular reminders to your fellow guests that the evening at the Lafayette “does not suck”. And as the evening comes to an end, thoughtfully ask yourself “what have we learned today?”.

With these Top Tony Tips you should be on to a winner. Have a great time, you lucky, handsome, silver-haired, f-bombing duck.

I hope this advice helps someone take the star prize, or at least a couple of phone numbers. I’d hate to think I’d spent all those hours staring at Anthony Bourdain for nothing. 😉

Sam’s Cookbook Challenge

I love a good cookbook. Pretty pictures of delicious dishes I delude myself into believing that one day I will attempt to replicate in my tiny shoebox kitchen with my tiny shoebox culinary ability. Some of the greats that have gathered dust on my bookshelves in the past have included Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, Raymond Blanc, and of course, the obligatory Delia Smith. With the exception of the Delia book, all of the others were sold or given away before we moved to Devon, and I’ve just started building my collection again. Only this time, I intend to use them. Yes. Really.

So here’s the challenge I’m going to set for myself and you, humble reader wherever you are, can enjoy my reports as I attempt recipes from three books, one e-book and the occasional recipe found online.

The books…

Gok Cooks Chinese (Search for "Gok Cooks Chinese" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) – The fabulous Mr Gok Wan took a break from his usual mission of making folks look good to sharing his family’s recipes for excellent chinese food. Aided by his equally fabulous father Poppa Wan, he creates easy and healthier versions of takeaway classics. Sounds good to me, wok on!

The Hairy Dieters (Search for "The Hairy Dieters" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) – Si and Dave are national treasures, and after their pastry-tastic tour of Europe, they decided it was time to shift a pound or two. They created recipes that are still tasty and filling, but are lower in calories. Since Michael and I are on a weight loss mission of our own, this seems relevant to our interests. And there are pies in there. And pasties. And burgers. Crikey.

Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook (Search for "Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) – This is advanced stuff, and I doubt I’ll be tackling anything out of this one just yet. We’re talking proper cuisine here, and Anthony opens the book with such charming lines as “…if I refer to you as a “useless screwhead” I will expect you to understand–and not to take personally.” There’s something of the mob boss in his technique “you do right by me and I will reward you, do not and I will destroy you”, and it makes this the less cuddly of the three books. So I think I will be working my way up to this one. If that’s OK with you, Chef Bourdain, Sir.

The ebook…

The Full Plate Diet – I came across this via SuperBetter. The Full Plate Diet e-book is available for free when you sign up to receive their weekly newsletter. I’ve just skimmed this one so far, and its focus appears to be on dietary fibre, something that is essential for good general health not just weight loss. Not so much a book of recipes, more a guidebook for making your favourites healthier and more substantial. Recipes are available on the site, and registration is free. Be aware, though, that it is an American site, so us Brits may have to do a little bit of translation along the way.

And others….

Eric Ripert – Executive Chef at Le Bernardin has many Michelin stars to his name and is generally regarded as one of the best chefs in the world. Eating at Le Bernardin is an item on my ever-increasing bucket list, and one I doubt will ever happen. However, while I can but dream about trying this great chef’s tasting menu (a snip at $330 with wine per person); I can have a go at the occasional step-by-step recipes he posts on Twitter. I have his mayonnaise recipe bookmarked, which will be worth a try for its comedy value alone.

BBC Good Food Magazine – I subscribe to the iPad edition, and much like the books I have so far just looked at the pretty pictures, fantasised about baking, and then left it to gather virtual dust. It’s an excellent magazine, the recipes look reasonably easy, therefore there’s really no excuse.

But first…

I need to get ready. I’ve read enough Anthony Bourdain (Search for "Anthony Bourdain" on: DuckDuckGo, Amazon UK, Amazon US) to know the importance of ‘mise-en-place’, and for me this means a rather substantial bit of re-organisation in my teeny tiny kitchen. Later I will look through the books and find my first recipes to try. More soon. Wish me luck.