Tragedy

As Longtime Readers may know, one of my favorite stops when I’m in Britishland is Patisserie Valerie, which makes some of the best pastries I’ve ever tasted (along with outstanding croissants at breakfast time).  Apparently, quality merchandise hasn’t been enough:

Patisserie Holdings plc announces today that, as a direct result of the significant fraud referred to in previous announcements, it has been unable to renew its bank facilities, and therefore regrettably the business does not have sufficient funding to meet its liabilities as they fall due.
As a consequence, the directors have appointed partners at KPMG as administrators to the company and its various subsidiaries.
The Chairman Luke Johnson has personally extended an unsecured, interest-free loan to help ensure that the January wages are paid to all staff working in the ongoing business.
This Loan will also assist the administrators in trading as many profitable stores as possible while a sale process is undertaken.

Needless to say, stores will be closed and people will lose their jobs.

This after one of its senior executives siphoned money out of the place to support his jet-set lifestyle.  And if I could get hold of the asshole, his legal and financial problems would be the least of his problems.

Yes, I take my pastries that  seriously.

Not Diligent

I see that I’ve forgotten to itemize my non-vegan intake over the past two weeks.  I plead Old Fart Forgetfulness, so please forgive my sloppiness.  Here, however, is sort of a representative summary of my meals thus far:

Oh wait, there was some pulled pork in there too:

I’ll try to do better next time, promise.

Fungus?

From Britishland, (a.k.a. Vegan Nation):

Fish and chips are set to go vegan as Quorn launches an alternative made with protein derived from fungus – to help create a similar flaky texture.
The meat-free brand is set to release breaded and battered fishless fillets in March, both of which took five years to produce.
It comes just two weeks after Greggs launched a vegan sausage roll, and days after Harvester announced a new plant-based menu.

Thanks but no thanks… I’ll be sticking with cod.

And don’t get me started about vegan sausage rolls.

Veganuary Report: Week 1

In honor of Veganuary, I will be posting my daily food intake each Saturday evening for the rest of the month.

Jan 1:  Bacon & scrambled eggs (breakfast), leg of lamb, asparagus & sweet potato (dinner)

Jan 2:  Boerewors & egg (breakfast), pastrami sandwich & cole slaw (dinner), beef biltong snack

Jan 3:  Boerewors & egg (breakfast), BBQ pulled pork & cole slaw (dinner)

Jan 4:  Boerewors & egg (breakfast), fish (cod) & chips (dinner)

Jan 5:  Bacon & scrambled eggs (breakfast), ham sandwich (lunch), beef bourguignon (scheduled for a late dinner tonight)   lobster bisque, pork chop, mash potatoes and veg (dinner).

In case you’re wondering, I eat a VERY early breakfast on weekdays because I’m up at 4am for Uber duty, and it’s just easier to warm up a piece of sausage to eat in the car.  I always have at least half a dozen hard-boiled eggs in the fridge both for breakfast and as an occasional salad component.

All non-vegan suggestions are welcome in Comments.  Vegan commentary can fuck off.

Never Touch The Stuff

I have a theory that people only eat airline meals out of boredom — anything to relieve the tedium of a long flight — because I absolutely cannot imagine another reason for subjecting your taste buds to the bland, horrible pablum that passes for airline “food”.  And I cannot fathom why any airline would offer meals on a flight lasting less than three hours anyway, but they do.

So you can imagine my disinterest when yet another survey came out to see which airline offered the “healthiest, most nutritious / calorie-conscious  / whatever” meals on their flights.  Apparently, Alaska and Delta are at the top while at the bottom (to nobody’s surprise) comes Spirit Airlines (motto: “We invented cheap ‘n nasty travel, and we never forget to remind you of the fact”).

What amazes me is not that cheapskate Southwest Airlines (“Get where you’re going via five stops”) comes near the bottom of the list, but that they offer any food at all.  As far as I’m concerned, Southwest passengers should get free water and maybe a small pack of nuts, and count their blessings — and ditto people who fly with Spirit and all the other “budget” airlines.

As most of my travel is transoceanic ergo long-haul, I always make sure to take my own food on board, which has two features in my favor:  firstly, I can eat anytime I feel hungry and not when the airline thinks I should (e.g. 15 minutes before touchdown, the idiots), and secondly, I’m always assured that I’ll be getting food which I love to eat and is not nutritionally suspect (unless I decide to make it so, see below).  I have no dietary restrictions other than voluntary ones, so I can take pretty much whatever I like.

The only problem I have is booze, which dehydrates me anyway, and coupled with the regular dehydration of high-altitude travel therefore gives me a real chance of a painful gout attack.  So I never drink booze while flying — which kinda sucks, but waddya gonna do? — and instead, I take a couple of empty quart bottles through airport security (150ml? go fuck yourselves) and fill them up at a water fountain before boarding ($5 for a pint bottle of Dahani? go fuck yourselves, x 2).  I know, I often complain about how much I hate the (non-)taste of plain water, but I figure that I can endure pretty much anything for eight or so hours, and water isn’t the worst of those, by any means.  Additional note:  the last couple of times I flew out of London’s Heathrow, there was a promotion inside the secure area-stores which offered a free 500ml bottle of Evian with purchase of the Daily Telegraph, an excellent bargain because it provided me with in-flight water and gave me something to read while eating my pre-flight meal of a Full English breakfast / fish ‘n chips (depending on time of day or mood).

I divide my on-board food into three categories:  food, snacks and self-indulgence;  and I take one of each kind every time I fly.

The travel food is simple:  meat. Specifically, it’s 1lb of South African biltong (never American jerky because it’s too sweet and tastes like crap anyway).  I know, biltong is generally nosebleed-expensive no matter where you buy it, but a pound lasts me for both outbound and return flights.  Also, biltong (unlike jerky) is made of steak, so it’s quality meat.  Sometimes I’ll take some droëwors (another South African delicacy, pronounced “drew-uh-vorce”) which is spicy dried sausage, and I buy it and the biltong at a little shop in Grapevine.  That takes care of the protein, which is really all one needs to keep fed for 8-10 hours anyway.  (Warning:  both biltong and droëwors are highly addictive if you develop a taste for them.  I grew up eating the stuff, so I’m screwed.)

My travel snack is likewise simple:  salted cashew nuts, kept in a resealable plastic bag.  I love the damn things, and a large bag is seldom far from reach at home anyway.  (I know, they’re not as good for you as almonds, but I cannot stand the taste of almonds.)  I take nearly 2lbs of cashews when I travel simply so that I don’t have to buy them for the return flight — go ahead and see how much cashews cost in the U.K. and Europe, and you’ll see why.  Sometimes, if I remember to buy them ahead of time, I’ll also take some dried cherries, just for variation, or else I’ll buy a banana at one of the airport shops, if available.

My self-indulgence is even more simple:  a large bar of chocolate.  (I know, I know, don’t scold me.)  I have over the past three years managed to if not conquer my addiction, then at least tame it.  And if ever there’s a time when I can justify spoiling myself, it’s when I’m flying in a cramped coach-class airline seat for ten hours.  No jury would convict.  As for which specific chocolate, I leave the choice till the day of, or the day before my flight, but it’s generally drawn from Nestlé’s AeroMilky Bar or Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.  All are available at the World Market just up the road or at the Grapevine shop en route  to DFW, so it’s an easy purchase.  If I’m going to England, then I’ll forego those choices (because I can buy them Over There for the return trip), and take instead a bag of chocolate-covered cherries from Central Market on the outbound flight.

I think you’ll agree that the above yummies constitute a compelling alternative to bland, tasteless airline food.  If you disagree with me, I don’t wanna hear about it.  And please:  I know that airline meals are “free”, and if ever there’s truth in the saying that you get what you pay for, that would be it.

Finally — and this can be important — my airline food and water supply makes me less vulnerable to long flight delays, even if overnight ones.  There’s nothing worse than being told your flight has been postponed to the next day meaning an overnight stay in the airport, and finding out that all the restaurants have closed.

It’s all part of being prepared for the worst, isn’t it?

I CAN’T HEAR YOU

Somebody note the date:  I agree almost completely with The Atlantic magazine, at least as far as this article is concerned (thankee, Insty), and I urge you to read it all, if you have the time:

Restaurants are so loud because architects don’t design them to be quiet.  Much of this shift in design boils down to changing conceptions of what makes a space seem upscale or luxurious, as well as evolving trends in food service.  Right now, high-end surfaces connote luxury, such as the slate and wood of restaurants including The Osprey in Brooklyn or Atomix in Manhattan.
This trend is not limited to New York.  According to Architectural Digest, mid-century modern and minimalism are both here to stay.  That means sparse, modern decor;  high, exposed ceilings; and almost no soft goods, such as curtains, upholstery, or carpets.  These [minimalist] design features are a feast for the eyes, but a nightmare for the ears.  No soft goods and tall ceilings mean nothing is absorbing sound energy, and a room full of hard surfaces serves as a big sonic mirror, reflecting sound around the room.

Now add over-loud “background” music to the clamor as well as noisy patronss (Americans are a loud-spoken bunch at the best of times), and it’s enough to make me order soup just so I can drink it through a straw while holding my hands over my ears.

I’ve bitched about this trend in the past, but mostly to complain about the music selection (tinny pop pablum or bass-heavy rap/R&B).  But last week I had breakfast with Doc Russia in some new (and overpriced) breakfast place, and in a room which contained maybe six paying customers (out of over fifty seats), the noise was so bad (hard surfaces plus loud music) that I longed for my shooting lids.

Come to think of it, I think I’ll start carrying my ear protection with me when I go out from now on, and put them on if the place is too noisy.  My lids are noise-sensitive (with the little volume adjustment thingies on the side) so they are perfectly adequate for conversation.  I will, however, shout loudly at the waiter when ordering my food;  what the fuck, the restaurant clearly doesn’t mind excessive noise, right?

I’m sounding a little flippant about this, but I’m not joking at all.  As it is, my tinnitus makes hearing occasionally difficult, but impossibly-so in a loud environment.

Don’t get me started on “mid-century modern and minimalism; sparse, modern decor; high, exposed ceilings; stainless-steel tabletops, slate-tile floors, and exposed ductwork; and sparse and sleek [decor], with hardwood floors and colorful Danish chairs with tapered legs seated beside long, light-colored wood tables”.  A less inviting scenario for a meal I can’t even begin to imagine.  And please:  don’t give me that crap about how hard surfaces are easier to clean and to keep clean:  that’s putting the needs of the business ahead of those of its customers, which mistake should cause the business to fail quickly — but sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case here, I suspect because we’ve just become accustomed to the clamor.

The article has it right:

The result is a loud space that renders speech unintelligible.  Now that it’s so commonplace, the din of a loud restaurant is unavoidable.  That’s bad for your health—and worse for the staff who works there.  But it also degrades the thing that eating out is meant to [engender]:  a shared social experience that rejuvenates, rather than harms, its participants.

Considering that I go out to eat with friends or family where the primary motivation is social — conversation and companionship — and the food (no matter how fine) a distant second, it should come as no surprise that over time, I have become less and less likely to eat out.

In fact, strike the above thought about taking hearing protection when going out.  In future, I’ll walk into the restaurant and if the clamor is overpowering, I’ll just tell the restaurateur:   “Sorry, but your place is too noisy.  I’m going somewhere quieter.”  And please note that I’m not talking about a restaurant full of people having a good time:  that’s a different situation altogether.  But if the place is noisy because everyone has to scream to make themselves heard over the cacophonous ambiance, then it’s elsewhere I’ll be going.

If enough people follow my example, then maybe — just maybe — we can reverse this bullshit trend whereby function doesn’t just follow form;  it throws it to the floor and suffocates it, noisily.

And by the way:  fuck “mid-century” and “minimalism”.