Working Class Food

I was reminded of this the other day.

Back in Sith Efrika, city streets are full of little snack bars, fish ‘n chip shops and cafés (called “caffies” by the locals, and these places bear absolutely no relation to the French establishment).  All serve the usual stuff:  hot dogs (“horrogs”), burgers, and of course fish ‘n chips.

Most of them, especially in working-class areas, serve something else.  It’s called (inexplicably) “bunny chow”, and it’s the simplest of all dishes:  a half-loaf of regular white- or brown bread, hollowed out and filled with either chicken/beef/lamb curry, or else beef/mutton stew.  It’s a budget-prized take on the “soup-in-a-French-boule” thing beloved of snooty Californian and Midwestern restaurants.

Here are a couple pics of bunny chow, to give you an idea:  

You can eat it with your bare hands:  scoop the top part out with your fingers until there’s enough crust to break off and use as a scoop;  or if you’re feeling flush, order a side of fries and use those in twos as your delivery device.  (I said  it was a working-class food.)  Or, if you’re squeamish, use a fork for the stew, and when it’s all gone, eat the saturated bread up afterwards.  Either way, you have to eat it quickly or else the loaf will collapse — literally, it’s a portable meal to be eaten on the run.

You can go upscale with it:

…but that’s like putting caviar on a hot dog.  “Bunny chow” means cheap bread, cheap meat, a cheap meal.

Served properly, it’s delicious.  Sadly, bunny chow is often used for yesterday’s leftover stew (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or else last week’s  leftover stew (not so good).  Rule of thumb:  never order bunny chow early on a Monday morning.

When I was a starving student back in the early 1970s, I lived on bunny chow.  There was a greasy snack bar just around the corner from campus which served both curried chicken or -lamb chow, but you had to be careful eating either because there were often pieces of bone left in the stew — let’s just say that the food prep tended towards the hasty side in these establishments.

Later, as a starving musician, my tastes had become more sophisticated, and I’d moved on to shawarmas, that spicy and tasty Mediterranean dish of lamb, chicken or beef carved off a rotating vertical skewer:and served inside a soft, thin pita-bread pocket. 

After almost every gig, I’d head off to Paradise Foods in Hillbrow (greasy spoons, greasy floor, greasy walls  FFS), get two shawarmas (meat and sauce only, none of that veg crap), and somehow I’d manage to eat both of them on the run before I got back to my car.  Man, it was a highlight of the week.

But if I was on the road to or from a gig and feeling hungry, there was always a roadside “caffie” somewhere to sell me bunny chow.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the kitchen.

The Problem With Bread

All my life, I’ve loved bread.  As a kid I ate bread with every meal, mostly the commercial white- or brown loaves (called “government bread” in South Africa because the price was kept low by a combination of both subsidy and quota production).  The nearest equivalent today would be the Wonderbread/ Hostess/ generic breads found in supermarkets (U.K. equivalent:  Hovis/ Warburtons/ store brands).

Gradually as I got older and my taste buds matured, I discovered bakery breads, my taste for which became exacerbated by visits to Europe and exposure to wares of the boulangerie  and bäckerei… oy, my mouth waters just thinking  about the Viennese brötchen  I’d gobble down with my morning coffee.

All went well, until my doctor told me that I needed to change my diet (his exact words:  “If you don’t lose weight, you’re going to die, you fat bastard”).  There were other words related to my extreme paucity of exercise (“Get up off your fat ass and start exercising, too.”)

I know that diets don’t work;  only permanent changes in lifestyle and eating habits do.  And the only change that seems to work without being too much work is getting rid of the bad things which cause you to gain weight, chief offenders being starches (grains) and sugars.

Sugars were not too difficult, as long as I cut out stuff like Coke and fruit jams [moan];  but I was never going to eliminate sugar from my diet altogether because I can’t drink coffee without at least a little sugar to cut the bitterness — and I’ll never  give up coffee.

The grains were not altogether difficult to cut back on.  I’ve never cared much for pasta — whatever it’s called, it’s all the same stuff — so Italian dishes like lasagna and macaroni went into the trashcan.  Ditto rice, which I’ve always liked but found easy to drop.

But then comes the worst offender:  bread.  Oh… fuck.  Wait:  you mean no more baguettes?

Non.

What about challah?

Nah.

Croissants?

Pas du tout.

Brötchen?

Bestimmt nicht.

So my all-time favorite, crusty French batard loaf?

Mais non (mon gros cochon).

As I said… fuck.

So here’s what I do.  I limit myself to two slices of toast (or one croissant) on Saturday mornings, and occasionally a toasted sandwich (cheese, or chicken mayonnaise) on Friday nights.  Those are my “cheats” (without which I’d never do any of it).

And I hit the gym — treadmill and stationary bicycle for half an hour — every weekday, religiously.  (When I was still at Doc Russia’s house, I walked about two miles per day, including a quarter-mile up and down Thrombosis Hill*.)  The results have been quite pleasing:  270 lbs in Jan 2017, somewhat south of 230 lbs today, with a goal weight of 205, which was my weight at age 23 in the Army, right after boot camp.  (Some asswipe once suggested that at my height, my goal should be 175, whereupon I chastised him sorely, saying that I hadn’t weighed 175 since 1969 at age 15.  When he got his breath back, he agreed.)

But I still miss — I mean, constantly — my daily bread.  Were it not for that “death” bullshit, I’d dump the whole stupid diet/ fitness lark in an instant and go back to my four slices a day.  I mean, FFS:


*the road up the hill behind Doc’s house, which requires cars to shift into low gear at the base.

Sippin’ Stuff

From Reader Neville H:

“Last weekend you talked about “sipping” that new gin you discovered [Sipsmith–K.].  What other liquor do you sip, as opposed to mixing with tonic, water etc?”

Good question.  If I’m in a party mood amongst friends, I generally drink “mixed” spirits — e.g. Myers/Captain Morgan rum & Coke, gin & tonic, J&B and water, Jack Daniels & Coke, Richelieu brandy and ginger ale, and screwdrivers, to mention but some, the choice depending on my mood or the time of day — because when I’m in a party mood, I seldom have a brake pedal and I chug the lovely stuff down by the pint, often with disastrous results.  (When I’m in Britishland, I’ll do the same with Wiltshire’s Wadworth 6x, Fuller’s London Pride and Cornwall’s Tribute ales, by the way.)

But when the guests are over at my place and it’s just a quiet evening spent chatting about this and that and having a civilized (as opposed to raucous) time, I’m more of a mind to sip neat liquor, the choice of which also depending on my mood at the time.

In no specific order, I like to sip Southern Comfort Original, any number of single malt Scotches (I have a few favorites, but mostly Glenmorangie 10 y.o.) and now, Sipsmith London Dry.

 

Of course, one could add port and sherry to the list of sippin’ stuff (not wine, which is generally consumed like ale, so to speak), but let’s not get carried away now.

And of course if I’m Over There and in the company of Mr. Free Market, The Englishman or The Sorensons, however, all that can get set aside for Adventures In Drinking Gallons Of Whatever.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, my sippin’ choices.  I hope that answers Reader Neville’s question.

I think I’ll go and get one now.  All this writing makes a man thirsty, what?

Seriously Wonderful

We interrupt this blogging stuff for a brief (and completely un-sponsored) blatant plug non-commercial message.

As Loyal Friends & Readers know well, I love me my gin.  Mostly, I love it with Angostura Bitters (to make it pink) and a 7-Up/Sprite mixer to make it a thirst-quencher, which it is, oh yes indeed it is.

Because I add the above mixers, the brand is mostly irrelevant, as long as it’s London dry — Booth’s, Beefeater, Gordon’s, etc. — although I will confess to buying Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray quite often too, especially if they’re on sale.

Most of the “new” gins (e.g. Hendrick’s and Bulldog) have a flavor distinct from London dry, which makes the unadulterated sipping thereof a little problematic for me — others have compared it to sipping the peaty Laphroiag vs. the smooth Glenmorangie whiskies — and in general, I’ve pretty much grown up drinking “pink ‘n lemonade” (Brit-speak for 7-Up) by the pint, rather than sipping the lovely stuff anyway.

That’s all about to change, because I have discovered a fine “sipping” gin at last:

Good grief.  Smooth, clear taste;  no afterburn or bitterness… I don’t even want to try adding bitters and 7-Up to the lovely stuff, so good is it on my tongue.  And it’s relatively new on the market (story here) which may be why I’d never tried it before.

It’s a little pricey — about $15 a bottle more than, say, Gordon’s — but considering that I’ll be sipping it and not (ahem) chugging it down in beermugs with my bacon & eggs in the morning [some exaggeration], the cost isn’t that important.

There are other varieties of Sipsmith, e.g. “VJOP” and “Blue Label”, and the distillery also makes vodka and sloe gin, amongst other types,

…but for now I’m going to stick with the “regular” London Dry until I’ve sampled a case or two before I start going crazy and experimenting.  And the next time I’m in Londonistan, it’s to the Sipsmith Distillery I’ll be going.

Seriously, this is lovely stuff — and if you’re one of those heretics unfortunate souls who doesn’t like gin, you could do worse than to try this on the rocks at first, just to see.  It may change your life*, as gin has done for so many others over the centuries.


*not always for the better, of course, but we’re all grownups here.  Oh, and as always, I get nothing from anyone for plugging their products, and this time is no exception.

More Outrage

Of course, no festival could be safe from the Perpetually Indignant.  From the so-called National Obesity Forum (U.K. branch), we are told the following:

Super-sized Eater eggs are a risk to health because of the extraordinary amount of sugar they contain, [these fucking busybodies] have warned.
Over-indulging youngsters could do ‘real’ damage, they say, if they consumer an entire egg in one day – all too likely at Easter.
Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Crunchie Ultimate Easter Egg contains a whopping 330g of sugar. This is the equivalent of 17 days’ worth of sugar, based on the NHS recommendation for children aged four to six to consume no more than 19g in a day.

It makes me want to go out and buy six dozen of these bad boys, and hand them out to random kids at our local playgrounds.  I wonder if World Market has them in stock…