Pumpkin Publog

Oct 03

Invalid redux!

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Invalid redux! I think I have found the un-meat food for invalids, and no it’s not Mrs Beeton’s fright-movie cuisine. Tonight for dinner I had a bowl of steaming vegetable udon soup, a few pieces of vegetable sushi with loads of wasabi (clears the sinuses!) and some fresh ginger soda made by the nice Japanese restaurant down the street. Ginger ale made from freshly grated ginger root is massively potent, burning and stinging your throat in an an oh-so-good way. That plus the giant mouthful of wasabi made me feel a hundred times better now than I did yesterday, when my brain was pounding and my throat felt like gravel. Now I just have to find a place that has good wasabi-flavored ice cream. Mmm, wasabi ice cream.

Oct 03

I’m not sure if I should be posting this on

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I’m not sure if I should be posting this on Proven By Science or the publog, but since we haven’t had a beer story for a while, let’s put it here. What is this beautiful, albeit eighties fractal-esque, picture of. I’ll tell you, it’s Newcastle Brown Ale under a microscope. Interested to see what other beers look like in the same conditions? Well the good, if possibly bored, people of Florida State University have a website of beers around the world under a microscope.

And if you don’t like beer they do cocktails too


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INVALID FOOD: looking for classic vegetarian recipes for the poorly, after my kneejerk suggestion of Chicken Broth had been spurned, I reached for my trusty Mrs Beeton, who is always sensible on such matters. Three quarters of her standbys are also meat-based broths, of course, but I’ll skip these for now. The section starts arcanely: To Make Arrowroot – as it’s “flavourless and insipid”, Mrs B advises you add sugar and sherry. Barley Gruel seemed too spartan even to countenance (despite the suggestion that you add port wine and sugar). What about Nutritious Coffee? This is really just coffee with milk, but “may be made still more nutrious by the addition of an egg well beaten, and put into the coffee cup”. Er, OK. Egg wine: ingredients, 1 egg, 1 tablespoonful and half glass of cold water, 1 glass of sherry, sugar and grated nutmeg to taste,” bearing in mind that “when the egg is not warmed, the mixture will be found easier of digestion , but it is not so pleasant a drink.” Urgently on, casting only a swift glance at Invalid’s Jelly, which requires “12 shanks of mutton”, to Nourishing Lemonade: boiling water, four lemons plus rinds, loaf of sugar, half a pint of sherry, FOUR EGGS!!

I began to wonder if the great housemaker’s technique with the under-the-weather was to threaten them with food so scary that they began say (in tiny frail voices) “You know what, Isabella my dear, I think I’m feeling a little better!” Two recipes remain: Toast-and-Water (ingredients – a slice of bread, one quart of boiling water) and (and here you grasp why Britain once commanded three-quarters of the globe’s land surface) Toast Sandwiches: “put a very thin piece of cold toast between two slices of thin bread-and-butter… ”

Oct 03

CHEAP FOOD WE LOVE: Supplementary (Crisps, Post-Colonial Theory and)

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CHEAP FOOD WE LOVE: Supplementary (Crisps, Post-Colonial Theory and): I’ve been trying to pin down the recent branding shift in Phileas Fogg snacks, and I can’t do it, I don’t think, without invoking the late great Edward Said: I think when you look at Phileas Fogg then and now, you can trace the successes AND failures of his pioneering 1978 work Orientalism over a quarter of a century. In 1985, PFC took Jules Verne’s gentle mockery of Empire English fascination with anything not-English and added extra jokey layers. Verne scouted the margins of the collective Euro-bourgeois dreamspace, inventing a comedy Englishman with a (to the French) exotic and amusing name. PFC took the idea, of Empire trade as a friendly round-the-world jaunt fuelled by the curiosity of a footloose oddball, and ran ads which barked “Pay attention!” at the start, and ended “Made in Medomsley Road, Consett.” (a drily suburban touch to deflate lurking pretensions…) (With its own secret pffft-to-globalism barb, maybe: Consett is actually in County Durham, a world away from the clipped Home Counties accent invoking it, PFC being the brainchild of people rendered suddenly post-industrially jobless with the steelyards began closing.) Anyway, the Marketing High Concept was NICE IMPERIALISM: with the BAD kind so long over, surely we can revel in shared positives = good food and good humour (and besides, the actual 80s range was really NOT all that Imperial, unless France counts as a colony…)

Well, snack technology is 20 years advanced, it’s no longer enough for novelty crisps simply to ring changes on the snob-vs-yob dialectic, and besides (and here’s where the impact of Orientalism perhaps does maybe tells) isn’t it a bit embarrassing these multicultural days to play Colonialism as if it were nothing but a bit of jolly fun. Enter United Biscuits, a global conglomerate named with seemingly world-historical ambition (think United States/Nations), eager to drag a still-bouyant line into a much-changed market: byebye Mr Fogg with his Dundreary Weepers, hullo the MODERN FREE-MARKET WORLD. I must admit, when I first saw the new packets, with their ravishing high-res photography (and lovely contents), I laughed, in ribald and shameful fashion. Honi soit qui mal y pense, obv, but I looked at the pink baldy feller looming in over the sari’d trader in Udaipur (see back of Poppadums packet) and thought SEX TOURIST. Of course what UB and PFC are thinking is thus: “We are all equal in a post-modern world, a seller and a buyer, two democratic units in a trans-global exchange hurrah!” And yes, the trader has an engaging grin and the front of the packet shows her busy blur of hands, her hard work and expertise IS basic to our enjoyment.

BUT. You see, the PFC feller is named (he’s called “Pat”, we’re told), but the Spice Trader isn’t. He looks like “us”; she looks like “India” (gorgeous colours, but purely generic, nothing to confuse or surprise the Tourist of Becalmed Stereotype). The problem, as Said used to argue, is that the West’s depiction of the East entirely muffled the East’s depiction of itself: this is the lesson it’s been hard to learn. The complicated joke at the back of the earlier PFC campaign, in its Flashman-esque way, was clumsier, designwise, but also not quite so pleased with itself (the concept of NICE IMPERIALISM at least acknowledges there is another kind…)

On the other hand, the new Lemongrass and Coconut Flavour Crackers are a marvel.

Another Mysterious Brand

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Another Mysterious Brand: except this one I do like. Tastes like nothing else, has heroically resisted the tides of ‘brand expansion’, has never IIRC changed its packaging, and you never see adverts for it. Every time I see it I’m disappointed that it’s made by evil Nestle rather than some stout-hearted family business in the Midlands run by a Mr.Caramac.

I like Cherry Coke.

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There, thus proving the blinkered prejudice of fellow publogger. Think about it, would the mighty Coca-Cola Company, even if trading thru Schweppes, be so stupid as to continue making and marketing something if it did not sell. Before you say “maintaining a world-wide presence” I bring you the sorry tale of Tab Clear in the UK. It was sugar-free. It tasted a bit cokey, but even worse it came in some bizarre plastic can that you could see the contents were clear in. Apparently the clarity of said product was its major selling point. It certainly was not the taste. The Coca-Cola Co withdrew it in the space of six months.

Of course I quite liked it.


Life’s Cruel Lottery

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Life’s Cruel Lottery: related to Dave’s anguish below – brands that refuse to die! I reached for a can of coke this morning as I picked up my paper, but the newsagent was temporarily out. Of Cherry Coke, however, there was no end. You never see anyone drinking Cherry Coke. You never see discarded cans of it. The shelves stocking it remain full no matter what incentive is offered. This has been the case since about 1992. Why is it still on the market?

Oct 03

Oh No!

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Oh No! According to the man who works at Blackheath station newsagents (upstairs bit), Blackcurrant Airwaves are being phased out! I’ve checked with the Wrigleys UK site, but no news, good or bad. Not much news at all really. I hope it’s not true, as I don’t want this to happen to me again. I’ve not seen any Spicy Cocktail flavour airwaves for some time, and fear the worst. My gum of choice could be going down the tubes (those tubes unblocked by airwaves refreshing vapour release properties, natch). I’ve bought 20 packets just in case, but they won’t last long. Sob.

Bars we have known

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Bars we have known. (And a moment of synchronicity with Mark’s last post). On Sunday morning, as you do, we wondered whether Wispas were still being made. Yours truly drew the short straw and made the long walk for the Sunday papers, and was also tasked with looking for a Wispa.

Mr H., our newsie, was sorry to inform us that they were not, but offered instead Dairy Milk with bubbles in. What seems to have happened is that Cadbury’s have streamlined their chocolate bar ranges. So what you get is a range of bog-standard Dairy Milk bars in chunks, with a variety extras. And where there was Wispa, there shall Dairy Mulk Bubble be. (NB Can’t be arsed to find out the exact name, and when you get to the end of this entry, you won’t want to find out either. Except maybe to avoid it.)

Anyway, having purchased one of these monstrosities (oops, giving away the ending again) and some white chocolate maltesers from Alldays next door, I set off home. Now I hate Dairy Milk chocolate: it’s far too sweet for me for a start (chocolate is *not* supposed to be sweet), and a bit too creamy. Wispa, I seem to remember, used to be a bit darker, and a bit subtler. So inevitably, disappointment is on the menu for breakfast chez CB/AT…

… But luckily, I’d also picked up some Thai Sweet Chilli flavour Walkers Sensations. So that was all right then. NB no-one I have imparted this information too can believe that the Wispa has been discontinued, although I have a vague memory of it being announced at some point. If anyone can confidently confirm or deny please feel free!


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(Facesaving item just this second remembered from same documentary: WISPA narrowly avoided being marketed as ROMBO)