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During a recent spontaneous flush of adventurous spirit the current Mrs G and I decided to take the Bentley out for a run in the country for a spot of pub lunch.

Fancy a spin in the country for a bite to eat and a pint of beer, Mrs G? I said with a growing sense of bravado at the thought of such high adventure.

Splendid, absolutely splendid! The current Mrs G responded gleefully; swept along as she was with the thought of such romance and danger.

We naturally logged a generalised route and expected time of return at our local police station; one can never be too careful when venturing out and off the beaten track. Mrs G and I have both watched ‘Deliverance’. Country folk, whilst appearing quaint from a distance, often have a distinct air of inbreeding and lack of personal hygiene which only becomes obvious when you have to get closer to them.

Undaunted by the concerns and dire warnings of friends and neighbours we set off, the Bentley purring gently as we passed along leafy lanes, the smell of farmyard animals (and probably locals too) drifting in through the slightly open windows. We passed farms, their cobbled courtyards littered with strangely medieval looking equipment presumably designed to be pulled behind horses, and groups of ruddy looking youths in utilitarian clothing. We passed ponds, the ducks scattering as we swept past, and fields of animals inexplicably all facing in the same direction. The countryside was even stranger than I remembered it from my only previous visit some thirty years earlier. I seem to remember overhearing my father talking once in hushed tones of a cousin who moved to the countryside when I was only very young; behaviour that could have wrought shame on us all.

We were now miles from civilization, but the directions I had been given by a close, if somewhat odd, friend and regular frequenter of the outdoors held true, and we soon drew up outside the pub he had recommended. The faint smell of manure only seemed to get stronger as we swung open the heavy iron studded door and stepped into the dimly lit interior. The current Mrs G held my arm a little tighter and stepped slightly closer as we crossed the few steps to the bar under the silent and watchful eyes of the locals. “Lunch?” I mumbled almost apologetically to the large rosy cheeked barmaid who leaned forward placing hands the size of ham hocks on the bar as we approached.

Do you have a reservation?” She replied sweetly. The room seemed to suddenly become brighter, less foreboding. Those people already seated at the tables seemed less like the warty, muck stained individuals one might expect to meet in the outdoors, and more like normal people; stock brokers and bank managers; professional white collar types, people who knew with some certainty who their parent were. This was, it turned out, a ‘gastropub‘, no longer the haunt of Mellors the gardener so beloved of Lady Chatterley. No longer the haunt of the broad backed, sun darkened farm hand; locals could no longer afford to live in the country. This pub was now the territory of the wonnabe Michelin Star chef.

So what did we settle for? The current Mrs G had the Steamed Salmon Fillet with Lime and Pepper Butter and a Salade de Pois Chiches (chickpea salad with roasted red peppers and cumin vinaigrette) and for myself the Agneau Chapvallon and a Topinambours en Daube. All very nice but not quite what we had planned when we set off to sample the delights of traditional English pub food; if such a thing exists anymore.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to visit the countryside every day, it’s untidy and above all it smells, but it would be nice just once in a while to be able to go there and eat real English food. Perhaps it can still be found in places like ‘the North’ but I have no intention of every setting foot there. It’s simply not safe. The countryside of southern England offers quite enough thrill and mystique for the current Mrs G and me.


I read a line in an article by Tom Parker Bowles today that had me sitting with my head held in my hands in sheer disbelief.  Tom said, and I quote

Posh restaurants match each course of your meal to a glass of wine.  Why should your barbecue be any different? 

Well Tom let me explain. For a start, the last time I was at the ‘Ivy’ I don’t remember the sommelier saying

May I recommend the pint of larger with the wild Scottish halibut poached with hollandaise?

There is a reason for that. It’s simple really, a barbecue, why people insist on writing BBQ I’ll never know, is not and has never been about fine dining. A barbecue is about standing around an open fire eating meat and drinking beer. (Glass of white wine or fruit based cocktail for the ladies, beer for the men). It’s not about delicately flavoured appetizers and courses. I’m not saying that it’s about food which is at the same time burnt and raw, something that only a man could actually achieve and worse still be amazingly proud of. It’s about meat; burgers, ribs, sausages, steak. Only Australians are stupid enough to put fish, or worse still, shellfish on barbecues. People from Mediterranean countries also tend to try to cook non-meat things on barbecues but they don’t really know any better and so can be forgiven for that. Please don’t make the barbecue into an outdoor dinner party.

I once went to a barbecue where the food was cooked in an old Silver Cross Pram (a pram is a baby carriage for any North Americans out there) and the salad dished up in a plastic washing up bowl. Strangely enough I wasn’t offered a choice of wine with my meal. Actually I wasn’t even offered a knife and fork. Perfect!

Is it just me or are others perplexed by the rise and rise of the so called Celebrity Chef? What exactly is a celebrity chef anyway? I don’t know the answer to that question but I do know that for the most part I can’t stand them. The BBC Food website describes one of my particular favourites; Ainsley Harriott, as the

charismatic, larger-than-life presenter of BBC Two’s Ready Steady Cook

Well I would describe him as a buffoon and you know what he looks rather to me like he might just be prone to dribbling.

The site goes on to describe Antony Worrall Thompson actually Henry Antony Cardew Worrall Thompson; known fondly as AWT or Wozza (apparently), as

a restaurateur and TV chef. He presented Saturday Kitchen and was a regular guest chef on Ready Steady Cook

Well for a start Wozza you have way more names than is good for anyone and a beard. A beard! Now don’t get me wrong I am not against beards in their right place, Father Christmas, odd looking ladies in the circus freak show, etc; but not on someone involved in the preparation of food.

I have one more celebrity, Gary Rhodes, to discuss before I get on to the most obviously evil of all personalities Jamie Oliver. Gary’s biography states that

more than any other chef, Gary Rhodes has reinvigorated British cooking with his own modern twist on the traditional

 For a start Gary your sixty eight years old – get a proper hair cut. For me Gary typifies the pretentiousness of the celebrity chef. I just don’t like the way he handles the food, hunching over it like some wizened crow. And why oh why do they all place one thing on top of the other making a kind of culinary Tower of Babel, attempting to cover as little of the plate as they can. A bit like Gary’s own hair style really pilled high on his head taking up as little surface area on his head as possible. It must be a miracle of a balancing act to get the plate to the table without the three foot high meal toppling over. How do you eat it, stick your fork in and shout ‘Timber!’ I guess.

Last but no means least Jamie Oliver – where do I begin. His biography describes him as

The hottest young star of TV cookery programmes, Jamie Oliver has wowed all generations of food lovers with his fresh, no-nonsense cooking style and his inspiring recipes.  The first series featuring Jamie cooking was the Naked Chef. Viewers were treated to a glimpse into his world, zipping about London on a scooter and hosting parties for all of his friends, all to a rock’n’roll soundtrack. The food was reassuringly hearty, but not too fiddly, and Jamie always seemed to have his hands full of fresh herbs and olive oil. It was an overnight success, attracting an audience that wouldn’t normally watch food programmes. The book that accompanied the series became a bestseller and the young chef, always fully clothed, was catapulted into the limelight

 I’m with Al Murray (aka The Pub Landlord) when he said that if you ever find yourself driving around London and you see someone on a scooter knock them down because ‘you never know it might just be the Oliver boy…‘ Jamie is a twat a word that is defined by many as ‘One who behaves in a childish, extroverted manner to the annoyance of others‘. Anyone who would call a child Daisy Boo or Poppy Honey and uses the word ‘pukka’ over and over again is worthy of all forms of derision. His biography mentions inspiring recipes. If you follow the link ‘Try some of Jamie’s Recipes‘ on his biography page the only thing you are presented with is, wait for it, ‘Tasty fish bake’. Truly inspired – pukka!

Oh yes one last thing what the **** is a Jus.