A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Monday, September 26, 2005

One week already gone by...

One week of my break has already gone and I have not done anything worth mentioning here.

I have managed to eat out quite a lot because I believe that there is more to life than cooking while on holiday.
The wine cellar is slowly but surely being depleted with the help of several neighbours into the early hours.
I have created a couple of daft drawings on Painter but only will upload until I get back home.
A beautiful children's play on the church square (Picture) was cut short by a sudden (forecast, really!) storm at 11pm last night.
A street procession is planned for Thursday night. Let's hope the weather doesn't spoil it.

Muchas Gracias... Back to the grind of just chilling out....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A well needed break...

I am off to Spain for two weeks. The Costa Blanca to be precise. Not very far from Murcia to be preciser...
As soon as I get off the plane and into the hire car I know I am home from home.
The aroma of the orange and lemon groves, the dust, the chorizo, the olives, the warmth... Ahhhh....
I might do another mosaic or just chill out and drive inland. What the hell! I am on holiday! I can do what I want and if I don't want to cook, I will BBQ... or just eat out or get invited for a meal... Or just chill out and drink wine.

It is really funny but two hours away from here and life is totally different. Is it because the pressure is off? No customers, no staff. It might be and I cannot wait to do it for much longer.

The Med soothes me like no other place on Earth. Well, maybe like the Lake District or Edinburgh. The only difference is the weather and the vegetables. They taste sublime! Fruity tomatoes and succulent watermelons. Ahhhh...
Easily pleased? The best pleasures in life are within arm's length... or mouth's reach!

De Gustibus: A match of two halves...

The flower motif which adorns our new bath towels, matches the wallpaper beautifully. However, attempting to dry myself after a shower has the same effect as rubbing my body with greaseproof paper. Karen bought them because they matched.
She will listen to my protests and then give me a disdainful look which means: Go back to the desert, you ignoramus... who has never once watched an entire episode of Changing Rooms!
I really believe that if Changing Rooms was a religion, Karen would be ordained High Priestess. She would probably ban brown from the Dulux colour chart and inscribe the Ten Commandments on a guilt-framed piece of MDF.

Our new toaster is the exact match of one of the colourful kitchen wall tiles. The fact that you can only fit Swedish square crisp bread in it is of no interest to Karen. Supermarket bread can always be carefully reshaped to fit in.
Karen nearly had a heart attack once when I disturbed her spice arrangement after pinching a cinnamon stick to flavour the couscous.

Our 6-year-old granddaughter, Evie is only allowed to draw with crayons that exactly match the kitchen colour scheme. Her completed artwork will only adorn the notice board if it fulfils strict planning guidelines relating to shape, content and colour. As a result, Evie is now capable of distinguishing nuances in colours I never thought existed. God help her husband, when she gets married.

Our television cabinet has had more facelifts than Michael Jackson. One minute it is dark brown with the doors opening up and over and the next it is light honey with the doors opening sideways. The video case labels had to be specially imported from Persia to match the sitting room rug just in case Adam or I inadvertently happen to leave the cabinet doors open.

More agony coming soon...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Quiet Window Tables...

It never ceases to amaze me how people often come out with some weird stuff.
"Could we have a quiet table, please?"
Now, I know that our tables have four legs but on our Adam's life I have never heard any of them utter a single word, not even a quiet one. I feel like saying: " Sorry, we've only got loud ones left. Wood tables stop chattering if you covered them with a cloth?"

"Here is another beauty: "Could we please have a window table?"
Everyone insists on a window table.
We could serve anything but they would not notice for looking out to sea.
Do you want it in case of fire? Do you want to do a runner?

Whenever I pass the old peoples home along the prom, I can see sad faces at each and every window. You asked for it! What a sorry sight!

We have now decided to erect a double-glazed window next to each table, surround the restaurant with water and everyone will be happy.
Another thought is to float the company :(

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

An Ode to Rosemary and Thyme

This is a daft little ode I composed in 1996 for the restaurant's 12th anniversary.

THYME flies when you're having FENNEL.
We've CINNAMON CUMIN and going.
We never got CARAWAY by our success.
No matter how CHILLI the North wind blew,
It was SAGE to CURRY on serving a good stew.
I sat making OREGANO planes with old menus,
And landed them in the waste PEPPER basket.
The mirror told me to turn a new BAY LEAF,
But, I CORIANDER piling on the beef.
To Karen, my sweet LOVAGE, and to all our
Long SAFFRON staff, truly the SALT of the Earth,
Please kindly accept this BOUQUET GARNI
For GINGERLY putting up with me.
COS LETTUCE be honest, I think I have gone
PARSLEY NUTMEG, nearly as faulty as BASIL.
After eleven SEASONINGS in Sunny Seaton,
Could it be all the beef that I have eaten?
If this sounds all FENUGREEK to you,
It is MINT to be!
Says who?
SESAME, Krimo!

Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Love is a temporary madness;
It erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.

Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathlessness,

It is not excitement,
It is not the promise of eternal passion.
That is just being "in love", which any fool can do.

Love itself is what remains when being in love has burned away,
And this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground,
And when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
They find that they are one tree and not two.

I read this poem at a friend's wedding. It comes from Louis de Berniere's book of the same name.
In the film, if I can remember right, John Hurt says these words to his daughter played by Penelope Cruz.
A few years ago I went on holiday to Argostoli, Kefalonia and could not help notiicing the amount of Italian tourists there. Now I know that, for them it is like going on a pilgrimage. A visit to the site where many Italian soldiers died alongside Greek patriots at the hands of the German army.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Two taglines with chips, please...

"Actually, sir it is TAGINE pronounced: Ta Jean... You see, it's like Hygiene...Ta...Jean..."
-What is it then?
-It is a Terracotta dish in which food is cooked slowly over charcoal.

-So you cook on charcoal in here?
-No, sir we use a gas cooker but we serve the tagines in dishes we call tagines.
-Ah! Can we have two of them with chips, then?
-We have Chicken, Lamb or Fish tagines, sir. Which one would you prefer?
-You mean you don't do T-Bone tagine?


Here is a recipe for a fish tagine, tried and tested many times...

Fish Tagine

1lb of Cod, Mullet, Sea bass, Monkfish, Prawns...any combination but no oily fish)
4tbsp olive oil
1 onion
1tsp paprika
Juice of one lemon. Keep the zest.
1tbsp Cumin and Coriander, tomato puree and chopped coriander
Saffron or Turmeric
2 cloves of garlic
2 skinless red peppers
1 fresh fennel
3 carrots
A quarter lb potatoes

Marinate the fish cut into 1" chunks overnight or for a couple of hours in olive oil, lemon juice, fresh coriander, saffron or turmeric, garlic and cumin.

Finely chop the onion. Soften it in olive oil. Add some sliced fresh fennel, 2 diced skinless sweet peppers, chopped garlic, pinch of saffron, pinch of cumin, 1tbsp chopped coriander, 1tsp of blanched lemon zest or pickled lemon, 1tbsp tomato puree, a tsp of paprika, 2 potatoes cut into wedges, 2 carrots cut into chunks.

Cover with water, add a fish stock cube and simmer until potatoes are nearly ready.
Add the fish to the Tagine and poach until cooked (5min).
Top with chopped coriander and a lemon wedge.
This tagine may be served with couscous or warm crusty bread.

Add a little chilli (Harissa) if you wish.


Le Chat me ressemble...?

Cream, the cat...
A few posts ago, I discovered that one of my customers had named her cream cat after me.
And today, she emailed me the proof...

What a guy! Doesn't he look cool? And them eyes! If I were a cat I would want to look exactly like Cream.

"My feline instincts tell me that I am nothing like Cream... The only thing we have in common is that we are both fussy about food. He runs restaurants, I eat nothing but the best cat food... Meaow!"


Sunday, September 11, 2005

A New Political Party..

When Karen decides to redecorate our house, this has the same drastic effect as a new political party coming to power. Nothing escapes the new colour scheme. Over the years I have had to get used to a new colour toothbrush every time the bathroom is given a facelift. As for my underpants, despite my vehement protests and tearful pleas, I am forcefully invited to accept the new colours.

Once the decorating is over, I have to get used to the new pillow arrangement on our bed. I had just about cracked the code for the last one.
Every afternoon after my short siesta, I carefully unfold the blueprint and follow precise instructions to carefully replace the dozen or so pillows back to their rightful position. The large square one at the top, resting at just 45o against the headboard, then the next one and the next one finishing off the display with the tiny one which, thanks to a bit of sentimental value, has survived several upheavals. This exercise usually takes as long as the siesta itself although not as relaxing.
One of these days, in a very controlled rage, I might simply open the bedroom window and perform a bout of freelance cushion scattering on the front lawn.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


At 84, Papa is still going strong. He says that he owes it to his competitive cycling days.
As an ambulance driver, he travelled far and wide throughout Algeria.
A gentle guy and a practical joker... He often turned his windscreen washers towards the kerb and gleefully sprinkled passing acquaintances.

I took this picture on my mobile phone and used Corel Painter to draw and colour it.
This is a very rough exercise but I will hopefully get better with time as I get to grips with the amazing array of brushes Painter offers.

My watercolour class starts on Monday. That's real paints, by the way.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I love you not...

I love you not because I need your love,
I love you because I love being in love with you.
I love just dreaming of you, thinking of you,
And thinking of you is like a beautiful dream,
The memory of my best childhood holiday,
The sound of a song I shall never forget.

Your eyes are like a featherweight caress,
Your smile, a handful of confetti,
Your voice, the joyful echo of exotic surf.

My love is a runaway train unafraid of crashing,
It is a carefree gazelle strolling among lions,
A barefoot walk in the coldest snow.
Yet, it feels like a gulp of fresh air,
A flutter of butterfly wings inside my heart,
A wingless flight at dusk over the city.

I love you not because I need your love.
I love you because when I do
I truly touch Love.
Only then I know I am alive.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

As long as I know...

El Harrach Market (Algiers)
A treasure trove for bargain hunters. You could find just about anything, from pins to hammers, from socks to coats, from vegetables to flowers. I was in Algiers studying computing when I visited the market for the first time. A fellow student had said that there had been a arrival of Levi jeans. In 70's Algeria, foreign goods were very hard to obtain and an enormous contraband industry flourished. If you had no relatives abroad to supply you with jeans and other clothes, you had to resort to the flea markets.
I found the jeans stall tucked away in a remote corner of the market. I realised that I had missed out on the best bargains even as early as 11am. However, I spotted a pair of light-coloured blue jeans, which mustn,t have been very popular. I picked them up and placed them against my lower body. "Like a glove," I thought to myself.
"How much is the pair, mate?"
"55 Dinars."
A bargain! I had to have them. I counted out the money, stuffed the jeans into the carrier bag I had brought with me and just as I started walking away, I spotted another identical pair. Same size, same colour.
"I tell you what; I'll give 100 Dinars for both pairs."
The seller looked at me and could no hide his delight at being rid of the last item on the stall. He nearly pulled my arm off as he grabbed the money and instantly began dismantling his stall, thrilled by the early finish.
I went back to the campus to try them on. They were a perfect fit.

A few weeks later, I went back home for the spring holiday. My mother unpacked my suitcase and washed all my clothes. After a stroll in town, I returned home for lunch, just as she was hanging the clothes out to dry.
"Why did you buy two identical pairs of jeans?" she said.
"Because I liked them."I replied.
"Yes, I know you liked them, but people will think you've only got one pair!"
"As long as I know I have two, why should I care what they think?"
Daft story but this last remark has travelled with me all my life and it has become a kind of motto.
As long as I know...

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