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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bull by the horns or just bull...

Happy New Year resolutions...

"It is always during a passing state of mind that we make lasting resolutions." Marcel Proust

Are you going to take the bull by the horns in 2007?

UPDATE: Happy New Year to all my Blogfriends...
I shall be missing for a few days. A little break in Carcassonne. (South of France)

Friday, December 29, 2006


"If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." Woody Allen

To realise the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realise the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realise the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper .
To realise the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realise the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realise the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
Treasure every moment!
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is mystery.

Thanks to all those who commented on my "HELP" post.
Life goes on.
Have a great New Year, my Blogfriends!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My first Christmas in England...

I arrived at Sunderland in September 1976 with a hint of a Scottish accent after a nine-month English course in Edinburgh.
I lived in a bed-sit 5 minutes away from the Polytechnic where I was studying Naval Architecture.
After the hottest summer on record, by mid-December the temperatures had dropped dramatically. But, although coming from a warm Mediterranean country like Algeria, which everybody thinks is a desert, I was used to the cold as snowy winters were commonplace in my home town in the Atlas Mountains.
On numerous occasions I often had to stay off school as the snow drifts blocked the road from our farmhouse to school. Happy days!

We broke up on 21st December and after that, apart from going to the local disco with my Greek friend and neighbour Nikos, I spent my days recovering from hangovers, reading, cooking or sleeping.
At around noon on Christmas Day, oblivious of the significance of what for me was just another day I awoke to a knock on my door.
Bugger off, I am still in bed!” I shouted thinking that Nikos was trying to get me to do something energetic that early in the day.
A girl’s voice answered:
“I am from next door. I need to have a word with you.”
I got up, slipped my jeans on, wiped the sleep from my eyes and opened the door.

There stood the newsagent’s daughter in her jam-jar-bottom glasses, thick Arran cardigan and knee-high socks. I often used the shop next door for emergency supplies such as milk or beer. I had always thought she was a bit bizarre by the way she looked down and tittered whenever I tried to make polite conversation.

“Me mam and dad are asking if you want to have Christmas dinner with us.” she said.
After what felt like ages, I thought “What the hell! That’ll save me making breakfast.” I asked what time dinner was being served.
“Just now. Come on! We're having turkey.”
Turkey? I don’t think that I had ever tasted turkey in my life.
“OK, I’ll be over in a minute!”

I put on some clean clothes and joined the three Samaritans for a sumptuous Christmas dinner. Heinz tomato soup. Roast turkey and cranberry sauce. Half a dozen soft boiled vegetables. Yorkshire puddings. Cherry Trifle. Yugoslav Riesling.

The girl’s parents were very accommodating as my English was still a bit shaky. They asked about Algeria, what I was studying and all the kind of things parents would ask a daughter’s new boyfriend. It was only when they suggested that their daughter and I should go to her bedroom that doubts began creeping in.

As soon as the door closed, she put on some punk records and began reading poems she had written. I did not understand a few of the words but I gathered that it was romantic poetry.

She then began to tell me about herself. She was 29 years old. She had studied English Literature at Leeds University but hated it. All she wanted now was to work in her parents’ shop, read and write poetry and short novels.
Then, just like that, out of the blue, she asked if I had a girlfriend.
I said I didn’t.
She immediately said: “You are handsome, you know and I like you very much.”

The record screeched to a halt.
“Fuck me!” I thought, "this is getting out of hand."
I made such a quick getaway that I forgot my favourite woollen gloves.

You’ll have gathered that I never went back for them and that I soon got used to black coffee.
Photo Courtesy of BBC

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Iced Cream...

Woke up this morning feeling fine...
I defrosted my car with my brand new electric de-icer which plugs into the cigarette lighter. (£2.50) Worked a treat!

As I neared the gym, my mobile rang. It was an irate woman who lives above one of the restaurants.
"Your alarm has been going off all night!" This was 8am. The poor woman musn't have slept a wink.
Two minutes later I parked my car and rushed towards the restaurant door. My feet went one way, my arms flapped and all I wanted for Christmas was a soft landing!
One minute I was happy and the next I was flat on my back, wondering whether anyone had seen me and was already laughing their heads off.
I got up in pain. My back hurt (You have jarred your back, Mr. C! The physio will say.)

I stretched my arms, bent down and tried in vain to kiss my knees. What I saw on the ground made even more irate. I had landed in pile of dog shit! I screamed in anger but nothing came out.
After switching the alarm off I telephoned the irate woman and apologised profusely, promising a slow death to whoever had not checked that the fire door had been left ajar.
Bravely and very carefully I got back in the car and went for a swim and long session in the jacuzzi. By noon, the whole town will get to know about my fall. You see, when I start, I gush...

Well, at least this has taken my mind off more Chrismasitical matters.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Grumpy and Sorry...

In Algeria, in my younger days, apart from receiving the odd present from rich relatives who rubbed shoulders with our French colonizers, the nearest I came to Christmas was getting a slice of Yule log at school.

Once the French left in 1962, no one celebrated Christmas any longer.

I have been in the UK for nearly 31 years but I am yet to get to grips with this Christmas fever.
For the first few married years I tried to rebel against the excesses. Then I realised I was barking up a deaf ear, so I gave in and reluctantly let myself be swept by a tide of commercialism.
Although I only ever had one person to buy a present for, I always entered Boots at around 4pm on Christmas Eve for the usual bottle of overpriced perfume just to prove that I was doing it under duress.

Most years relatives were invited to a feast cooked by yours truly. In an act of non-violent resistance I sometimes overcooked the turkey or served al-dente sprouts on purpose.

One year I attempted to break the mould and decided to go for something more elaborate. I boned a guinea fowl, a chicken and a goose and played Russian dolls with them, stuffing one into the next. The end result when sliced looked like Blackpool-Rock and tasted of fowl. Though the plates were totally cleaned, the (overheard) general consensus was: "Why doesn't he bloody stick to normal stuff?"
I cursed under my breath mentioning in the process Jesus, Mary and the three wise men (Ernie, Dennis and Clock) but remembered the Spirit of Christmas, uncorked another bottle of wine and dived into a box of Thorntons' Alpinis. These helped dull the pain of defeat until the Queen came to the rescue at 3pm with her Christmas Broadcast and lulled me into a well-deserved four-hour siesta in my armchair.
Waking up to an empty house and a mountain of washed-up dishes, I was wracked with guilt for at least long enough to open another bottle of Chateauneuf, grab a slab of Camembert and sink back into my chair.

Over the years I have been a grumpy spectator and subsequently an unwilling participant in this annual torture that is Christmas. Torture on millions of turkeys that do not have a clue why they are rounded up at the end of November, torture on restaurant employees who try and feed hordes of inebriated customers, torture on shop assistants who know that half the items they have sold will be returned on Boxing day, torture on parents who have to keep up with the Joneses, but most of all torture on unhappy people who have to put on a front just because it is Christmas…

In spite of all this, if one is surrounded by the right people, Christmas must be a magical time.

Photo courtesy of Guardian

Monday, December 18, 2006

Serrano ham...

A few days after I opened our Tapas Bar in January, a couple of friends came in carrying what looked like a mini coffin.
A Spanish company they deal with had sent a whole leg of Serrano Ham for Christmas. They had no idea what to do with it. They usually get their wafer thin Parma or Serrano ham from Asda and the thought of having a quarter of a pig hanging in their kitchen was not a very appetizing one.
When they heard about my latest venture, they thought that it would make a good "restaurant warming" present.

Nowadays the leg hangs proudly at the kitchen servery; sometimes the cheeky chefs swing it against our horrified waitresses.

This reminds me of...
A guy visiting some farmer friends up in Scotland, stumbles upon a three-legged pig hobbling around the farm yard.
He asks his host about the pig's plight.
"Och, that's our pet pig, Porco. We don't have the heart to eat him all in one go."

Check out our Cave Renovator's food site!
A Northerner who relocated to Spain and now sells Spanish produce online.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

If you have trouble commenting on Blogger, try using the "Other" button. It may work for some.

Busiest day ever...

Last year the busiest day recorded by my stats was December 16th...

Myspace Graphics

Friday, December 15, 2006

Confit used or what?

At 8.45 yesterday morning, while swimming in the gym pool I inadvertently bumped into a female swimmer.
I took my goggles off and began apologizing before she opened her mouth. I was expecting the usual:

"I do the breast stroke so that my hair doesn't get wet and you come barging in like Mark Spitz a hippo..."

I was wrong!

She said: "Can you please tell me? The caramelised onions that you serve with your pâté, how do you make them? I love them!"

Recovering from the shock I gave her our confit d'oignons recipe in great detail. Doing all the appropriate chopping gestures, a pinch of this, a glass of that, plenty of sugar...

Other swimmers nearly choked and drowned around us trying to listen to what we were saying.

She explained that she made lots of chutneys and relishes. I said I liked green tomato chutney.
"I use my husband's leftover green tomatoes from his glasshouse for that. Absolutely delicious!"

And with that, she lowered her body into the water and swam away...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Diana, oh Diana....

Today the report by former Metropolitan Police chief Lord Stevens found the car crash which killed Princess Diana and her lover Dodi Fayed in Paris in 1997 was a tragic accident.

In her 1997 Christmas Day broadcast the Queen spoke of the shock and sorrow of Diana's death.

Dodi's father, Mohamed Al Fayed believes they were killed by the establishment.

Do you believe in a conspiracy theory?

Update: This is my theory!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Guess what city....

The original song is lovely but this version is really funny. Irn Bru is a Scottish soft drink which was once advertised as "Made in Scotland from girders!"

Now, can anyone guess what city is featured in this advert?

A tiny clue: My favourite British city of all time.... I love it in any season but most of all in summer.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Out of the frying pan...

Friday night. 7.30. Happily doing nothing in my office.
Call from one of our restaurants. The gas griddle caught fire. The fire is out but so is the fire brigade. The fire chief insists on the supply being off until a qualified gas fitter comes to check the pipe for damage.
Frantic, headless search for a gas fitter at that time of a Friday night.
Parties of Christmas revellers waiting to be fed and wined.
A woman waiting to place hers and her husband's food order suggested that I should contact her company's gas fitting manager, Paul.
A mobile call.
Twenty minutes later, dressed for a night on the town, Paul landed with the company's gas fitter who was out on call that evening.
After a quick check, the chefs were able to light their cookers and begin cooking again.
I rewarded the three saviours with a dinner for two.

All in all, the first party of 28 women had waited forty minutes for their meal.
I offered them a few bottles of wine to pacify them, not that they were angry...They were simply hungry...

The evening went without any further emergencies.
Our visitors' book was full of witty remarks about fire and gas...
"Out of the frying pan into the fire?" "Cream, you're cooking on gas!"....

A snippet about the fire in the local paper on Saturday gave me the idea of milking the incident for more free publicity.
This morning, at 8.45 a journalist rang me for a splash in the paper in reply to the press release email I sent in.
Photo session planned for this afternoon with the fitter who saved the weekend.

The free publicity will make up for it all.

Any of you remembers this fire?

Friday, December 08, 2006

I now believe in life after death...

Snowmen don't just die away,
When they become old and grey.

They melt into oceans and lakes,
Then evaporate like snowflakes.

They climb slowly up to Paradise
And in winter they fall as snow and ice.

At Christmas they come back to life again
As happy, smiley white snowmen.

Cream 2006


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Beam me up, Scotty!

Last year's post on Christmas Lights seems light years away. Honestly!

I have travelled in time and space this past year.

And I have landed in a place, which despite appearing familiar, feels like a distant planet...
My spaceship had run out of steam.
But I am now building up a reserve of fuel that will fly me to the moon in the New Year.

Well, first of all to Carcassonne in January with our Didier!
£16.95 return with Ryan Air, no joke! Can you believe it? The price of two good pizzas!

After that, the world will be my oyster, my foie gras, my champagne...

Any plans for Christmas and the New Year?


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Souper Sex....

When I want to unwind after a hard day's doing nothing, there are two things I could kill for:


Making soup is so therapeutic. But so is sex... I think...

The pressure cooker goes on the hob, a tablespoonful of olive oil... And then I add anything I find in the fridge. I have to careful because, just as with sex some ingredients do not marry well.

So, maybe an onion, a courgette, a red pepper, half a green cabbage, two sticks of celery, one leek, a tin of Borlotti beans, some garlic, some pasta... All these ingredients make a lovely soup in 45 minutes.

The beauty of soup is that you don't need someone else to make it. Although it is nice to share it once it is ready. A big chunk of fresh bread, some Parmesan cheese, a grind of black pepper and satisfaction is guaranteed.

Unlike some sex, such as one-night-stands, soup tastes even better the next day.

So at the moment, I am doing it at least every other day...
It brings tears to my eyes, though...

Them bloody Spanish onions!!!

Sometimes you can combine both and end up having Souper Sex...


Friday, December 01, 2006

Freedom of expression...

...The best cure for depression.

Today, on BBC Radio Five, it was suggested that a platform should be given to all sorts of people whatever their message, such the racist BNP, the Talebans, etc...
What is freedom of expression? When does it become offensive?

This morning I received the following and . Some may not find it in good taste. So anyone easily offended... look away now...

I just think that it's a very sad world we live in, when Sir Paul McCartney and his wife are facing divorce and all anyone seems to want to do is make jokes about her false leg. Personally, I think it's prosthetic.

News reports have confirmed that Paul McCartney has separated from his wife Heather Mills-McCartney.
Mrs Mills-McCartney is said to be distraught over the split. "He has been my crutch for so long"!

She said in an earlier briefing, "I have no idea why this has happened, I'm really stumped"

"She's running around in circles," according to a close friend, "she will need all the support she can get. It's not like it’s easy to walk out on a relationship like this"

It is not known whether a prenuptial agreement was signed prior to the marriage. Paul McCartney is one of the richest men in the world, and if an agreement has been signed it is believed that she won't have a leg to stand on.

Another source has suggested that her battle with alcoholism was the cause. "Macca couldn't handle it anymore" a friend said, "he would get home at night and find her legless"

In an unrelated story, a gold miner in Africa has an accident and loses a leg.
He says to his mate "I've had it! Who will want a one legged gold digger?"

Did you smile or were you outraged?

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