Monday, November 27, 2006

Guild of Food Writers Annual Lecture Dinner

Tuesday night saw many members of the Guild of Food Writers descend on the Radisson Edwardian Mayfair Hotel for the Annual Lecture Dinner. The lecture was given by Dame Deirdre Hutton of the FSA who spoke about the role of the agency and some of the work it has done to date. Interestingly the FSA is apparently revenue-neutral! I'm sure that must be a first for an agency of its kind.

The food was excellent with divine canapes (most of which I seemed to miss as I was detailed to take photographs!) and the dinner and accompanying wine excellent. The main course was sirloin steak and it was quite outstanding.
Photos top to bottom: chef carving sirloin steaks; GFW President Sue Lawrence with Dame Deirdre Hutton; Xanthe Clay and Glynn Christian and Jane Suthering and Richard Ehrlich.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fierce Food

It's not your average food book, that's for sure, but Fierce Food is definitely worth a read. Our good friend Christa ate her way through some fairly outre dishes whilst researching this book and I tried hard to help her. Unfortunately the only ingredient she was truly desperate for us to try didn't get within two feet of my mouth (and not within 20 feet of Adam's - he insisted on staying indoors until I had poison-tested the stuff). As soon as my nostrils registered the assault I bottled out and ran for it. Did you know the smell of surstromming can outrun you?

This revolting concoction, made from canned rotten herrings, is, believe it or not, a delicacy in Sweden. Maybe the cold air over there does something to dull the pain when it reaches the olfactory sensors or perhaps if you've consumed enough vodka to anaesthetize your nasal passages it isn't so bad.

'Don't open it indoors!' warned Christa, as she appeared with a small bulging can one day. 'Open it under ice, outdoors and then when you've eaten it let me know what you think'.

Never let it be said that I am not dedicated to my friends. The can bulged in the fridge until the fear of it exploding drew me outdoors on a sub-zero evening armed with a bucket of iced water and some crackers. I plunged my hands bravely into the frigid water, grasped the can, pierced it and... ran for my life. The stench hit me like a physical blow and instead of opening the tin properly and taking a bite I legged it indoors as fast as possible. Unfortunately not even locking myself in helped. The whiff had somehow attached itself to me and followed me indoors. Adam wrinkled his nose and looked unwell which wasn't encouraging. He wasn't willing to leave the safety of his armchair to help fix the problem either.

The tin was still out there, in the garden, waiting for consumption. Clearly it couldn't stay there. Armed with a pile of plastic bags I braved the stink and wrapped the vile stuff in layer after layer of carrier bag before sealing it inside several black bin liners. I could still smell it. Rather unceremoniously I dumped the bag next to our dustbin, fled indoors for a shower and then put the clothes I had been wearing straight into the washing machine. Adam continued to sniff the air suspiciously.

Luckily the following day was bin collection day because the aroma from the surstromming was oozing around the neighbourhood. I was out taking the children to school when the bin men came round but there were a lot of comments in the playground about the stench of sewers in the village. More than one person intended to call the council. Needless to say I didn't confess.

If Christa ate her surstromming I wasn't there to witness it. Nor did I check for reports of sewage leaks on Hampstead Heath in the papers. However, there are a lot more fierce foods in her book and most of them seem more appetising to me than rotten herring. I've eaten a few and survived.

Fierce Food isn't available in the UK yet but you can get it from Enjoy.