Will There Be Kippers, Then, For Tea?

It takes six hours, if you're prepared to drive with little in the way of breaks, from the gates of X&HTowers to Seahouses, the jewel of the Northumberland coast. Readership, I'm here today to tell you: it's worth the trip. Continue reading Will There Be Kippers, Then, For Tea?

The August Soundtrack Special!

Eat My Crescendo!

This month on The Speakeasy, Rob and Clive are joined by actual honest-to-heck film composer Neil Myers. Along with adagio and strings from the mighty Keith Eyles, we highlight composers we think are unfairly overlooked, and pick out a soundtrack each that’s a bit of a hidden gem.

First movement and opening titles, everyone…

Here’s a Spotify playlist with a lot of what we’re talking about…

 

and a few that Spotify couldn’t help us out with.

Cobra by Sylvester Levay

The Haunting Of Julia by Colin Towns

Perfume by Johnny Klimek, Tom Twyker, Reinhold Hell

To find out more about our very special guest, check out http://www.neilmyers.com.

The American Burger

The chunk of time between sixth form and college was tough for me. I didn't get the grades I needed for university, so I had to stay behind while a lot of my friends, the best and brightest of my year, went off to study. My girlfriend was one of those that left. She went to Cambridge, and she found someone else. Someone who was, you know, there. I read the Dear Rob letter on a busy Victoria Line train into work. I burst into tears in a packed tube carriage.

Like I said, tough times.

Family life was equally interesting. Mum and Dad had split up while I was studying for 'A' Levels, and as I studied for retakes, I realised I needed to take some time away from the tumult of life with my mum and brothers. I had become one of those sensitive teenagers who wrote poetry and moped constantly. With a broken family home and my romantic life in tatters, I suffered as no young man ever had before or would after.

Christ, I was insufferable.

Dad, at the time, was living in a small house in Wanstead, and I moved in over that summer of 1985 to get my head together and sort out enough of an improvement in my grades to get the heck out of Essex. It was a peaceful time. I looked after Dad's shop (he was even good enough to call me the manager) to earn my rent and a little beer money, wrote and studied.

And Dad started to teach me how to cook. It was, he said, an essential skill for when I set off on my own. Also, he'd had to bloody learn when mum kicked him out, so he was going to pass the pain on. He had a limited repertoire, gleaned mostly from the two cookbooks on his shelf, but one treat was always his American Burgers, a recipe he'd found in a newspaper and carefully noted down in his round, solid cursive.

Common knowledge now is that burgers are at their best treated simply, with care taken as to the mix of fatty and lean meat used. Back then, Dad used what he had, knowing that the flavours and spices that went into the burger would give it the right taste. They became a weekly treat for us, one that we would often cook together, with the tape player blasting out Bruce Springsteen.

The other week, TLC and I drove up to Essex to visit the 'rents. Time has been kind. Mum and Dad got back together during my first year at college, buying a new house and making things right with each other. I had done enough to get a place at the Dorset Institute Of Higher Education (now Bournemouth University) and packed my bags for the south coast in the autumn of 1986. In one of those bags was the notebook in which I had cribbed my favourite recipes from my time with Dad. The American Burger was in there, of course. It was a connection to home, and to a peaceful, healing time.

Dad doesn't cook very often anymore, but when he does the grub is always good. We had a sort of indoor barbecue on the Saturday night, and he pulled out the big guns. The American Burger was on the menu. He still has the notebook in which he wrote the recipe, stained and brown from decades of use. The Burger tasted just as delicious as it always had. I had no Proustian moment connecting me to the tumultuous past, no great epiphany. But I have fond memories of cooking with my Dad in that summer, as he and Mum gently negotiated a truce, then the rebudding of a romance.

I'd like to share that recipe–as best I can, anyway. You can't get the Knorr onion soup mix it recommends any more, so you'll have to manage with what you can find. Dad uses an Ainsley Harriott mix, if that's any help. If you do have a fatty mince blend, then you can probably get away without the egg. But try it as is, just to give you an idea of the flavours of my bumpy adolescence.

 

AMERICAN BURGERS

  • 1lb minced beef
  • half-package Knorr dried onion soup mix
  • one raw egg
  • seven squirts, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
  • three squirts of Tabasco
  • one tablespoon of Daddie's Sauce
  • four shakes of garlic salt
  • half a chopped onion

 

Mix together. Makes 3

Cook in hot frying pan, cover, 2-3 minutes each side.

Extras:

  • white sesame-seed bun
  • iceberg lettuce
  • Kraft cheese slices

 

The Blake-easy!

b7_podcast2 texted

The climax of Blake’s 7 Month on Excuses And Half Truths: our gigantic (no kidding, I’ve had to split it in half) retrospect-o-view of the classic British SF show. Join Clive and I, along with Speakeasy regular Keith Eyles and friend of the blog Chris Rogers as we look at the characters, costumes, production values, themes and soooo much more. Settle in, Listenership. We’re heading for Galactic Edge with this one…

Chef: satisfying the hunger for a good food movie

The problem with food movies is that they are fundamentally incapable of expressing the two most important things about their subject: smell and taste. Don't mention Smell-O-Vision. A scratch and sniff card can no more evoke a beautifully cooked plateful of food than a kazoo can accurately reproduce Beethoven's Ninth. The end results are the same: faintly amusing but not the experience you want.

That's probably why there have been so few films explicitly about the subject. And of course, they can't just be about food–as much as I enjoy the M&S adverts, I couldn't sit through 90 minutes of them. All the good food movies deal with those aspects of the human condition that we most readily connect with food: love, sex and family. Look at Babette's Feast, where a woman expresses gratitude for the community that has taken her in by cooking them an extraordinary banquet. Or Big Night, a film that tracks the struggle for supremacy between two feuding brothers, which culminates in a remarkable wordless climax where they cook breakfast together. Tampopo contains one of the sexiest scenes featuring an egg yolk that you'll ever see.

Jon Favreau, he of Iron Man and presidential speech-writing fame, has taken a risk with Chef, his latest movie. Food films don't do well at the box office, for the reasons I've mentioned above. But Chef is first and foremost a film about the sacrifices that a really good cook will make to get to the top, and what happens when he's forced to reinvent himself–a process that reconnects him with the things he holds dearest.

OK, Cliffe Notes (and note that from this point, a SPOILER ALERT is in operation). Favreau plays Carl Casper, a top chef who feels as if he's stuck in a rut. It's a feeling that's starting to come out in his cooking. He's filling the house every night, and his boss is happy. But the reviews are stinkers, and Casper is starting to lose his way. After a cake-crushing meltdown in front of his food critic nemesis, Casper buys a ratty old food truck, and goes back to basics, cooking and selling the food he loved back in the day. With his estranged son and buddy line chef in tow, Casper sets off on a road trip that takes in some of America's culinary hotspots, and finds the flavour in life again.

So, it's a bit on the nose from an elevator pitch. But Chef works, for me, because it's good on the details. Favreau spent months in restaurant kitchens, working his way up from herb-chopping to line work. The restaurant scenes feel authentic and sharply observed, down to the way Casper cleans down his station att the end of a shift. Favreau enlisted the help of food truck maestro Roy Choi and Texas barbecue pit king Aaron Franklin to give his film some old-school patina. That's Choi's Cubano that everyone's talking about, and Mitchell serves fall-apart pork shoulder just like the one in the movie every day.

The clever thing about Chef is the way it dials into modern trends in food fandom. Food trucks and real-deal meat-smoking are obsessions with many foodies. Favreau also nails the importance of social networking to the scene: Instagram and Twitter are the way a lot of people initially hear about the hot places to eat, whether that be a Michelin-starred joint or a high-sider on a street corner pushing out the greatest food you can get on a paper plate. Let's also note here that Casper's meltdown is sparked off by a food blogger, not a traditional critic.

Chef is a deeply sensual, warm and funny film, with a great soundtrack of classic Cuban cuts, reggae and blues and solid performances from Favreau and his supporting cast. John Leguziamo buzzes and pops as Casper's line chef buddy, and Emjay Anthony, playing his son, is sweet and charming. I thought it was a shame that Scarlett Johannsen and Dustin Hoffman seem to disappear once Casper gets his food truck (which is a lust object in and of itself: that chrome! that griddle!) and that we didn't see more of Carl's life pre-restaurant in Miami. Where does that love of Cuban food come from? Maybe a director's cut is in the offing. Anyway, I wanted to see more, which has to be a good thing.

With the long-mooted adaptation of chef Anthony Bourdain's autobiographical/crime novel Bone In The Throat finally looking like it's going in front of cameras, there's a chance we could be seeing more interesting movies set in the world of food. On the evidence of Chef, I'd be happy to see more. The film has the highest of accolades from me–TLC and I left the cinema absolutely starving hungry.