How to make the perfect roast potatoes – a poem

I was diligently following a recipe called
“How to make the perfect roast potatoes”
Thinking, if I can achieve perfection
Here in my kitchen
That would be really quite major
Offsetting all thoughts of career failure.

Like – alright, Macron
You might have become President of France
At the age of 39
And live in the elysee palace
Rather than a 3 bed terrace
But have you knocked out perfect roast potatoes
Not just exceptional
Not just blinding

No. No, you haven’t.

So clear in my superiority
I knuckled down and followed the recipe
Par boiling to the second,
Interspersing garlic among the King Edwards
and as I sat there
oven side, like a midwife
I thought to myself
I’m alright.



feast (1)

I was at the Barbican recently, watching some high-end jazz piano, which was so-so if truth be told, and in the interval I was looking for a livener

and you know, because you are in a major arts venue, they have one of those glass-fronted freezer cabinets full of little pots of ice-cream, with flavours which dress the thing up, such as Madagascan Vanilla and Dulce de Leche, giving you the feeling that if you weren’t out of your depth with the extended jazz improv shit going on in the hall, you certainly would be with the ice cream, retailing at a modest £3.45.

After a moment of reflection, I concluded: fuck all of that. When there’s only a 95p difference between your miniature pot of ice cream and a bottle of overpriced bevy, the ice cream is not getting my vote.

This preamble is by way of outlining how…

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A trip to the shops…notes from Yerevan, pt. 2

You know those people who take acid, the ones who take acid and can’t stop talking about how they took acid and had the most transcendental experience, and saw the world with new eyes, and everything that was drab and boring was now magical, and you say, magical how, and they say, well, I was sat in my room, listening to flute music, staring at my shoe, and you say, that shoe, and they say, yes, that shoe, I looked at that shoe for eight hours, just looking at it, the eyelets and the stitching and the leather upper, and I saw that even this shoe, where did you get it, you say, and they say, it doesn’t matter where I got it, and you say, okay, even though you think it does matter, and they say, if you must know, these are Clarks, and you say, I thought they were Clarks, I’ve always thought Clarks shoes could change your life like that, and they say, you’re not taking this seriously, are you, and you say, no, you’re not, and then they tell you to fuck off and that’s one less boring cunt in your life

well, the point is, those people, the boring LSD people, have a point. When I’m on holiday, I do as little as possible, and am fascinated by everything. This is how I enjoy myself. On my first day in Armenia, I went to the shops and bought some bread and cheese, and other bits and bobs like that. And it was the most interesting thing I did all day. It was also the only thing I did all day.

I was somewhat nervous going in there, despite it being quite a westernised supermarket, because I can’t speak Armenian, and they have their own alphabet, (some wise chap dreamt it up in the fifth century), so I was hobbled when it came to knowing what is what. Moreover, I haven’t got the shopping stature of one of those old women who can walk into any shop anywhere in the world and start feeling the produce to see what is fresh and haggle mercilessly with the shopkeeper until they end up paying below wholesale price for their vegetables, and the shopkeeper thanks them for it. I’m not like that. When shopping, I’m timid, yet curious.

Despite these reservations, I got my trolley and trundled into the shop. First section, vegetables. Which, being a vegetarian, is my domain. (Like the Americans so endearingly say: “I GOT THIS!”) I picked up tomatoes, onions and carrots, which a shopping assistant weighed and put into bags for me.

Next, I went down an aisle which could be described as: tins/jars. I found myself staring at tins of kidney beans, wondering if I needed kidney beans (does anyone ever need kidney beans), and if 720 dram was a reasonable price for them, when another shopping assistant appeared and asked in Armenian, then Russian, then English, if she could help.

First of all, coming from London where you can go to the supermarket, fill a basket and pay for everything without speaking to a soul, I was astonished to be asked. Getting to the question, however, the truth was, I am beyond help. What person gets transfixed by cans of kidney beans and stares at them for several minutes wondering if they want them or not? What kind of help could she provide? A week in a sanatorium, perhaps? Thinking the truth somewhat beyond the language barrier, I politely declined and shuffled off

to the dairy section, where another jovial shopping assistant was handing out free samples of President butter. Which is just the kind of free sample the right-thinking supermarket shopper wants to have. As an endorsement of the promotion, I plonked a block of the good stuff into my basket, which, in an Armenian supermarket dairy aisle kind of way, made me quite the Billy Big Bollocks.

Then there was the 33.3% of the supermarket devoted to pig. On my flight from Moscow, I had noted several men with extremely generous waistlines and wondered how they had acquired such impressive physiques. Here was the answer. Sausages, bacon and hams ran across several counters, all attended by larger shopping assistants than were found on the aisles, as if to suggest: “if you buy this, you could end up looking like this!”

After buying bread and picking up a selection of the local ales, I went to the till to pay, where a woman took my money, and a man packed my bags and wanted to carry them to my car, until I explained I didn’t have one. So, despite my complete lack of Armenian, I had a supermarket shopping experience which is not possible in England, due to improvements. And with those cultural differences to reflect upon, I took the rest of the day off.

Hovis Wholemeal Granary. A poetic assessment

A poem of mine about a particularly weighty issue… Hovis Wholemeal Granary bread


Hovis went in.
Rightly chastised that their Best of Both wasn’t anything of the sort
they have come back.

Hovis Wholemeal Granary is so heavy
your bowels start preparing a rock solid shit while you’re still buttering.
They should have just called it Pandemic, and had done with it.

This bread is some archaic, backdated, prison tattoo on the face-type shit
with no rightful place in this wifi coffee shop world in which we live.
This is bread to threaten your kid with
bread targeted at men who lift Atlas stones and pull locomotives

This bread is the opposite of Drake
equivalent to your Bavarian grandmother’s Christmas cake
whatever density this bread is,
it’s the only loaf you could tie to a dead body and send to the bottom of a lake

This bread is like looking at monumental brutalist architecture and saying you don’t like it.
Think it…

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How I became a vegetarian

When people discover that I am a vegetarian, they are often surprised. They look at me and find none of the deathly pallor commonly associated with the veggie.

When conversing with carnivores, I concede that I haven’t been one of ‘them’ for that long, only about three years.

Put at ease, they become fascinated by me as a specimen. Their scientific and sociological impulses are aroused. How can I, all healthy looking and energetic, be a veggie? They want to know how it started. The story goes like this.

For shame, I became fascinated by vegetables, and uninterested in meat

Back in 2007, I was living in Brixton with my friend Dan. He is from Wigan, the pie-eating capital of the UK, and probably the world. He’d been brought up to regard vegetarianism as something weird that southerners get up to, like dogging. It was beyond his comprehension.

In our happy Rushcroft Road flat, Dan and I would cook for each other (sweet, isn’t it?). He would roll in from work and pop some chops under the grill, or I’d roast some chicken breasts. He was quite advanced as Wiganers go, and only ate pies or sausages three or four times a week. We occasionally grilled salmon, as a nod towards cholesterol levels and a healthy lifestyle.

Things were going fine. The household was steady. But for whatever reason, I became unnaturally attracted by vegetables, to the point that I saw them not as a side dish, but the main part of a meal. I started making pasta with vegetables for dinner, or perhaps a tomato risotto. Dan was a tolerant fellow and put up with it.

One day, however, he came home and excitedly showed me some sausages he’d picked up from Moen’s, the posh butcher’s in Clapham. I said that I didn’t fancy them, at which point his equanimity broke.

‘ARE YOU A VEGETARIAN?’ he said, using the v-word as a pejorative.
‘I think I might be,’ I said quietly, eyes downcast.
‘Oh,’ he said. Neither of us expected that.
‘Does this include fish?’ he said hopefully.
‘I don’t know.’ It was all so new.
‘So you don’t want these sausages, then?’
I shook my head.
‘Well, what are you going to eat?’
‘Some vegetables, I suppose.’

Then, like all big news, it became a matter of telling people. I told my mother, who told my father. She took it in her stride. I’d dabbled in environmentalism, which she knew can lead to vegetarianism. She saw it as an opportunity to cook different meals, expand her repertoire.

My father, however, is northern, from Leeds, and wasn’t prepared at all. He was as unsettled as Dan by this turn of events. I imagined him sitting at home, casting his mind back across the rearing process and wondering where he had gone wrong. Had he shown rather too much interest in some sprouts in the early years? Not finished a second portion of roast beef? He would have concluded that his carnivorous credentials were impeccable, and blamed my mother for being ‘soft on the boy’.

My first Christmas as a vegetarian was a fraught affair. Blood relations kept asking me ‘what are you going to eat?’ in worried tones. They believed my vegetarianism to be a sign of a deeper malaise, a mental unravelling of some sort.

I assured them in a ‘there’s-nothing-to-look-at-here’ way, that it was all right. I’d just have the vegetables, thanks. My mother heaped roast potatoes, parsnips, sprouts, red cabbage and carrots on my plate and wondered whether I had enough, eyeing me nervously throughout the meal.

With time, my nearest and dearest realised the new me was very much like the old. I was still the same greedy bastard they’d known before.  I still ate as much as I possibly could on any given occasion. Apart from the meat.

Dan and I went our separate ways a few months later. I can’t say the vegetarianism didn’t play a part. However, and this shows the live and let live attitude of the man, we remain friends, despite my unorthodox lifestyle.

What probably saved the friendship between me and this connoisseur was that even if I am unduly fascinated by the aubergine, I still like to tuck into the cheese and wine. And, as I like to say, without the meat, you have far more room for a good bit of Stilton.

A lovely head and shoulders shot of a Stilton. So good, some French don't sneer at it. Occasionally.