Unexpected Statements II

No-one believed it would happen, but Mr and Mrs Unexpected Statements I are proud to announce the birth of their first child – named, very much in the manner of our cousins across the Herring Pond, Unexpected Statements II.

Who would have imagined that the old fool would have sufficient recollection of a previous “format” to be able to re-use it?  Well, he is not quite as far sunk into his dotage as was generally believed – and so on with what must pass for the motley hereabouts.

Those who lack the prodigious memory of the author might perhaps need a small nudge to recollect that this particular “format” is where GofaDM (quite unasked) attacks some of the weaker examples of the copywriter’s art, and so it shall.

Case the first

Not so very long ago, I cycled past a white (or mostly so) van covered in the branding of some, now forgotten, business.  So much, so ordinary – but I was struck by one particular claim made in support of the particular product or service on offer from the van’s contents (or driver or both).  It boasted that the product or service was “as seen on YouTube” as though this were some indicator of quality.  As the regularly reader will know, even GofaDM (or at least its flesh-encased representative here on earth) has been “seen on YouTube” and so it is abundantly clear that such a claim is very far from a guarantee of quality (or at least to that of the “good” variety).  In days of yore, did tradesmen boast of being “as seen in Yellow Pages”?  At least that claim did require a modest financial outlay on their part, unlike an appearance on YouTube which is free (as long as you do not cost the loss of privacy and the surrender of some personal information).

Case the latter

A few weeks back, whilst riding Shanks’ pony (did Mr Armitage also have an equine companion which is now sadly lost to posterity?), I encountered a large advertising hoarding hawking some new product from the stable (a word I use advisedly) of the Coca Cola corporation.  I must admit to being surprised that this corporation survived the loss of actual coca in its products (which surely must have been their primary appeal), and strongly suspect that even the cola is no longer entirely authentic.  Anyway, back to the product in question.  Against a somewhat verdant background a vessel of this brown sticky fluid was displayed with the claim that it gained its sweetness from a plant-based source.  It suddenly struck me that I had hitherto (probably foolishly) always assumed that “normal” Coca Cola used a plant-based source for its sweetness – presumably sugar cane or perhaps beet.  Clearly not.  Is this yet another place where the horse has crept into our food supply?  I’ve never thought of horses as especially sweet (either in person or the mouth), but now I think about it they are rather fond of sugar lumps – so maybe they are.  Is this why they also make (or made) such effective glue?  Sill, it’s good to know that Coke have finally produced a horse-free sticky brown fluid.

I think what this second bite of the Unexpected Statements cherry most clearly indicates is not that I would make an excellent copywriter – but rather that I have too much time, or thinking capacity, on my hands to be considered entirely (mentally) healthy.

Selling your grandmother(s)

Long ago, I devised a measure to rate the naked ambition of one of my then colleagues.  This was based on the number of his grandmothers he would be willing to sell to climb the next rung up the corporate ladder.  In those more innocent days, I was not positing that the sold grandparents would wind up in a 100% beef lasagne, probably just on a quay-side in Valparaiso – a location for some reason linked in my mind to the white slave trade (I have no idea why and I would like to apologise unreservedly to the Chilean port for this base canard).  On this scale, my ex-colleague scored significantly above two – thus requiring the imagining of a thriving secondary market in female grandparents.

This government seems to share the messianic zeal for privatisation of its ideological predecessor – well, I say ideological, though in my more cynical moments (basically, those moments between me waking in the morning and falling asleep at night) I suspect it has far more to do with the financial kick-backs.  I might take a different view of privatisation had ever proved successful, but with the mess made of the railways and with BT and the privatised utilities being among the most hated and least trusted corporations in the land – the successful privatisation (from the perspective of the UK populace) is as rare as hen’s teeth or frog’s fur.  Privatisation has often been described as selling the family silver – usually at massively below its “market” value – but I think recent news suggests we have now moved into selling the family (or at least its older, female members).

Yesterday, I gave blood – the quickest method of weight-loss I know, though one somewhat ameliorated by the subsequent gorging on free biscuits.  For my previous 74 donations, this blood was used purely for the public weal – but now, it would seem that my public spirit is also to enrich a bunch of US venture capitalists.  In the catalogue of wickedness perpetrated by this government, this sets a new low.  It also strikes me as very dangerous to introduce market norms where they do not belong – perhaps the government would do well to read Michael Sandel’s excellent book What Money Can’t Buy.  I do wonder if people will be quite so willing to give freely of their life blood if such generosity is going to reward foreign venture capitalists?  I am far from convinced that I trust commercial interest with our blood supply – let’s face it, commercial corporations have not covered themselves in glory in recent years with their probity (particularly, when they thought no-one was looking or had ensured that it was in people’s financial interest not to look).  I wonder how long we will have to wait before the horse plasma scandal breaks?

Meat Roulette

News over the last few weeks has made the carnivorous lifestyle appear a rather more adventurous, even risky, option than might have hitherto been imagined.

Either you don’t know what you are eating and are inadvertently enjoying a facet of la vie Française or you do and are now doomed to an early grave (please note that I use the word “or” in its logical or Boolean sense, i.e. you could be doing both).  This leaves those of us living a (mostly) vegetarian lifestyle feeling even more smug than usual – which is not directly a life limiting condition, but could precipitate violence if not suitable masked.

Bacon, now identified as only slightly less deadly than the eponymous nightshade, is oft cited as the one item the newbie veggie finds hardest to eliminate from the diet – though, I can’t say that its lack has been an issue in my life.  However, I bring a message of hope to any wannabe vegetarians out there, as I believe I have found an alternative.  On a recent trip to 10 Greek Street I partook of a dish, which as part of its delicious whole contained capers which had been fried in brown butter.  I have never found capers particularly appealing or interesting in the past, but in this form they become one of the tastiest things I have ever had the pleasure to eat: they were like perfectly fried bacon only better (like the quintessence of the brown stuff you scrape from the pan after frying the bacon).  I have now come to believe fried bacon is but a pale shadow of its Platonic ideal: the brown-butter fried caper.  I would not want my readers to go away thinking this is necessarily a healthy option – well not for the eater, though it is rather healthier for the pig – but it does offer a vegetarian (though not vegan) alternative to the morning rasher.

Another recent 10GS discovery is the marvel that is roasted celeriac – a completely different animal to its boiled version and even more scrumptious (if only I had discovered this earlier in the season).  As I type this post, my first experiment in celeriac roasting is underway in the crypt of Fish Towers – it will then be crumbed, mixed with ricotta, chopped parsley and one egg (to bind it, in the land of Mordor where the shadows lie) and formed into patties and shallow fried.  I shall probably serve it with mushrooms and something green (a seasick mariner perhaps?).  I have high hopes for this experiment in biochemistry, but there are always risks in experimenting on one’s self, so if you don’t hear from me again then know I took one for the team and another will have to continue my vital work.

Still, I am not anticipating an early meeting with the Grim Reaper as this last week has already seen a new cooking triumph.  I have finally produced a properly decent risotto (well, speltetto if I’m honest as I use pearled spelt in lieu of rice) with the assistance of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who provided the basic recipe around which I riffed (10GS should also receive a credit as I’ve watched them make risotto and have become much bolder in my method as a result).  It may be the best use I’ve ever made of a leak and a couple of handfuls of kale.

So, come over to the (mostly) green side, it’s a lot more fun than most vegetarians would have you believe!