Her: “Do you remember, how much you loved me?
You say you have no room in that thick old head.”
Him: “Well it comes with the hurt and the guilt, and the memories;
If I had to take them with me
I would never get from my bed…”
I don’t believe in ‘guilty pleasures’. I’m all for pleasure, certainly: for what are we but apprentice sybarites? It’s just the other part of the equation I take issue with. The language. True guilt is a heavy hitter. True guilt is a heavyweight. Guilt is poisonous. Guilt is corrosive.
Guilt, in varying degrees, is for remembering that person in your past you could- and should- have treated more tenderly. For the decision taken with the wrong head. At a push, it’s for the time you stepped over what you thought was your sleeping cat, not realising he was dead, and your second ex-wife accused you of deliberately leaving him there for her to deal with.
(That last one’s a hypothetical, of course.)
In short, it’s the wrong word to use about the very occasional Michael Bay film (The Rock is huge fun, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently) or going nostril-deep in the lunchtime unlimited Pizza Hut buffet.
It’s a powerful force, and a founding element of a global multi-billion pound corporation. Or ‘Roman Catholicism’ as it’s better known, and lucrative enough to keep Il Papa in ruby red slippers and golden thrones for the foreseeable: for where better to pray for the disenfranchised, the poor, the oppressed?
Well, occasionally. However, the interior monologue more often goes like this:
You know you shouldn’t. You know there are ‘better’ options, sometimes even on the same street. You should wait til you get home and whip up something quick/tasty/nutritious. You reproach yourself mid-eat and subsequently but you also know you’ll do it again. Maybe not next time but the time after that.
And maybe a few times after that. But then you’ll stop. After all, you’re in control. You can pack it in any time. You’re in control. Honest. Just watch…
These are my peccadilloes, then; I apologise in advance for not using the compulsory (apparently) and asinine (certainly) format for these things (’17 Things You MUST Eat With A Balaclava On- YOU WON’T BELIEVE NUMBER 8!’ ‘Eight New Ways to Count your Feet!’) which always brings me out in a rash.
Doner kebab. The elephant leg. Has to be. It matters not what lurks within; there are times it is perversely essential. My go-to is KBS on Cardiff”s City Road, where they shave gently aromatic lamb into long curlicues and the garlic sauce is as breath-troubling as it should be. They’re good enough to be eaten sober. Yes, that good. Lovely people, too, who find standing over a grill when it’s 30 degrees outside a doddle, compared to the temperatures they grew up with in Iraq.
Peter’s corned beef pasty. Now, for maximum effect these must be eaten in threes, so don’t go buying the single ones. You don’t want that nice checkout lady thinking you’re some kind of weirdo, do you? What are you- a monster?
That’s a juvenile schoolboy kind of error. No, three is the way forward, and they must be warmed through. Not in the recommended oven, oh no: not on your nelly. No, these babies are going straight in the microwave. 2min 10sec at 950w, since you ask. A dab of tomato ketchup for that full comfort food hit, if you like: give it a smear with the back of the spoon if you’re feeling MasterChefy, while you’re at it. It might be only a echo of the corned beef hash pie your grandmother used to make, but it’s an echo all the same.
Besides, they contain Vitamins B1, B3 and iron. Ergo, they’re basically a health food. It’s a matter of ongoing surprise they’re not marketed as such.
Probably the fault of the EU, innit.
Salt and pepper prawns. The first thing I look for on any Chinese takeaway menu. And yes, I have been known to eat them with my bare hands. In the street. Which is what I was doing when I took this, after a tip from someone who may or may not be both Irish and an award-winner Smokehouse co-owner, to check out The Mayfair in Llantwit Major. It was the glazed look in her eyes as she whispered, ‘They’re the crack…’ which swung it. (For the record: they were the best I’ve ever found).
These things are compulsively, viciously addictive: it’s a little-known fact that David Simon wrote The Wire after spending time on the mean streets of ‘LM’, where the corner boys sell this crustacean crack to the withdrawing, the desperate, the broken.
Wetherspoons breakfast wrap. The JDW brand may be much maligned by many, and much of the menu is serviceable at best, though they have undoubtedly helped drive the craft beer revolution on our high streets. But this- dark magic, this: because the only possible drawback to a fried breakfast is the fact it pretty much ties up both your hands. And in today’s busy world when we are all a blur of motion, some sage had the idea of putting the best bits- bacon. Fried egg. A herby pork sausage. American cheese. Hash brown- in a tortilla style. And this seemingly bizarre collision of English and Mexican just works.
You’ll be provided with cutlery, but using it would basically constitute a cry for help.
Nobel Prizes have been awarded for less. Shame the owner is such a Brexit balloon, mind.
And on a breakfast theme, the McMuffin demands inclusion. Hangover remedy supreme. There are places not far away where you can be assured of thick-cut locally produced bacon and a rare-breed pork patty, all lovingly loaded into a custom-baked demi-brioche. But sometimes, you need plastic cheese, comforting blandness and… sod that, where’s the nearest McD’s?
To walk down Sainsbury’s crisp aisle is to enter a world of food apartheid, where posh crisps are saved the bother of breathing the same air as their less glamorous brethren, and gaze across the divide in haughty disdain. Which brings us to…
Not your hand-cut, hand-fried, hand-seasoned posho ones with flavours like ‘aged balsamic vinegar and Welsh sea salt’ or ‘Artichoke and Elderflower’, or even ‘Yak Fat and Beetroot Tumescence.’ You know the type. “Artisan” (there’s that word again) crisps. Made by farmers who are on first name terms with each tuber, service up recognisable hand-cut slices of potato. No, we are now firmly in the realm of the reformed potato snack. The key here is that your end product should not remotely resemble a potato in its natural state. Think Hula Hoops. Discos. The godlike Worcester Sauce French Fries . Little packages of processed perfection. And for good measure- let’s add Wheat Crunchies. (Bacon or Tomato). Scampi Fries, those tangy, fragile little pillows of flavour: lemony, fishy, wholly artificial.
Not NikNaks, for they are grim.
Your posh crisps have their place, sure: any pub session is inevitably elevated by McCoys, or the Holy Grail of Pub Crisps- the mighty Brannigan, whose Roast Beef & Mustard, Ham & Pickle and Roast Lamb & Mint Sauce flavours are legendary. All hail Poundland!
But unlike Hula Hoops or Discos, you can’t very well eat a 12-strong multipack in bed on a Sunday morning now, can you?
(By the way- why are McCoys marketed as ‘man crisps’ when they are quite clearly ridged for her pleasure as well as his?)
By now you’ll be realising that many of these are either pub snacks, or post-pub favourites. I can neither confirm or deny that the ABV of one’s bloodstream influences the purchase of any of these delicacies. It has also just struck me that all of these are best eaten with the hands.
Miss Millie’s Chicken In A Bun (RIP) It was only recently I learned that the venerable Miss M is a Wales and West phenomenon. London is sadly lacking. Your Hawksmoors and your Pizarros and your Ducks & Waffles and your Chick’n’Sours are all well and good, but if you haven’t got a MM in town, you’re doing something wrong.
Their crowning achievement is the chicken in a bun, with a breaded breast slathered with garlic mayo, topped with lettuce and plonked inside a seeded bun. Recently they ran a BOGOF promotion, which was more temptation than I could handle. Sadly, they are no more, or at least in Cardiff.
Kryptonite. All of them. But you’re in no position to judge my choices… are you?
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.