Yes, it’s you I am talking to…..

When I was at school, which admittedly was quite a few years ago, I would dread these words and the death wish glare of the headmaster or other scary teacher beaming down at you in assembly or class if you were a bit distracted and more interested in your friends conversation rather than the droning from ahead of you!

Life has moved on, and now it’s me uttering these words but in a nice way. One of the many advantages of being a blogger who does it for fun and not for clicks, stats or advertising revenue is that when I occasionally get a new follower (and these over 1 week can be counted on the fingers of one hand) is that I can actually take note of this and if they are following via WordPress (rather than an e mail or social media link) I can see their blog, what country they are in , what their interests are etc. This is not from a stalkerish or any other kind of undesirable curiosity, but a genuine interest in who likes what I write and wants to read more and also making me cogniscent of a varied readership.

I always pin my hopes on the fact that if some weeks, it’s not an interesting read to the reader, it’s only 2 minutes of their life I have used up!

So thanks this week to the Deli that is now following me (by the way, your produce looks great), the futness instructor who is also now a reader (maybe you are worried about my connection now with the Deli, and also the previous week the amazing marzipan lover who also joined me) and so on. It’s really good to have my little bit of my life in England, and specifically this corner of Yorkshire now part of yours.

Thanks also for the comments..feedback is good.

Another late arrival

Just as I was a latecomer to the world of blogging, I really am late to the world of Instagram. If I was age 19 or even 29, I would be using Instagram as my means of social media connection with others, photographing every meal, and in short recording my life in images.

As is very evident, age 29 is a distant memory and my use of Instagram is only as a photograph album that I share with family and friends.

Ok, until I realised my privacy settings were, well not so private, I was also sharing my photographs with the world. Not a problem in its own right, but I did seem to encourage ‘connections’ offering me Russian brides (….If only they knew that I am not the route to a passport and a large bank account), Medical Enlargement Clinics offering surgery free treatment presumably to ‘improve my prospects’ with said Russian brides and of course Bitcoin Riches to ensure that myself and new wife Tatanya Yelga Anastasia can live in wealthy bliss back in Vladivostok.

In a way though, it’s more than a photograph album , but a means of me wearing my heart on my sleeve and declaring my love for clouds, sunsets and generally the countryside around us.

But I sense I am not alone…search on #sunsets, #clouds and so on and you will find I am in good company.

Well, maybe just me and three sparrows like these clouds but you know what I mean…

A bit like my blog, my Instagram account is there to be enjoyed by anyone who passes by and drops , but blissfully ignored by the remaining others…..or 99.99999999999999999% of the world’s population as I like to call them.

As always, I hope you enjoyed this. Feel free to comment, share and like.

For the opacarophiles (sunset lovers) just head straight to my Instagram page late.again

Exceedingly good cakes……..

If you live or have loved in the UK, (or possibly ex pat communities such as Dubai or the Spanish costas) , you will know that Mr Kipling bakes exceedingly good cakes! Not just because the advertising ‘strapline’ says this, but because they really are.

Mr Kipling alas is not a real baker but a fictitious baker invented in the UK in the 1960’s to support the evolving supermarkets.

Cakes had historically always been sold from small independent cakes shops or bakeries and Mr Kipling was devised by Rank Hovis McDougal, a large UK Miller and baker to create a brand for the supermarket shelves.

The reason for mentioning Mr Kipling is French Fancies!

I am not really one for lists of favourites…but I do have a league table of five various food inventions that are worthy of mention. At no. 5. Triple chocolate chip cookies – a slightly soft chocolate flavoured cookie featuring bits of white chocolate and milk chocolate. An amazing chocolate triple triumph.

No. 4 is Pork crackling (with apologies to all vegetarians) mmm, it might be 11pm but I could eat some now; ranking number 3, are baked crisps (for those in North America by crisps, we mean potato chips…whereas in the uk, chips are what you would call French Fries. Which in France are of course are just called Fried potatoes….and so on….. Anyway I have digressed…at number 2 has to be any cake containing marzipan… Battenburg and Simnel cake are two noble examples but far ahead, leading the no. 1 ranking…are French Fancies…..by Mr Kipling. The name has a slight hint of risque , or double-entendre but in reality it’s just a small cake. Albeit very nice being sponge cloth a fondant cream top and coated with soft icing. The whole thing is about 30% sugar!

I learnt only today that a special Christmas version of this is produced with frosted, sparky icing. It might only be March now…but I am getting excited already and look forward to introducing these into my life.

In recent weeks, for some bizarre reason I have had an immense craving for these…were it not for the fact I am male, and also aged well beyond pregnancy age, I would have been so convinced I was pregnant and showing signs of extreme food obsessions…

Have a good week…….

A monk, a policeman, Darth Vader, a pilot, oh yes and Two Fairies and many more……

I was travelling on a suburban train in Germany early on Thursday evening. It normally looks just like this.Without really paying much attention to my fellow passengers initially…….. then I looked up and saw that in my carriage was a Franciscan monk, a nun, Darth Vader, two policemen, a pilot, a selection of fairies, an elf and some more people whose ‘uniform of occupation’ baffled me but I assumed they worked in ‘entertainment’ of some shape or form. I was slightly troubled by the monk swigging from a beer bottle and the nun applying more make up. Being one of only one or two ‘normally’ attired individuals, somewhat ironically I felt out of place and the object of attention rather than them!Yes, its carnival time in Germany…only really celebrated in a few cities such as Cologne (yes, they really do it big time!!!!) and nearby Dusseldorf where although the celebrations are big, they don’t quite match near neighbour along the Rhine. You really don’t go out that day to have fun unless you are suitably attired in fancy dress.I am a very regular traveler in Germany for both work reasons and also socially with having family there, but I realised this was the first time I have been there for Carnival weekend.Ok, its not quite the Mardi Gras of Rio but Germans do know how to have fun and use the opportunities that avail themselves. In the same way that Oktoberfest starts in September and not October, celebrations of Carnival start way in advance of the last day prior to Lent starting.In the Uk we too do something that day, but in a very low key way.For those not familiar with UK customs, on this same day we have Pancake Tuesday (also called Shrove Tuesday – Shrove derives from the old English word Shrive which is to obtain absolution for ones sin, hence the tradition to be Shriven before the start of Lent)Anyway, yes, we eat pancakes. For the vast majority of the population, it is the one and only day of the year when we will have a pancake. I can hear the horror now from our US and Canadian cousins who have these as a regular part of breakfast fayre and from our French cousins , likewise ‘desolee’ that a Crepe never passes our lips from one end of the year to the next.So why eat pancakes then – the tradition being that eggs, flour, fat and sugar were being used up before the fasting that took place in Lent.Oh and being the UK, some further traditions have evolved such as races with people tossing pancakes in frying pans as they run….well, why not?Happy Pancake day to everybody!Enjoying this blog or bemused by this blog? Please subscribe and share on Social Media.Please also feel free to comment if you feel so inclined.As is very evident, this blog has no particular theme other than thoughts or observations what would otherwise only get shared with ‘captive’ listeners such as the supermarket cashier, or my more polite and tolerant family and friends.

BMW, Mercedes or Porsche?

Ask someone about what is a really great German export and if they are ‘into cars’ they may well name one of the above…with apologies to Audi who I really should also have included on the list.

But cars are not unique and any proud Italian will counter this and reel off the names Ferrari, Lamborghini or Alfa Romeo and so on.

What Germany has cornered and no other country can match for both home markets and to export is the Christmas Market

And now in so many other European cities too with the warmth and ambience that is unique to these events. But they are at their best in their country of birth!

My first Christmas Market of this year was a couple of weeks ago in Dortmund.

..and it us hard to beat this one with its amazing centrepiece tree…made of 1000 individual trees!

However earlier this week I was in Dusseldorf and had the chance to visit their Weinachsmarket, spread across a large part of the Altstadt (Old Town).

And there amongst the Gluhwein, Bratwurst and beer……

..a new treat for me.

Crepes with Marzipan…

For someone who loves marzipan (as well as pancakes) Christmas really has arrived early for me šŸ˜

Enjoying these posts? Please comment, like and share.

That takes the biscuit….

I work for a German company and spend a lot of time conversing with German colleagues whose English is one thousand times better than my German!

In fact they are so fluent I sometimes forget it is not their native tongue…until I use some idiom that gets me puzzled looks.

I used the phrase ‘that takes the biscuit’ in a recent conversation and with dawning realisation I saw that this was causing some confusion. The etymological origins of this actually took me longer to explain than the whole original conversation so in this instance, using an idiom was not a good shortcut.

For those not in the know, its meaning is from 1800’s Naval times basically saying ‘well that takes the prize’ , and not necessarily for something good andĀ  in reality probably something bad like running out of food and even using the last ships biscuit,Ā  very much a last resort food item!

Anyway, I digress a little but still on biscuits………..

In the same way that choosing a coffee has become a university degree course,Ā  and using the right name for a bread roll in different parts of the UK requires a phrase book (see my previous blogĀ  ‘Please come to visit us’ on the joys of buying coffee andĀ  Ā choosing bread rolls in the uk…click on theĀ  highlighted words to link..), the art of biscuit selection requires at least some higher level training to be completed before a simple purchase can be made. It is a complex subject….

As a child, based on my limited biscuit expertise (i.e. what darkened the door of our house and biscuit tin) I would have sworn in a court of law that only 4 types of biscuit ever actually existed in the world: namely rich tea, chocolate digestive,Ā  regular (boring!) digestive and custard creams.

But now when asked to ‘pick up a packet of biscuits’ when at the supermarket can leave me totally overwhelmed. The range seems endless now….Balzen biscuits from Germany, Hobnobs, Jammy Dodgers , Penguins (no Penguins are harmed in the making of those biscuits…to reassure those of you from non Penguin biscuit countries)Ā  and Chocolate Chip cookies. And don’t even go down the route of Wagon Wheels or Oreo biscuits (why are they a very strange colour and indeedĀ  remind me of dog biscuits? ) or numerous others untasted and unknown in the array that will welcome meĀ  in the supermarket.

And then of course there are Kit Kats……..

As a child I think they were seen more of being in the confectionery world but have now absconded to the biscuit aisle joining their new younger cousins Breakaways and Rocky Road. And thenĀ  I find some UK regional items have sneaked in.

Tunnocks Caramel wafers: as plentiful in Waitrose in Harrogate as in Aldi in Glasgow now. I think I have also seen them for saleĀ  in the Middle East!

There are whole hierarchies of biscuits and their usage to be understood …everyday biscuits, luxury biscuits, speciality biscuits, biscuits only served with coffee, hand made, home made, Christmas biscuits and a whole lot of crossover products that are somewhere in the middle! Give a man inadequate instructions on the social standing of the occasion and it is guaranteed the purchase will be wrong one….

I realise for my non UK readers this is very UK centric but I suspect in your countries too the dilemma is the same!

And in the USA of course then there are biscuits that are in a whole new world of living on dinner plate…with gravy! My first ever visit to Georgia, USA has that experience etched on my mind.

But one final thought going back to second languages…the word biscuit is not an English word at all ….but derived from two French words ‘bis-cuit’..simply meaning twice cooked.

Vive la France!

Look forward to your comments.Ā  Biscuit choice is of course a very subjective matter!

Enjoying this blog…please ‘like’ if you do genuinely like it and comment in any way you feel you want to.

Want to subscribe?…click on the button below and feel free to share on social media.

 

A few of my favourite things…?

A subjective question and of course answered in song by Maria in the classic movie, The Sound of Music.

There was no Google back then to answer this question (assuming she had been asked such a question, or had just decided to tell people her favourite things anyway!)

If there had been such electronic guidance, the answers might have been more noble or momentous… like the wheel, the internal combustion engine, the internet, penicillin rather than Brown paper parcels tied up with string etc.

Meanwhile back in the more materialistic non Von Trapp family world………….

for me white chocolate magnums have to be right up there at the top of the list, beating anything with marzipan by a mere whisker and pushing smart phone taxi apps which have been a game changer for me, just into 3rd place.

Yes, I know a big focus on food here but the said ice creams are totally a perfect blend of two loves in my life…vanilla ice cream and white chocolate (with all due respect to my human and doggie loves) and marzipan has always played a big part in my life (ditto with due respect to my wife, children, friends and dogs).

And what even took me down this alley of thoughts? On the subject of dogs, it seems that they too can now enter this world of ice cream admiration!

So why taxi apps such as Uber or Lyft…?

I travel a lot internationally in my job and have had my fair few moments of challenging taxi journeys (especially one lost taxi in Athens…yes it really was, click to read the story!) so anything to ease that is good!

Enjoying this blog? Please do comment and let me know what amused, educated or entertained you. Please feel free to share on social media using the links.

Want more of these?…click on the subscribe button.

I Wish I Loved Gingerbread…

The list of foods I wish I loved or even just liked, but don’t, is relatively small.

People rave about Macaroni Cheese, but I don’t feel a gap in my life for not liking it.

Likewise asparagus is not on my list either

or indeed any kind of shell fish. I work on my principle of if it swims in the sea , it’s a yes, if it walks about…or doesn’t move then it’s a no!

But I do have a problem with gingerbread…I really don’t like ginger flavoured anything…but gingerbread looks and smells so nice. I feel do should like it…..

Last week in the beautiful English Lake District I even queued up to buy the stuff as gifts for family and friends and our own household…but all I can do is look at it.

Thankfully the Lake District has a lot of really good ‘take aways’ in terms of majestic scenery and tranquillity so there was plenty for me to enjoy. Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter knew what they were talking about.

Always so good to visit but next time I will be in the scones and cream queue.

It’s our other national food…

Growing up as a teenager in Scotland and influenced by both TV, cinema and bill board advertising I strongly remember adverts for Irn Bru stating ‘it’s your other national drink’…that first drink in question being Scotch Whisky.

The two drinks actually have a similar (ish) colour but not much else in common other than being produced in Scotland. One of the other advertising straplines for Irn Bru was ‘made from girders’.

They actually went on from that to have some clever and sometimes risque advertising…a quick Google search will enlighten and amuse you.

For those of you from outside the UK as a whole (as Irn Bru can be purchased in England and Wales and many other places worldwide where there is Scottish ex pat demand for it), it’s a very sugary soft drink that does have some iron content (albeit a tiny percentage) hence it’s name.

It was a bit of a dentist’s nightmare although sugar free versions now exist and the original has now had sugar content reduced to comply with UK sugar tax regulations.

However the title of this blog is about food not drink but there is a similar conumdrum. I was asked last week by an overseas colleague…what is the traditional British food eaten most often? The natural reaction to this question is Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.

Yorkshire pudding for those not in the know is not a dessert but a savoury dish served alongside beef.

Indeed for so long was this the stereotypical meal was that French people sometimes refer to English as ‘Le rosbifs’. But things have moved on…the traditional Sunday lunch of a roast has changed.

As a child I remember this almost religious event of sunday roast. Mother and Father cooking, Father carving..that had a rotating timetable..one week beef, then lamb, then pork, then chicken…and start again.

Interrupted really only by events such as Christmas when we had Turkey. Easter Sunday was always lamb…even if not a scheduled lamb Sunday! Things have changed…the cost of meat joints, the whole concept of family Sunday lunch and a host of other factors now mean these meals in many families are exceptional events, rather than normal certainly when at home. So what is traditional or commonplace food now…ignoring junk or fast food (that is probably top of league table for volume) in terms of popularity for a shared meal both at home and in restaurants one has to say curry..and probably even more specifically chicken tikka masala.

The widespread availability of ‘Indian’ food as take away from restaurants, ready meals in supermarkets and of course being actualy cooked from scratch at home combined with the huge number of ‘Indian’ restaurants means this is definitely our No. 1 food. I put ‘Indian’ in parenthesis as actually many of these restaurants and take aways are actually Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Nepalese or Sri Lanken. But the phrase shall we eat Indian food has stuck…rather than using the term Indian sub content style food!

Will Roast beef decline into oblivion…no, but certainly our choice of food get a ever wider and reflects the multi cultural world we live in. Ironically restaurants serving ‘roast dinner ‘ are probably now more prevalent on Spain’s Costa del Sol to feed the holidaying and ex pat Brits than on the average UK High Street!

Please come and visit us!

Visitors to the UK from North America are often bemused by the complexity of choice in our ‘next generation’ coffee shops.

A university degree in coffee is really most helpful when bombarded with questions and choices. Flat white?, Americano?, Latte?, Machiatto?, Espresso?, Latte?, to name just a few; then choose your milk – full, semi or skimmed?

Yes but from a cow? or an almond? or a soya bean?

Then there is size..and of course confusing terms here..is ‘large’ bigger than ‘grande’?, do you want to eat in?, do you want to take away? do you want to use your own cup?, would you like to contribute to clogging the oceans by having a plastic straw? And so on. Even the tiniest of coffee shops doesn’t feel satisfied if they can’t answer every answer you give….with another question..

But that is just the world of coffee….

Despite the UK being smaller than California, we helpfully have a bewildering range of regional accents that are challenging enough for those of us that live here to always tune in to correctly. And these really do vary dramatically by such small distances…for example Liverpool and Leeds are only 70 miles apart..but you could be in two entirely different countries comparing Leeds Yorkshire dialect to Scouse (Liverpudlian). Head 70 or so miles south from Liverpool to Birmingham and it’s totally different again. North from Leeds up to Newcastle on the train for an hour..and it’s Geordie you will hear.

As if that’s not confusing enough for the visitor try asking for a bread roll….

And when I say bread roll, I mean a plain bread roll…not Artisan, Granary, seeded, wheat germ, fancy pants bread.

For these we just use the correct and proper name of ‘Artisan, Granary, seeded, wheat germ, fancy pants bread’ everywhere.

No, I mean for simple white rolls to make a simple sandwich.

..a bread roll is a Stottie Cake in Newcastle , in Manchester it’s a tea cake, further south and it’s a Bap and so on. And there a numerous other regional variations.

Despite the internet, movement of people, international tv and movies in English the accents, dialects and localised terms have against all odds survived a blending that although simplifying things in a way would have been a sad loss.

For how long , I am not sure, but meantime enjoy and be bemused if you come to visit us.