Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Italy - You've been Tangoed

The phone rang yesterday afternoon and when I picked up the voice on the other end was my Mum. She sounded terrible. I thought someone had died. “Berlusconi's winning” she said.

It's a sad day for Italian politics when the man the Italian nation chooses to vote for has been constantly linked to allegations of corruption, advises women worried about their financial future to marry his son, calls his opponent a 'recycled Stalinist' and has a hideously orange face (but the last part's not important in running the country I suppose, but it is ridiculous isn't it?).

The problem is, Italians are worried about their future. Italy now has the lowest wages as well as the lowest birth rate, growth rates and levels of foreign investment in Europe along with unemployment which is low at 6 per cent, but rises to 10 per cent for those aged 15 to 24. A recent survey indicated that 53% of Italians feel worse than ever.

The man the Italians could've had in power was praised for his message for the criminal syndicates: 'Don't vote for us, because we will destroy the forces that prevent development in the South.' That may well be, but if the Italians are struggling economically, they want reassurance that things will get better economically. During his campaign, Berlusconi vowed to slash taxes and boost the economy. In stark contrast Romano Prodi's government raised taxes and collapsed only after 20 months.

There is a similar quandary with the 2008 elections for the Mayor of London. Who to vote for on 1st May? The right wing gaffe-prone buffoon that is Boris Johnson or Ken Livingstone who successfully introduced congestion charges in London and who clearly has the Londoner's best interest at heart - but who has also been accused of corruption and wasting tax payers' money.

So as much as I hate to say it, I can understand why the Italians voted Berlusconi in. There just isn't a decent alternative. If you were in their situation, what would you do?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Just can't give it up

I know I said I wouldn't be back on here until I'd finished my novel. I lied. The truth is, I probably would have finished it by now but I've put in on the backburner once again to study for a teaching Diploma which I should hopefully have finished by August. That means I'll be able to get back to the novel of which I've already written 32,743 words (62 pages).

Its been over a year since I've written anything properly and the whole time I've felt there was something missing. The truth is, I love writing and I've missed it. So I'm going to be back with a weekly post or two to keep me going. I have had to fight the urge to post the odd rambling on here but whilst reading an article on Delia Smith in The Observer Food Monthly, the urge was just too strong to resist. Here it is below.

Let's NOT be having you Delia

It’s not home-made Nigel. Assembling a mixture of ready-diced onions, Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle instant mash with some mince does not constitute home-made. I am in case you were wondering, referring to Nigel Slater’s recent comments in defence of Delia’s new ‘cookery’ book How to Cheat at Cooking.

I have nothing against her book per se. I am a big fan of Delia, I always have been. Whenever I’ve needed a good reliable recipe for the old classics like boeuf bourguignon and cottage pie, I always bypass the likes of Gordon and Jamie and reach for Delia. Her Bolognese sauce recipe is by far the best I’ve ever come across and one which I’ve strictly adhered to over the years.

There is nothing wrong with cheating – cutting corners in cookery is almost a necessary evil, given the busy lifestyles of most people today. Come home late, stick a Waitrose Madras in the microwave for twenty minutes, wait for the ping. Job done. You can’t expect everyone to come home late from work and start faffing around with complicated recipes.

Everyone knows that the sale of cookbooks has risen in recent years. Rather ironically though as it would appear more and more people are buying ready meals. So it’s pretty obvious that people like the idea of cooking, but simply haven’t got the time.

So Delia, as astute as she is, spots this gap in the market and releases a book with pre-orders beating rival cooks Nigella and Jamie in the battle for sales.

So what do I dislike so vehemently about this book? Delia’s strength has always been showing you the right way to do things. Remember in her How to Cook series where she lovingly showed us how to boil an egg correctly? Now she’s telling us to buy tinned mince! And frozen chargrilled aubergine slices! Come on Delia. How can you go back on your principles so quickly? Not only that, but she’s also telling us which brands to buy. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

So to make a shepherd’s pie ‘new Delia’ style, I need to buy diced onions, tinned mince and instant mash which I then assemble myself. What exactly is the difference between this and buying it already prepared? What I’m saying here is if you’re going to cheat, you might as well go the whole hog and buy it ready made. Is there really anybody out there who would cook a dish as she recommends and claim to have actually cooked it themselves?

Not only has she gone back on her principles, but she’s attacked Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for even daring to suggest that we shouldn’t eat battery-reared hens. She’s more concerned with the fact that it’s more important that poverty stricken children get the right nutrition. Since when has it been a requirement to eat battery chicken to stay healthy?

But Delia doesn’t want to get into politics. “I don’t do organic because I’m a cook – I can’t get into the politics of food because I don’t have the knowledge and I don’t have the background.” That’s right Delia, you don’t have the knowledge. To make her own dishes, she has to read her own recipes – which she has been known to have got wrong. I don’t know about you, but this proves to me that she hasn’t got a natural feel for cooking. Anyone with a passion for cooking will tell you, it’s all to do with feeling, instinct and simply knowing what’s right apart from of course, patisserie, where exact measures are required.

At least there is one advantage to cooking with recipes from her new book. What to do it it all goes wrong? Blame it on Delia.