quite possibly the most hilarious and brilliant food writer of the century here
G brought me back the greatest surprise gift from his last trip to Manhattan - a cookbook by Daniel Boulud, signed with a personal message from the man himself! What a treat.
Swiss Chard Gratin Ingredients • 6 lb. Swiss chard, washed, leaves and stems separated • 2 T butter • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped • 2 T flour • 1 cup milk • ¼ tsp. nutmeg • ½ cup shredded Gruyère cheese • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions Preheat oven to 350˚F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and place a bowl of ice water on the side. Boil the chard leaves until tender, remove, and chill in the ice water. Strain well; chop leaves roughly and set aside. Cut the stems into thin slices. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon butter, 1 clove garlic, and stems, cooking until tender; remove and set aside. Add the flour and the remaining butter to the pan and reduce heat to low. Stir for 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the butter. Using a whisk, gradually stir in the milk and nutmeg. Cook, whisking, for 3 minutes. With a wooden spoon, add the chopped leaves, reserved garlic, and stems; season to taste. Transfer to a small casserole or individual-size casserole dishes. Sprinkle evenly with the cheeses and bake 6–8 minutes or until golden brown.
Truffled Lentils with Poached Egg and Ham Ingredients • 2 tbsp. olive oil • ½ cup cubes (¼ inch in size) of slab bacon, about 3 oz. • 1 tsp. sherry vinegar, plus more to season • 1 carrot, peeled • 1 celery rib, cut in half • 1 onion, quartered • 1 cup Pardina lentils • 1 herb sachet containing 1 to 2 sprigs sage, 3 sprigs thyme, ½ tsp. black peppercorns, 1 tsp. dried guindilla pepper (or substitute red pepper flakes), tied in a cheesecloth bundle • 1½ cups chicken stock • Salt and freshly ground black pepper • 2 tbsp. white truffle oil • ½ cup finely grated Idiazabal, a Basque sheep’s milk cheese (or use manchego or pecorino), about 1½ oz. • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter • 1 tsp. white wine vinegar • 4 eggs • 4 slices pata negra ham (or substitute Serrano)
Directions In a large pot, heat olive oil over mediumhigh heat. Add diced bacon and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add sherry vinegar to deglaze pan and allow it to reduce for about 1 minute.
Add carrot, celery, onion and lentils. Add herb sachet and cover with 1½ cups water and the chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until lentils are tender and cooked through, 35 to 45 minutes. Remove carrot, onion, celery and herb sachet and discard. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
Over medium heat, stir in truffle oil, add cheese and stir until completely incorporated. Remove from heat and gently fold in the butter.
Meanwhile heat 4 cups of water with the white wine vinegar over high heat. Use a whisk to create a whirlpool in the water, then crack the eggs into a cup and slip them into the water one at a time. Poach until set, about 3 minutes.
To serve, divide the lentils between four bowls, top each with a slice of ham and a poached egg. Serves 4.
As public anger grows over British Airway's looming strike, Imogen Edwards-Jones says that it’s no wonder cabin crew have had enough — the old days of job satisfaction and glamour are long gone... article from Times Online
Sympathy for the British Airways staff proposing to go on strike is in short supply. Preventing hundreds of thousands of people from “going home for Christmas” does not exactly endear you to the public or do you many favours on the PR front. And what is there to grumble about anyway? Cabin crew have glamorous jobs with sexy uniforms, they get to travel and meet people and go to fabulous destinations. They should slap on their lip-liner, slip on their clicky high heels and just get on with it.
But we are mistaken. The airline industry has changed. Being an air hostess isn’t what it was. September 11 and 1p flights bought on the internet put paid to the glory days, the Leonardo DiCaprio Catch Me If You Can dream of martini-fuelled long-haul trips . Today’s air hostess works long hours for little pay and is far more likely to be swallowing Prozac than swigging the vodka miniatures that she used to pinch from her trolley.
Like the rest of us who have to endure the queues, the corralling and the ignominy of taking off our shoes, the stewardess now finds the whole travel experience completely miserable. The special atmosphere, the bonhomie and the teamwork have all but disappeared from a job that is now about quick turnarounds, short-term contracts and shoving black bin bags in the faces of passengers to collect the Cellophane wrappers from their in-flight meals.
During the year that I spent interviewing cabin crew members to write Air Babylon, my exposé of the airline industry, I found out just what a disenchanted lot they were. They complained that the romance and joy had gone out of the job.
For security reasons there are no cosy chats with the captain now that he is locked up in the flight deck. There is no filing your nails on a long-haul flight with a terribly dangerous metal emery board. In first class they now silver serve with plastic knives and forks.
Once air stewardesses used to aspire to marry handsome princes from Middle Eastern countries. Now they are nothing more than glorified waitresses in the sky. No wonder they are striking over pay — it’s the only thing they have left.
They work in an industry in which the air is filled with more germs than a doctor’s surgery. And what other job subjects its staff to the “touch toes test”, whereby the cabin services director checks to see if naked buttocks can been seen under the skirt — the VPL is the enemy of the well turned-out air hostess, so some of them simply ditch their underwear.
Even today, the grooming rules for trolley dollies can seem bizarre. Long hair must be tied back, only certain colours of certain brands of make-up are permitted and products must be plastered on because eyes and lips must be visible from six rows back. Jewellery is kept to a minimum and forearms have to be hairless, bleached or waxed at all times. Weight is watched and anyone chubbing up over the Atlantic is told discreetly to lose a few pounds (although no airline would admit to such a sexist, lookist policy).
There are many downsides to the job. The antisocial hours, permanent jet-lag and continual stress of being on stand-by can easily lead to depression, lack of home life and widespread abuse of temazepam and co-proxamol among cabin crew. The heavy drinking and all-night partying can render hostesses and stewards unfit to fly, so they manage to get through the flight only by sneaking blasts of fresh oxygen from canisters in the galley.
The increasingly unpleasant behaviour of passengers also affects the crew. Air rage is on the rise: The number of incidents on British jets has risen by 29 per cent since last year — and of the 3,485 cases reported recently, 37 per cent involved alcohol. People drink too much and start to fight — or to have sex in the toilets or, even less discreetly, under the blankets on their seats. One glass of wine in the air is said to be the equivalent of three on the ground — and on a long-haul flight things can get scary.
“Everyone likes to have a drink on their way to their holidays,” says Shazia Bibi, a 28-year-old flight attendant. “It happens quite a lot and you get male passengers being inappropriate and occasionally trying to touch you. You learn to deal with it: you brush it off, maybe give them a bit of aggro and they usually settle down.”
Yet the problems of bum-pinching and passionate passengers in the toilets pale into insignificance beside the trouble caused by having to deal with a corpse. The air hostesses to whom I spoke insisted that deaths in flight are not so unusual. In fact, they are such a regular occurrence that Singapore Airlines recently introduced a “corpse cupboard” on its new 17-hour non-stop flight from Singapore to Los Angeles, specifically to cope with the problem.
What if the plane is full and there is nowhere to store the body? Usually, if the heart attack victim (this is the most common cause of death in flight) is accompanied by a relative or colleague, the cabin crew will place a blanket around the body and an oxygen mask on the face, to make it appear as if the corpse is asleep. But if the traveller is alone, there is a worse problem. You can’t allow someone to fly next to the corpse of a total stranger — so often the body is upgraded if there is room or, in the worst-case scenario, it is placed on the galley floor while everyone continues to deal with serving meals and drinks. Or it is shoved in with the rubbish at the back of the plane, only to make its exit on top of a food or drinks trolley long after the passengers have disembarked.
It is not all doom and gloom, of course: there are still some upsides to life in the skies. There is the boozing, shopping and tanning lifestyle. Flying, I discovered, can be rather like an adult-orientated school trip. You are collected by bus, taken to the plane, retrieved from the plane and dispatched to a five-star hotel at a holiday destination without having had to think about anything. All your expenses are paid, you are given per diems (pocket money) and left to your own devices until you are needed back on the plane.
As one steward said to me: “You’re in a place for 12 to 24 hours, you’ve seen all that it has to offer 100 times before. What else are you going to do but play silly drinking games?”
There are plenty of those. After you have coiffed your “bus” cocktail (champagne, Cointreau, brandy and orange juice) on the airport bus, the real fun and games begin as soon as you hit the hotel: strip poker, group showers, group sex. As Henry Sutton, the author of Flying, once said: “If you’re not sex-mad before you join an airline, you will become so.”
And the main aim of the air hostess? It’s still to bag a pilot, of course. He has been locked in the cabin all flight, so their time is limited. If he is married it doesn’t appear to matter because what happens down route, stays down route. On that, everyone agrees.
About the future of flying, no one is certain. As air travel becomes cheaper, the appeal of the job is on the wane. In the old days “trolley dollies” may not have earned as much as the next woman but at least they had a certain swagger as they shimmied through the airport. They had poise, presence. They had persona. They wore heels on the ground and changed into flats in the air. These days, many of them are spotty teenagers in slip-ons who wear nylon bibs and shove cold rolls in your face.
What you see is what you get. There is no image, no front, no face. Put simply, flying is just no fun any more.
excerpt from Air Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones and Anonymous, Corgi, £5.99
Tory chic: the return of poshness
Suddenly it has become socially acceptable – and fashionable – to dress, sound and even eat like the upper classes....
Three months ago, a new clothes shop appeared in Soho in central London. Just off Carnaby Street, opposite a designer boutique with a T-shirt in the window saying "Fuck Off" in delicately stitched capitals, the new Barbour store looks a little out of place at first glance. A huge faded union flag is draped inside the doorway as if in a regimental chapel. Old metal jerrycans, seemingly straight from a farmyard, stand under the clothes rails. And hanging in heavy rows are Barbour's trademark jackets, tent-like and stiff, in muddy country colours, and with antiquated, upper-class names such as the Bedale and the Beaufort. It is hard to see the shop lasting.
Yet early on a raw weekday morning, with some neighbouring shops not even open yet, there is already a steady flow of Barbour customers. Some are the sort of people you might expect: middle-aged, prosperously dressed, pinkish Horse and Hound complexions. But others are quite different.
A man of about 30 with fashionably rolled-up jeans, angular hair and a manbag strides in. He flicks through the rails, then lingers over a rack of quilted country jackets that look like something the Queen would wear. "I think he wants that kind of old-style, boxy one," murmurs one sales assistant to another. The man lingers for several more minutes, but doesn't find quite what he is looking for. Yet he can probably live with the disappointment. As he passes me on his way out, I realise he is already wearing a Barbour. "We opened in September and we have already had to shut for a week to re-stock," says a sales assistant. "The heritage styles – the young people want them. They wear them really fitted. Small sizes." She gives a faintly incredulous look: "It's funny to see the Barbour become a fashion item. I always associate them with hunting and fishing."
Perhaps not for much longer. Over the last few years, in trendy parts of London, at music festivals, and among clothes-horse celebrities, Barbours have become so ubiquitous that there is even a half-mocking nickname for the look, referencing the London borough where it is commonest: "Hackney farmer". The boom is even affecting sensible old John Lewis: this year, national sales of Barbours there are up more than 80%.
And the Barbour craze is only part of a much broader new appetite for products with posh associations. Brogues and Oxfords, the more clumpy and traditional-looking the better, have become the shoes of choice for many cool young men. Hunter wellies, once something for squelchy point-to-points, are now what Kate Moss and her fashion disciples wear to Glastonbury, and are currently on sale at Jigsaw. Tweed has become hip. So have faintly caddish moustaches and even – according to the high-street chain Vision Express – monocles. "There was recently a trend for waistcoats, a very young man's trend," says the fashion journalist Charlie Porter. "There is a thing for bow ties right now. There's no way a bow tie can be anything but posh."
The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook – published more than a quarter of a century ago, the last time there was a vogue for upper-class style – lists the key items in the male Sloane wardrobe: "the thick, woolly Action Man sweater . . . the blazer . . . trousers worn a bit short . . . the cardigan." Over the last few years, British men's fashion magazines have featured little else.
On television, too, poshness is enjoying a boom. Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall, Kirstie Allsopp, Thomasina Miers, Valentine Warner – their unapologetic private school vowels, patrician brusqueness or charm and, in some cases, aristocratic backgrounds (Allsopp is actually The Honourable Kirstie Allsopp) – have become assets in what is usually considered the most populist of media, until recently dominated by self-made Britons and regional accents. "Kirstie and Hugh are posh. They know that. We know that," says Andrew Jackson, who commissions their shows for Channel 4. "Maybe in the past they would have hidden it. Television used to be about the middle class and the working class. But over the past two or three years [posh] presenters have become less ashamed."
Jackson also oversees a successful reality programme about restoring grand properties called Country House Rescue. "It's a world that television ran away from for a long time, but the viewers are quite interested. Maybe there's a slightly aspirational side to it. Viewers don't want to live in a country house exactly, but maybe they'd like to live a bit like someone who has one." There is currently a trend in design-conscious London homes for hanging faux-baronial pairs of antlers.
Then there is food. Here is the Sloane Ranger Handbook again: "A Sloane loves . . . bangers and mash, cauliflower cheese . . . shepherd's pie . . . apple crumble . . . rack of lamb . . . porridge, kedgeree, kippers . . . kidneys . . . game . . ." It is almost a complete modern gastropub menu. For home consumption, there are increasingly high-profile aristocratic brands such as Prince Charles' Duchy Originals, and Daylesford Organic, owned by Sir Anthony and Lady Carole Bamford. Otherwise impeccable lefties I know confess to a hankering for their class enemy's biscuits.
There have been other straws in the wind: surprise hit books by toffs, such as (Sir William Robert) Ferdinand Mount's 2008 memoir Cold Cream; once-geezerish London hellraisers such as Damien Hirst and Alex James reinventing themselves as country landowners; successful models with grand backgrounds such as Honor Fraser and Jasmine Guinness and Jodie Kidd. Membership of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation has grown by almost a sixth in the last decade. Despite the recession, pupil numbers at the grandest private schools rose this term, according to their trade body, the Headmaster and Headmistresses' Conference. In 2007, the social commentator Peter York, who co-wrote the Sloane Ranger Handbook with the journalist Ann Barr, published a sequel, Cooler, Faster, More Expensive: The Return of the Sloane Ranger. In it he wrote, "It's cool to be smart, again."
Meanwhile, from politics has come the least subtle signal of all that poshness is back in the mainstream of British life: the largely untroubled rise of the most patrician generation of British politicians for half a century – David Cameron, George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Zac Goldsmith. So far, despite increasingly open class attacks on them by senior Labour figures from Gordon Brown downwards, despite the anti-elite atmosphere created by the recession, there is little strong evidence that the backgrounds of these posh Tories are decisively counting against them.
Connecting cultural and consumer trends with political ones is an inexact science; but the return of poshness, in all its manifestations, probably has the same basic root. Most Britons now consider the upper classes relatively harmless. "Posh people are quite associated with environmentalism, with food and cooking," says cultural historian Joe Moran. "They are not the folk devils of our time: the bankers, the globalisers." Porter says that traditional upper-class clothes have long been superseded as symbols of power: "Chinos, the super-boring suit – what people wear to EU and G20 meetings – that's elite dress." As the ruling-class connotations of posh styles have faded, he argues, so these styles have been gradually decontaminated for everyone else.
Almost 20 years ago, in The Decline & Fall of the British Aristocracy, the historian David Cannadine convincingly described how the British upper classes were steadily squeezed by the 20th-century's economic, political and social forces until they retained "only an infinitessimal part" of their former dominance. Yet he also noted the surprising resilience of their cultural influence. "In many areas of British life," he wrote, "the aristocratic tone lingers on." York explains this in bald commercial terms: "These [posh] people, having owned and ruled half the world, have got some nifty stuff, so the modern consumer thinks, 'Let's not ignore it on politically symbolic grounds.'" Porter cites the long- running advertising campaign for Burberry in glossy magazines: "They have sons of the aristocracy jumping around models. The aristocrats tend to have good cheekbones, so they look the part. And the country house setting sells well in America."
Abroad, upper-class Britishness has long been consumed as pure style. Italian football hooligans wear Barbours. But in Britain, poshness seems to appeal across social classes more intermittently, and in particular political circumstances. In the mid-70s, when York first started noticing Sloane Rangers, and the British fashion label Mulberry successfully started selling the "English hunting, shooting and fishing look", the country was beginning to move to the right after the egalitarianism of the postwar decades. The hugely popular television version of Evelyn Waugh's nostalgic country house novel Brideshead Revisited (adapted again, significantly, for the cinema last year) started filming weeks after Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979. As her influence on Britain strengthened in the early 80s, Moran remembers a fully fledged "return of the posh – young fogies, Land Rovers – a certain rural chic". Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who had been making lurid punk outfits a few years before, developed an interest in tweed. Barbours were considered cool, remembers the sales assistant in its new Soho shop, with a knowing expression, "for about 18 months".
This poshness craze in the 70s and 80s was partly an explicit reaction against the Labour-governed Britain that had gone before, with its flat-capped union barons and proletarian flavour. Behind the present shift to poshness, a similar process has been under way. Britain under New Labour may have been dominated by the middle class rather than working class, but it has had enough demotic, sometimes toff-baiting aspects – from Tony Blair's glottal stops to the hunting ban to the huge yobby hits by Oasis – to provoke a counter-revolution. In a 2003 Sunday Times interview, Johnnie Boden, the Old Etonian mail-order magnate and, famously, supplier of casual upper-class clothes to David Cameron, summarised the Boden aesthetic as follows: "It's not Blairite, it's not Britpop . . . We sell to people who don't buy into that culture."
For a long time, as New Labour won election after election, such keepers of the Sloane flame, however individually successful, seemed more like a rearguard rather than a vanguard. In 2002, the Countryside Alliance flooded London with 400,000 field sports supporters, but their massed Barbours looked old-fashioned not fashionable, and hunting was still banned. Yet as early as the late 90s, a taste for the patrician had been quietly beginning to re-emerge: for Farrow & Ball's country house paint colours; for the gentleman's club cuisine of the Two Fat Ladies (aka Clarissa Dickson-Wright and Jennifer Paterson); for the upper-class bohemian aesthetic marketed by the mail-order company Toast; for the Prince William and Harry-style clothes of the new "University Outfitters" chain Jack Wills.
These products were increasingly sold to the expanding middle class as well as the old upper classes, often by a new breed of Sloane entrepreneurs, personified by Boden. "No longer iffy about money, this [type of] Sloane is not only up to competing in a merit-ocracy," wrote York in The Return of the Sloane Ranger, "but chances are he'll have access to cash and contacts . . . Unassailed by doubt and with his unstoppable sense of entitlement, he's out to rule the world."
Other recent trends have worked in favour of the new poshness. Environmentalism, and the growing demand for the locally sourced or hand-crafted often go more with the grain of gentlemanly, landed capitalism than with the urban corporate version. The revived consumer interest in Britishness, from hearty food to "heritage" brands to blustery seaside holidays, has seen many middle-class people, consciously or not, rediscovering tastes the upper classes had never completely lost. Even the bestseller lists have taken on a posh tinge: The Dangerous Book for Boys, with its jolly talk of knots and rugby and conkers; the magical boarding school at the heart of the Harry Potter books.
Meanwhile, the renewed acceptability of prejudice against parts of the working class – "chavs" – has made social hierarchy in general seem more natural again. And finally, people have simply grown tired of the sometimes blandly managerial, sometimes matey ruling style of New Labour: "The mock-demotic aspect of Blair culture – people are disillusioned with that now," says York. "People came to feel it was a hypocritical culture. They came to have a preference for the clearly elitist – for Boris."
How long will the appetite for poshness last? Some of its beneficiaries are well aware that their popularity may be precarious. Andrew Jackson recalls, "Hugh [Fearnley-Whittingstall] always says to me, 'If I'm onscreen teaching the viewer something, I'm 'Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall'. If I'm not teaching them anything when I'm onscreen, I'm 'a posh twat.'" John Curtice of the university of Strathclyde, a leading authority on British political attitudes, says the current crop of patrician Conservative politicians are similarly vulnerable: "Cameron's poshness will get used against him [effectively] if he's unpopular for other reasons. George Osborne is not as engaging as Cameron, so his poshness is already held against him."
In British life and politics, class is always a bit of an unexploded bomb. The decline of the aristocracy has not been complete enough to defuse it: as York points out, "A lot of people who own the land are the people who [always] used to own the land." Next to comparable countries, Britain has low social mobility, high levels of inequality, and an education system unusually segregated between the privately educated and the rest; in this context, class privilege and its signifiers have particular potential to stir resentment. Even at the Barbour shop in Soho, it is striking that the strenuously rural decor omits any images of people wearing the clothes for hunting or shooting.
The poshness fad has limits. Moran, who teaches at Liverpool John Moores university, says that, like enthusiasm for Cameron, it is much less evident in the north of England (although the Barbour craze has taken root in Manchester). Porter notes that the trend for Barbours and brogues has not spread to working-class Britons. And the Conservative party, usually sure-footed these days when it comes to managing its image, has seemed jittery and clumsy over the grand backgrounds of many of its leading figures: omitting the private schools they attended from personal biographies on its website, suggesting to some Tory parliamentary candidates that they shorten their double-barrelled surnames, and showing unease over the now-infamous 1987 photo of Cameron and Johnson and their Bullingdon Club chums at Oxford.
But Curtice thinks that class warriors should not be licking their lips quite yet. "Because the Labour party is no longer class-based, it finds it harder to pursue [toff-bashing] when it returns to it." Blair himself, Curtice points out, "had a very privileged education" at the leading Scottish private school Fettes; you could even argue that Blair's gentrification of Labour was the beginning of the whole current patrician phase in British politics.
Yet a Cameron government, committed to cutting inheritance tax, committed to a free vote on hunting in the Commons – which would likely repeal the ban – would certainly test modern Britain's appetite for poshness. Wearing country clothes may feel different for urban hipsters once the Tory shires are politically dominant again rather than politically powerless.
For now, the fashion for Tory chic goes on. Round the corner from the Soho Barbour shop, there is another, even newer and more fashionable shop selling tweed suits, and T-shirts printed with portraits of political leaders. The Thatcher print is particularly commanding. How is it selling? "Better than any of the others," says the store manager.
i L O V E this red balloon necklace
now that my hair is longer and I can do things with it, I was tempted to get these cute hairpins....