Monday 28 December 2015

Le Carton throws supper

Because we don't know anyone who cooks with enough garlic, we decided to start a sort of supper club. A place to sit people next to strangers around a family table and drink lots of wine. 

So we found a squat, hung a branch and gave everyone kefir cocktails. There was a three course menu, a storyteller and a herbalist and Ploussard from Overnoy-Crinquand on tap. 

'La Bidode' 2014 is from a 5.5ha vineyard tended by Mikael Crinquand in Pupillin, the village up the hill from Arbois where we were camping for a week in October. A rustic chug-chug red that's lean and earthy with a fermenting strawberry fizzle plus a spitter-spatter of manure on your boots with some hay stuck on. Very danceable.

More of our pop up parties:

For future events: @helloLeCarton


Sunday 29 November 2015

Are you drinking beer aged in Mescal barrels yet?

Now that whoever is responsible for identifying trends at Albert Heijn and Jumbo has finally cottoned on to the fact the US makes lots of that thing called craft beer, both supermarkets are, finally, selling some US beer. And I'm grateful, I am, though this is hardly a forecast of what's to come. After all, it's taken them two years too long. More interesting maybe is the speed at which big beer companies are sucking up small breweries (Heineken has just bought a more than a 50% share in Brouwerij 't IJ), similar to the way in which Google buys anything that moves. But for how long will we see any old craft beer as the answer to bad beer?

Because let’s face it, who, when faced with hundreds of beer-runes scratched out on a blackboard, isn’t at least a little surprised that the beer they've finally chosen is actually something they feel like drinking? After all, you didn’t have much to go by when you picked The Great, Big Kentucky Sausage Fest (from Amager Bryghus and Against the rain Brewery) from a host of equally obscurely named others, did you?

But I get it. In a market of hundreds of thousands of beers in the US alone, (the American Brewers Association estimate that there were 4.000 plus craft brewers* in the US in 2015), I get why someone might have thought it necessary to call their beer Flying Dog’s Pearl Necklace Chesapeake Stout with artwork to match (of an oyster dressed up pwetty in poyils of course). They need to stand out. And anyway, I think it's fun. Plus I’ve already forgiven bands from my past life for having names ripped from freeform poetry.

Thursday 26 November 2015

The natural choice is to drink natural wine

“It would spoil people’s perception of wine” is, both inevitably and ironically, what got me first thinking about ‘it’. Before I heard that, all I thought about when I thought about wine was taste. That and whether or not this should be my last glass.

These were the (subtitled) words of a (French) grower in a documentary about how we manipulate wine and, armed with the terms ‘extract of pig pancreas and dried swim bladders of fish’ and a word I have since learned how to spell (Polyvinylpolyryrrolidone), I set off to tell my wine drinking friends. Not that anyone seemed to care. Most people seemed to think that even if this was true, that it probably wasn’t for the sort of wine that they drink. In fact, there seemed to be a direct correlation between the people who profess to enjoy wine the most and a confidence that this didn’t apply to them. And because all I’d seen was a documentary, for all I knew, they were right.

And so I bought a book.

I figured that if it was difficult to learn about what was being added to conventional wine, then I should start with natural wines and learn about all the stuff that’s categorically not in them. This, to cut a long list of additives short, is everything except (in some cases) a little sulphite at bottling. There’s no added water, no sugar, no tannins, no gelatine, no phosphates, no added yeasts. No (surprise!) dimethyl dicarbonate, acetaldehyde and not even any hydrogen peroxide. There are no animal derivatives, no iyoszyme (from eggs) or casein (from milk). And there have been no pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides or fertilisers used to treat the vines. There is, incidentally, also no legal definition as to what counts as natural, nor is the addition of any of the above to wine, illegal. 

Awkward on both fronts then. 

Legal definition, even recognition, aside; the point is that at one end of the make-wine continuum there are those that manipulate wine via heavy processing, additives or aids, and those at the other end that produce wine without adding or removing anything.

And so, armed with this new information, I return to my friends who, grateful for my concern as ever (not), ask, How do you even know that stuff’s in this wine? 

I don’t. And that’s the whole thing (ok, one of the things): we don’t know what’s in our wine.

Thursday 19 November 2015

On the popular culture of cookbooks

Fast food’s not in fashion anymore, everyone’s telling us to go slow. Restaurants too. They’re blocking mobile signal, reservations and you from Instagramming your food. They’re sitting you at communal tables and serving you their mamma’s-mamma’s recipes. They’ve been cultivating a lifetime of sourdough starters and the single estate coffee is made by a single barista one. single. cup. at. a. time. Slow food can be as simple as drip coffee – crazy, huh, how your parents had it right the whole time? New-school breweries are serving pickled eggs instead of peanuts and putting beer in wine casks. Noma went back in time to learn from Japan and if you’re not preserving, pickling, smoking or fermenting everything, have you checked you’re even alive? It goes without saying that you have the time, space and required amounts of sunshine to grow your own vegetables.

Like any fashion, versions of this trickle down to our homes, too. Christ, I’ve had a sheep’s skin lying under a heap of salt on my balcony for four weeks. Every time a workman comes to tell us how expensive double-glazing is (expensive), I pray he won’t comment. We’re brining the two cucumbers we managed to grow on land that, for all legal intent and purposes, we’re squatting, and the other day we found swiss chard growing there long after we'd abandoned it for winter. Come spring, there's talk of us putting bees there and we almost killed our kefir babies – honey is a bully.

We are where we eat and our souls belong to those whose cookbooks we have on our shelves. I suppose we should be happy print is not dead, long live print; but too many of these bestsellers are formulaic. Celebrity so and so with so and so million followers and oh, here’s a recipe for a juice and the secret to long lasting health or at least good skin.

Friday 13 November 2015

“I’ve never met a hungry atheist”

‘The theme was world hunger and we were in a salad bar’ is not the opening of a macabre joke but what happened. We had been invited to listen to Spanish journalist Martin Caparró tell us about the making of his book, ‘Hunger’, some of what he learned and who he met along the way. Hunger, he told us, was something that happened to others, not to us. It’s a cliché, the solving of which is on the eternal to-do list of every Miss Universe, and something that is easy for us to ignore.

Remember where we were sitting.

Caparró told us a story. He told us about the time he asked a woman what she would ask for if she had magic powers. “A cow”, she answered. And if she could ask for anything, no matter what or how much? “Two cows?” This incident, he said, showed him how small someone’s world can be. How simple. Surely, we can improve such a simple problem? Our own worlds are so big.

When lunch was brought to the tables, three big salads full of rocket and other non fork-friendly salad leaves, Caparró told us “There is no hunger in abstract. There are people who are hungry” at a time where, for the first time in history, we have been producing enough food for everyone living on Earth (7 billion when we have the capacity to produce for 12). Hunger, therefore, is not from a lack of food.

Hunger is a symptom of wealth distribution, or a lack thereof. It’s a symptom of the way we live and what we expect from life. Of the way we use the resources we have and the way we use those of others, those that don’t have. Let’s take meat: every 1 kg of flesh needs 10 kg of grain. When you choose to eat that kilo, there are a lot of people not eating grains. Worldwide, forty per cent of grain is used to feed livestock. I don’t know the percentage of the people – worldwide – that don’t get fed.

Bear with me, we'll get to the salad bit.


Wednesday 4 November 2015

What fraction of God are you if you can’t bake?

I roll out pastry with wine bottles and drop flour. I forget sugar and honest to god thought one time very recently (as in last week) I could replace baking paper with packing paper because it looked like baking paper and all I was thinking at the time was ‘god I forgot the baking paper’ and then relief: I thought how clever I am all. the. way. until I opened the oven and only really realised then that it was an oven and ovens are hot and hot burns paper. After I managed to separate the bottom of the galette from the packing paper that had come one with the galette, I thought this to be funny in a “it could always be worse” kind-ah way because under the pile of flour I dropped was the smoke alarm, battery disgorged.

I don’t bother pre-heating the oven because by the time I’m done with stage 1, 2, 3, the oven could have been pre-heated 4, 5 times over. And thank god I happened to have a pastry cutter because I of course don’t have a mixer, something I realised in July when I was baking cookies for our new neighbour. It is now November but back in July I thought ok, I’ll just mix the dough with my hands and now back to November I still mean to sound disarming when I say things like “I can’t even bake chocolate chip cookies”. This is to make me sound charming because who can’t even bake chocolate chips? I haven’t yet met the neighbour.

Charmingly enough, the lady who made the first chocolate chips also didn’t get what she expected. She thought if she baked in chunks of chocolate that they would melt to make chocolate cookies. Chocolate chip cookies are therefore a mistake and my own chocolate chip mistake turned into crumbles crumbled on top of Greek yoghurt with blueberries also. No one thought that was a mistake and when I told about my mistake my sister said I should have kept my mouth shut because then you create the space for people to see genius.   


Wednesday 28 October 2015

When a Hummer isn't even the worst thing

In hindsight maybe I should have taken the black Hummer on the Spigelstraat as a bad omen. But at the time, how’re you meant to know? Maybe it was just an asshole driving a tank up a 17th century street. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

And then there’s always the chance that the two events were far away enough from each other to be disconnected. After all, it was hours between the Hummer and the first time I felt drippingly guilty about my dinner dying for me. Something entirely different to how I felt butchering a lamb, which shouldn’t be taken the wrong way.

Nonetheless, omen or no omen, you need not wait around for your own. Just don’t eat at Braai.

Saturday 24 October 2015

We ate many mushrooms in France

We ate many mushrooms in France. We ate orange chanterelle schmoored down in drip drip butter and entire heads of garlic smoosh-smoosh in pan hot and swipe the pan clean with pieces of pan-toasty bread with chop chop parsley. And then out of the pan with our hands for breakfast the next day.

We ate brain-spongy morilles hidden half in somewhat soggy omelettes and drowned in jus under lamb chops from French lambs.

We seared more chanterelle in more butter and ate big bowls of them with still-chewey barley. On top we put perfect temperature comté because we were where comté comes from and we didn’t have a fridge.

Another time we grilled them and put once-chopped parsley and lemon juice squeezed on them.


Wednesday 21 October 2015

Memory steaks

I remember the adults looking at her. My sister had just ordered a $40 sandwich. She was 8. Sure, this was Smith and Wollensky, New York, the 90s, and the sandwich was more steak than sandwich. And ok, this sandwich has since shaped my dreams and, more often than not, frustrated my expectations. But she was still an 8 year old ordering a $40 sandwich in a, if not the, quintessential New York steak house, built on the bones of countless cows for big men wielding big knives, big accounts, Brook’s Brothers suits, and a napkin around their necks. And she didn’t blink an eyelid. And she ate it all.


Monday 19 October 2015

When farm to table literally means a table on a farm

The lamb was killed the day before and hung. You can't eat an animal right away because of rigor mortis, the stiffening that sets in after death.

Remove the head right before the first vertebrae from the top of where the neck starts. The higher up you go, the more neck meat you'll have. And neck meat is good.

Cut the skin around the legs and pull down, easing it with a knife. Find the white film on the under side of the skin and cut with it.


Thursday 15 October 2015

Pope Francis Says There's a Place for Animals in Heaven

The brain was someone’s baby but if you don’t have a soul, do you count? Catholic animals don’t have souls*, which I learned at a catholic christening for a real baby with a soul, sin, correct amount of feet and all. But the church was the next day and I didn’t know about the soul thing when I was sautéing the brains, thinking about babies.

On p.314 in De Dikke van Dam under ‘brain’, Johannes van Dam says that in Papua New Guinea, fathers used to have to kill a man they knew the name of and eat his brain on the baptism of their child. He says that on the (Dutch) colonists’ suggestion that they stop, they were dismayed. How were they name their young?

Friday 9 October 2015

On killing yourself for free stuff and Hot Toddies (Chai and Tahini Hot Chocolate)

Free stuff comes to those who persevere and I had persevered for a whole week. ‘Free’ is a relative term though and relative, in this instance, to carrying the stuff down 10 flights of stairs and up one, door handle or no door handle.

We still have our door handle.

Free stuff gets you into situations you wouldn’t be in for all the money in the world. This is how we ended up locked into a storage unit terrain at exactly the same time a group that looked nothing if not criminal were depositing/collecting/god knows their guns/drugs/god knows.

We left without the trailer.

Free stuff means you’re not choosing things but trusting things. Trusting that either it will fit through the door or the rain will stop so that you don’t have to leave the thing you didn’t choose to be suede under a tarp in the rain. Rain isn’t good for suede and tarps aren’t magic.

We got it through the door.

Free stuff is always exciting and we were excited so we planned a meal around the occasion. We were to get a free couch and so we were to eat our first dinner on the couch and let dinner cook whilst we were out getting the couch.

We were out getting the couch longer than expected.

We had burned our dinner.

I’d gotten a cold.

We didn’t eat our dinner on the couch (suede is hard to clean anyway).

We drank Hot Toddies.

Here's a recipe for our Hot Toddy and more on the couch drinks.


Monday 5 October 2015

Domaine Pechigo 'Le Blanc' 2009

I never thought I’d write about wine. I know basically nothing about wine, and when it all just tastes like ‘wine,’ what’s there to say? 

Except, apparently, they don’t. Recently I’ve had wines that taste like raspberry-cherry lightening, almond lava flow and chalkboards, respectively. I’ve done blackberry jello shots poolside and watched galaxies unfold lying on my back lakeside. And I’ve definitely drunk stuff that tastes like beer. 

Apparently these ‘other’ wines are ‘natural wines,’ and evidently the guys making them are doing something different. So different that their wines don’t taste like ‘wine’. And so suddenly it’s not about wine and I have something to say.

Tasting notes:

“Le Blanc” tastes like sunshine. Like light streaming through trees and bruised apples in a basket. Like the stuff you imagine Hummingbirds are into: something very viscous with a lot of guava / lychee / pineapple / nectarine in it on a lot of ice with a lot of straws. Like something alive and rotting and in a rush.


“Le Blanc” 2009
Domaine Pechigo 
Chardonnay + Chenin Blanc + Mauzac  
Languedoc -Roussillon 

Post updated with a picture I took from Rødder & Vin because, like normal people, I wasn't taking pictures of wine in 2015. 


Friday 25 September 2015

A Sauerkraut Spritz because why not?

It’s noisy and your eyes need a moment to adjust to the dark. There’s no room for elbows and people keep jostling past, the jostle all the more so a jostle because of the full skirts and aprons. Everything is dark wood, copper or printed cloth. And antler. There’s a lot of antler if you count up all the buttons. You smell onions frying and yeasty clouds of beer. It’s cold outside and you feel your face flushing from the warmth, from the beer. Those skirts are swishing back and fourth from the kitchen, their matrons handling big trays laden with heavy food. A bowl is placed is front of you. The cold has made you hungry and everyone around you is already eating. Inside it is a mass of steaming bacon and other pig’s anatomy, slivers of cabbage, juniper berries, bay leaf and thickly cut apple. You have primeval German brot (bread) on the side and are already spooning out yellow senf (mustard) with one of those little wooden spoons. 

Tuesday 22 September 2015

How to eat watermelon in six weird ways in two parts, Pt. 1

Some alternative things to do with watermelon when cutting it into slices, getting drippy sticky and spitting pits like you’re 5 just doesn’t cut it (possibly because you’ve been doing this all summer long and even before the summer really started with imported watermelons from Turkey) and that don’t involve smearing it with suntan lotion and wearing a life vest like a diaper*.

 1. Sprinkle it with hot chilli flakes, salty salt and oil from olives

You can still cut this one into slices but then you should use a knife and fork to eat it them.

2Make watermelon à la Provençale (it involves wine)

Make a circular incision around the stalk of watermelon, cut off the end and scoop out some flesh. Shake the fruit (over the sink) so that some of the seeds fall out (into the sink) and fill with a dry rosé (specifically, Tavel wine, which indicates wine from an appellation of the southern Rhone valley, the only AOC in France to solely produce rosé and a rosé, at that, which was, apparently, the favourite of Louis XIV). Stop the top with the cut off end and seal with cling film. Chill in fridge for at least 2 hours.

To serve, take off end, strain wine, cut rest of watermelon into those slices we were talking about and serve with the wine.

3. Mix it with tomatoes and call it a salad

Whisk together 1tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Quarter and thinly slice ½ small red onion and toss it in ¼ cup white wine vinegar. Set aside to rest until onion softens and mellows which will take about 30 minutes.

Combine 4 beefsteak tomatoes cut into hunks with 1 medium watermelon, also cut into chunks. Pour in onion-vinegar mixture along with some extra virgin olive oil and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This will serve about 5 people and is the recipe of a friend.

*This happened.  

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