Tuesday, 28 September 2010


What is it with Waterstones' counter staff? Are there ANY heterosexuals who work in one of their shops?
I remember when I used to go to their Kensington High Street branch which, several years ago, seemed to have 100% wimmin-based personnel. The emotion of profound, intense dislike that radiated out over the cash till was tangible. And that was without buying anything by Ted Hughes or Jim Davidson.
Last week I went to their Piccadilly mausoleum to buy Under the Sun, the Collected Letters of Bruce Chatwin, for a dear friend. Bruce was, of course, extremely fond of crashing the yoghurt truck with other members of his sex.
Waterstones seem to have slammed their employment policy into reverse in the intervening years. All the counter staff were male. Dressed in black. I tried to choose the least overt. To no avail. "Ooh" he trilled far too loudly, "you will JUST LOVE this!" I looked at my shoes as hard as I could. " Bruce was so, just so impossible, like a chameleon" (giggle) "Which we all are, aren't we" (glancing up at me whilst slipping the book just so into the bag), "whether we like it or not?"
Sometimes it's tough being a man in a bookshop.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Little Beauties

I appreciate there is some danger of this nonsense getting all foodie at the expense of being all boozie, but I must share this one with you.
Some recent rain followed by late summer heat gave hope to fungaioli hereabouts and so your correspondent ventured out into the Comboland woods with Lucky and Flossie to see what was going on.
And look at this beauty! Forget your Penny Buns, these are the real deal, coccone or Caesar's Mushroom in Blighty, where they aren't to be found as I understand it. Shame because they are exquisite eaten like this:
sliced raw, served on hand-ground raw beef and drizzled, darling, with your best olive oil and then lovingly scattered with parsley. To accompany this I knocked off a bottle of local Cortese, just slightly sparkling.
PS The big mistake here is to confuse them with these which look identical when growing, before the head pops out. Apparently they taste jolly good too, but then two weeks later you are dead.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

What's tomato with you?

Of course, it's all very well piggin' out on tomatoes, morning dew picked from the sagging vine (you're fired, ed.) but the secondary joy of the Combo Crop is making a passata sauce and freezing it for use during the winter. It's terribly easy, if rather hot work in a summer kitchen. Put as many of the bleeders as you can in a large saucepan, add enough water just to cover the bottom of the pan and set over a low heat to go all soft.
The whip 'em out and put them through the mouli by hand (real Italians have a machine that does it but I can't be arsed, after all these toms are organic, right?)

and then just heat for ten minutes or so to drive out a little excess water and then freeze in bags.
As a taster for the coming season Mrs Combo produced this dish called parmigiana which has aubergines, said tomato sauce and Parmesan. Helped down by an excellent Barbera d'Asti from
Giovanni Piacenza, a very hearty winemaker in all senses of the word.
Yum yum, pig's bum!