When Cadbury’s substituted the usual sensual codes associated with chocolate advertising (a woman in a state of undress, optional dressing gown, obligatory bath with taps running and candles) for a gorilla, some drums and Phil Collins, it was clear that chocolate as a product had transcended conventional advertising.
A recent trip to Germany got me thinking, or rather it reaffirmed something I already knew: socks are pointless. Take that a step further: life is better without socks. Take that a leap further: life is better for women without bras, but we’ll come to that more controversial point later.
Someone somewhere at sometime thought that little L-shaped tubes of soft (often arbitrarily stripy) material (rarely 100% cotton these days) pulled on to our feet at all times made us more civilised. And if you live in Eastern Europe or Italy, then you believe like a law that not wearing socks will eventually kill you. And you will shout at your daughter-in-law for not putting socks on your one-year-old. Well Mr Sock, Eastern Europeans and Germans, I beg to differ. I hate socks.
What a sock can do, a shoe with an insole can do just as well and when the insole stinks, bin it and get a new pair. Or become a Cornish cliché and go flipflop. Or just go around on your bare feet. Yes, that’s right, bare skin, the stuff you were born in, it’s fairly useful. The only victory I will concede to socks is a long walk in hiking boots: you can’t beat a shin-hugging pair of real wool socks to make the experience all the more comfortable. A Sherpa wearing flipflops up to the summit of Everest could argue differently, alas, I can’t.
Take the concept of socks and apply to babies. If Mr Sock wasn’t having a laugh from whatever hosiery heaven he may now be residing in, then I have misunderstood the purpose of humour over the last 41 years. Keeping aforementioned items on tiny feet is akin to holding a poached egg in your hand (an analogy based on an accidental real life experience from this morning’s breakfast). It is impossible.
Yes I could buy Sock Ons and all will be well with the world. NO IT BLOODY WON’T! Why? Because then I will not only own a collection of teeny tiny socks but I will also be in possession of teeny tiny weird pieces of elasticated fabric that cover the teeny tiny socks that go on the teeny tiny person’s feet- how is this circle of absolute sockish hell not visible to the naked eyes of others?!
My solution – expose his little feet to the elements. This morning, the windy fingers of Storm Dodo caressed his tiny flat soles on the way to nursery and as far as I am aware, he is still alive. If you are concerned that they may not make it – can I advise a blanket, it wraps ever so nicely around teeny tiny feet to keep them warm. If not in possession of a blanket then a coat wrapped around the feet will do the job just as well.
And that brings me to bras, well, maybe not today, eh?!
“Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god’s sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don’t.” George Monbiot
I don’t intentionally trash the planet every year. But I do know that I buy Christmas cards, use wrapping paper, buy an advent calendar, pull crackers, eat excessively and log on to Amazon (not necessarily in that order).
I like to think however, that I buy my Christmas presents carefully. There are very few solar-panelled flashing bacon flavour single use novelty gifts on my to-buy list and I’ve told everyone point blank this year that they’ll be getting books. Or something Cornish.
So here it is, a list of the top ten Cornish gifts to massage your conscience this Christmas.
One: Buy something from Finisterre
I’ve gone for the infinite scarf, mainly because I love the re-invention of the 1980s snood, but also because they talk about stuff that matters and actually do it. The Tolcarne wool is made and knitted in Portugal and the chunky generous knit ensures that the snood sits upright on the neck adding a certain Elizabethan drama to outdoorsy wear. In storm (a gorgeous deep turquoise) or oatmeal, this is a classy product that is also practical, a Finisterre USP. Top with a matching Tolcarne beanie to finish.
Snood £40, matching beanie £30
Two: The film Brown Willy
Brett Harvey’s take on a stag do that goes somewhat awry between best mates has been likened to Cornwall’s own Withnail and I. A childhood friendship, hanging by a thread, plays out against the unrelenting savagery of Bodmin Moor. Expect profanity, nudity, head butting, illicit substances and some painful self-discovery and secrets, but most of all some heart-warming entertainment and a good laugh.
Three: Seaweed Seasoning set from Cornish Sea Salt
Seaweed is big news, a little sprinkle on scrambled eggs and you’re halfway to your five-a-day. Blended with the mineral-rich natural sea salt harvested from the sparkling waters of The Lizard, the seaweed gift pack provides enough variety to experiment with nature’s own umami as well as giving you a healthy nutrient/mineral kick in preparation for all that Christmas indulgence.
Four: A massage on the moors
You’d be forgiven if you arrived at Bolventor and expected (willed) Ross Poldark to ride in beside you. Persephone Moir’s stunning “healing space” on the moor is definitely worthy of fiction, a granite studio filled with the scent of natural oils and an over-riding stillness. Seph is a master in bodies, specialising in holistic massage, pregnancy massage reflexology and much more. After a detailed consultation, lose your back pain to the sound of wind in the trees and regain a complete sense of self.
£40 per massage (Christmas vouchers available as above)
Five: Classic Cornishware
It was once all about the blue stripe, now it’s anything from parma violet to russet red, racing green to jet black. Cornishware is the archetypal gift to bring back from a stint at the coast and one I drink out of daily. Go for the set of four, inspired by a box of old crochet balls, for a little local colour on the table at breakfast. For the boys Coloured Mug Set £40.
Six: Ruzza Farm
If it’s to do with sheep, it’s all here, be it eating, knitting or (very) soft furnishing. The farm specialises in Romney sheep, known for their wool and meat and which can be traced back to medieval long wool breeds. The land is refreshingly managed for wildlife and there are also bees, hens and pigs on site. Not only does the farm offer lamb but also the rare opportunity of buying the much-neglected hogget and mutton (sheep over one year and two years respectively) which both have a more interesting and fuller flavour than lamb, as well as a more delicate texture.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info on meat availability.
Seven: Cardamom vodka
What?! I hear you say. Oh yes. From the same company that brings you cocoa nib vodka and Rock Samphire Gin, we bring you cardamom vodka. As to be expected: wonderfully warming yet spicy and citrus. Quadruple distilled for proper smooothness and so great it can be supped solo or combined for some great cocktail mixes. Cornish spring water, organic cardamom seeds and vodka. We like all of it.
From £19 (35cl) curiospiritscompany.co.uk
Eight: take her or him out to Truro’s latest booze establishment – The Sanctuary.
The discerning David McWilliam offers top coffee and top tipples (take out or have in) to relaxed house music. We recommend two glasses of Billecart’s pink for a special Christmas treat at £15 each, a glass of the white £10 a go, or some very decent Prosecco for £5 a glass. Watch out for secret film evenings and wine tasting events.
Nine: Rachel Fisher: reflexology
One of my favourites for all round health and wellbeing, Rachel takes the edge out of modern stress and gives you the opportunity to tune back in to yourself. She also offers hot stone massage, fascia massage and more. Based at the fantastic Children’s Clinic in Lostwithiel (opposite the doctor’s surgery), a voucher here will be a serious treat for a loved one. £40 a treatment.
Ten: Camel Valley Pilsner
Camel Valley make award-winning fizz and Sharp’s make some very fine beer. Together – it can only get better, let us introduce you to the latest Cornish bubbly: a Pilsner. After brewing, the lager is bottled in traditional champagne bottles at Camel Valley vineyards, reseeded with Brut yeast and aged for another six weeks. The result is a top quality Pilsner with a clean lemony fruit finish. On the Christmas list.
My mum once wrote a notebook of recipes for one of my brothers when he went to university. One of these recipes was entitled: Marmite on toast. Thereby making it a dish in its own right. Marmite on Toast. I laughed then. I wouldn’t now.
It should have read: Marmite on toast with Lots of Salty Full Fat Cornish Butter, and you’re almost there. Add in to the mix a strong brew and white bread and I am all over it. The ultimate comfort food so quintessentially British that our more sophisticated gastronomic neighbours would rather hurl themselves onto a burning pile of oily fish and ripe tomatoes than go anywhere near the filthy brown (unnervingly shiny) goo.
To add fuel to the fire, or rather olive oil to that already burning pile, have you ever tried spaghetti, butter and marmite? No? Do it. Nigella raves about it, referencing Anna del Conte as her source and justifying it as an Italian tradition derived from using leftover stock with spaghetti. No need for that. Put the spaghetti on in the normal packet way, chuck a knob of butter into a saucepan, a teaspoon of Marmite and some (a dessertspoon or two) of the pasta jus to lubricate, add to pasta and if you’ve got it, sprinkle a bit of Parmesan on top (or Cheddar, come on). Mangez. Mangia. ‘ave it. Etc.
I find that Marmite slips under simple dishes in a very satisfying manner, not unlike a special piece of well-fitted underwear: on toast under baked beans, under scrambled eggs (or any egg for that matter) or melted cheese for an English rarebit. Most useful of all is its ability to masquerade as a vegetarian stock; many a dish of mine brinkering on the I’ve-made-it-up-but-not-quite-pulled-it-off has been resurrected with a generous teaspoon of Marmite; gravies, glaze and other things not beginning with ‘g’ – rims of cocktails are being marmite-d, there are cakes, roast potatoes but as yet, no beauty treatment. It’s only a matter of time.
I have a huge amount of love for Marmite. I have chased its bulbous brown figure down the aisles of many a foreign supermarket with increasing success. It’s been welcomed back into the lives of the Danes after a three-year ban and now there’s even more of a reason not to shop at Tesco and to have voted ‘remain’.
Get more about Marmite from the Ministry of Marmite and there is also the very comprehensive Marmite cook book. Oh and it’s worth mentioning Ms Marmite Lover, a well-respected food blogger with a well-respected name.
Being a foodie was great. Once. I ate the food of some of Cornwall’s best chefs, hung out at festivals with my press pass, stayed overnight in some stunning seaside locations, received countless edible freebies in the post and even got to take my tastebuds to the pistes of the Dolomites and sample some of Italy’s finest. Hell, I even thought I was a half decent cook myself.
Tell people about it and they are naturally very envious. My husband is a bit miffed that he no longer gets to piggyback onto my fine dining commissions. So why have I given it all up? What’s not to like about free food?
It all got very boring very quickly. Don’t hate me for being ungrateful, I feel extremely lucky to have cooked alongside Paul Ainsworth, interviewed Nathan Outlaw and eaten with Rick Stein, but I just can’t do it anymore.
Firstly, food ‘fashion’ does my head in. Just as education should not be the political football of every newly elected party, so food should be left alone to the test of time and taste. What’s all this nonsense about local and seasonal and it was Mr Brown from Muddy Farm who grew our carrots today? What a load of old supermarket fictional faff. Yes, I love to eat Cornish and respect the changing bounty of the seasons, but I don’t need it rammed down my throat (literally) as if it were a new ‘invention’. The French and Italians would laugh in our rosbif faces: they’ve been doing it quietly for generations.
Secondly, writing a review of someone’s business is a tricky business. Perhaps a PR company set you up with the gig, so it makes it somewhat ‘awks’ if you then go ahead and slate their client. You get dinner, wine, possibly an overnight stay, all for free, so can’t help but feel a certain obligation to string together some glowing remarks, even if you don’t like underdone lamb and the white wine is warm. And in case you hadn’t noticed, this is Cornwall not London and I am no Jay Rayner. I have no right to potentially ruin people’s businesses in an already tough industry. So I’ve given up the constant tight-roping of compromise. Call me a fool, but I’d rather go out and pay for my dinner these days.
And finally, the latest sugar-free food trend brings up just a little bit of sick in the back of my throat. Self-righteous media-luvvy ladies of loveliness who bathe in coconut oil, #eatclean, turn vegetables into spaghetti and think that dates have no sugar in them. Food has become an expression of moral superiority over others at which point it stops for me: I’m doing no kneeling in front of any courgetti altar and there’ll be no repenting of gratuitous pork fat snacking any time soon on this blog.
I’d rather embrace the amoral delights of sliced white toast with Marmite, the best meal I’ve ever eaten at Treliske hospital after the birth of my son. I think that means I have officially resigned from the lofty towers of ‘foodie-dom’.
Cornwall? What moaning, you say? None whatsoever about Aidan Turner.
Other things? A few. Four to be precise.
Media perception of Cornwall
With Poldark reaching out to 5.9 million viewers on Sunday for the last episode of series 1, the Stein-tinted, Rock-drunk, sun-skewed media stereotype of Cornwall has likely evolved from flip-flops and surfing to bare-chested galloping and opportunistic scything (complete with fair maiden back at the farmhouse). I for one have taken to roaming the cliffs in the wind with a basket full of saffron buns looking for my husband down at the mine (although the ginger wig may be a bit of a giveaway…).
It will rain on the bank holiday. This is Cornish fact. Despite knowing this, we will all still head out to the beaches and have a moan about the rain. Best solution? Take a Thermos and go for a dip. The one will negate the other and you won’t even notice the rain (the hypothermia may be a little more obvious however …).
Showing your passport at the Tamar is about as international as we get. Cornwall is mainly a sea of white faces split into two tribes: those that have come in from ‘up-country’ and those that have lived here all their lives. Expect the oddly non-sensical: ‘people from round ‘ere ‘ain’t from round ‘ere!’ as well as intrusive questions about how long you’ve lived here and whether you are Cornish or not (my go-to defence is that I am 50% Cornish – how absurd). London and Bristol become distant dreams and other countries …
Tiny lanes and 4x4s. Tiny lanes and huge tractors. Tiny lanes and drivers that seem to have been born without the gene to reverse. Tiny lanes and caravans. Tiny lanes. The A30 late-morning on the weekend in summer. Driving. Everywhere. Petrol: expensive. Local transport? Shite.
I haven’t had chicken with feet before. I even went as far as having a little nibble on the cartilaginous toes before giving up and reverting to breast with plenty of crispy skin.
I say surf but really I lawnmow. Yep, that’s right: I don’t ride barrels, have no idea how to carve and rarely wipe-out. Instead I gently slide, belly on wood (behind neoprene) into shore with an occasional squeal, not unlike the action of cutting grass: arms outstretched, pushing forward. And that’s how I like it best.
Emily Scott, award-winning chef and once owner of The Harbour restaurant in Port Isaac (now Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen) has made her name as a chef who has a love of simple, seasonal and quality food. The Harbour Kitchen Supper Club is part of her private catering company The Harbour Kitchen, which she describes as being all about: “good food and bringing people together round a shared table.” Read More