Monthly Archives: February 2012

Whiskers on kittens and marmite on porridge ….

Courtesy of

…  high protein cockroaches and bacon with cupcakes. No these are not a few of my favourite things, except for the whiskers on kittens bit. I wouldn’t be averse to having a go at bacon cupcakes though but I hate marmite. Hate, it hate it hate it. Bacon, however, seems to be very much in vogue. With absolutely everything. And I don’t think it started with Heston but maybe he’s the one who got everyone at it.

A little while ago I wrote a piece about food fads and fetishes for Eat Me magazine. While doing the research I was surprised to discover some of the things people will eat, still less enjoy.  I’m not talking about the milder combinations like cheese and strawberry jam. Or cornflake ice cream (which is delicious) or even ham and marmalade spaghetti.  But yes, in Malaysia they do eat marmite on porridge. Other weird combinations include banana with mayonnaise and Nutella and peas. Some folks like to eat everything frozen – M&Ms, grapes, pickle juice, mashed potato and not surprisingly ice cubes.

Of course not everyone is content with simply eating their food. Smearing foodstuffs all over your partner and licking it off again is considered fairly normal nowadays – though I doubt that as many do it as say they do. I certainly prefer my chocolate straight out of the pack and my olive oil on the salad. But then I don’t like being sticky. Some don’t stop at chocolate and olive oil, or so I’m told. Cream, golden syrup, sticky toffee pudding. These I can understand. But mashed potato? And Tapenade?

Unusual as some of this may seem, it’s nothing compared to the things some people put in their mouths. Most of us will have heard of pregnant women and small children eating coal or dirt. This is actually a form of pica, a disorder that leads people to crave substances not generally considered food.  Some forms of pica can be genuinely distressing and can also be dangerous. Not only is there a risk of poisoning, but sharp objects may tear the stomach lining.

I haven’t even started on the celebrity diets – the most extreme of these being perhaps the Maria Callas. She swallowed a tapeworm, though there’s some doubt as to whether or not she did it on purpose.  All I know is that she was fat – and she got thin. Our modern celebrities haven’t gone that far. Yet.  Give them time.

If you’d like to read the article in full, just click on Pages on the right, then on Food.

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“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn.”

Do I agree with Garrison Keillor? Hmm! Now let me see. Sex or sweet corn? Sweet corn or sex? Why choose at all!  Have both. All at the same time. A quick browse on the Internet will turn up more food fads, fetishes and weird combinations than you ever dreamed up in your wildest imaginings. Some are sexy, some are playful, others are downright weird. Even the vegetarian society has got into the act with their very own rude video – I’ll never look at an asparagus tip in the same way again. Ever!

As for fish!  Some years ago I was given the present of ‘Rude Food’, a collection of possibly the most beautiful, erotic food photography ever, created by David Thorpe, a gifted photographer. It’s still on Amazon, still in print and so it should be.  Turn to the page with the Dover sole.  Need I say more! Of course, certain fruit and veg always suggest the exotic, they just can’t help themselves.  Bananas, cucumbers and courgettes.  Sausages and hot dogs.  Whatever turns you on – at least you’d be practicing safe sex. If nature doesn’t provide it in her copious larder, food manufacturers are happy to oblige.  Take Spencer and Fleetwood, for instance.  Their offerings include such tempting treats as candy G-strings, nookie cookies, licorice whips and lust dust.

Even if the food’s not rude, the names can be hilariously so. There’s ‘Big Nuts’ and ‘Donkey Balls’, ‘Fanny Pudding’, ‘Jerk Sauce’ and ‘Knob Biscuits’.  These can be explained by a somewhat tenuous grasp of English on behalf of the marketers.  But what on earth were Haribo thinking when they named their sweeties ‘Creamy Dreams’? Had Primula taken leave of their senses calling their bread rolls ‘Jussipussi’? Even respectable Mr. Heinz has got in on the act.  Spotted Dick anyone? I’m pleased, but somewhat surprised, to see that that’s still around. After all, Bird’s Eye withdrew their Crispy Cod’s Balls years ago. Much to the dismay of my then teenage brother who was always eager to do the shopping when they were on the menu. We also took great delight when buying iced buns. “Six sticky willies and a packet of cod’s balls please.” The man at the corner shop just loved us!

There’s no great surprise in what people smear on their bodies in pursuit of a bit of extra excitement – olive oil, chocolate, cream, mashed potato, golden syrup, sticky toffee pudding. You may however be more startled by things people put into them.  Most of us have heard of pregnant women and small children eating clay, or coal or dirt.  It’s a form of a disorder called pica, characterized by an appetite for substances that would not generally be considered food.  How about a nice battery for tea, or a toothbrush, some soap perhaps or a pencil.  Not to make light of it pica is a genuinely distressing disorder, which can also be dangerous. Not only is there a risk of poisoning, but sharp objects may tear the stomach lining.

Less distressing, but nevertheless weird, are the fads people have for strange combinations.  Thanks to the proliferation of food blogs out in Cyberspace some, which would have once appeared wacky, now seem perfectly normal. Bacon cupcakes, chili chocolate and, one of my favorites, digestive biscuits with cheddar cheese and marmalade.  Slightly more odd was my ham and marmalade spaghetti – a strange phase now over. But I’m in good company.  In Malaysia they eat Marmite with porridge. Some people like tongue in sweet raisin sauce, banana with mayonnaise or cheese with popcorn or Nutella and garden peas. To say nothing of those addicts who like everything frozen – M&Ms, Skittles, pickle juice and strawberries.

Food fads and fetishes are nothing new. Alexander the Great had a thing about mint. He wouldn’t t let his soldiers chew it; he thought it would over-stimulate them so they wouldn’t want to fight. What a spoilsport.  Slipping further down the historical pole we come to Henry Ford.  For him sugar was the enemy – he thought those little sharp granules would perforate his stomach and kill him.  Maria Callas had no such fears, even though she was in far more danger from the tapeworm she swallowed.  No one knows whether or not she did it on purpose, but she was chubby and got thin.  Work it out.

Swallowing a tapeworm might be considered animal cruelty.  Eating butterflies certainly is but that didn’t bother Vladimir Nabokov. Mind you eating insects is pretty normal in many cultures. They’re full of protein.  Angelina Jolie will attest to that, having snacked on high-protein cockroaches. Saddam Hussein loved Raisin Bran Crunch and Joe Lewis, the famous boxer, would drink fresh blood before a fight. Rather more normal, but far more socially unacceptable, was Clark Gable’s fetish for eating onions.  He may have been handsome as hell, but to his leading ladies the star of Gone with the Wind was simply smelly.

If today’s celebrities haven’t gone as far as swallowing tapeworms – give them time – they are well practiced in faddy diets. Oprah Winfrey swore by the acai berry. She certainly lost weight – again, and again and again. Beyoncé drinks homemade lemonade, maple syrup, water and cayenne pepper. Demi Moor eats everything raw, including meat. Reece Witherspoon eats baby food. Jennifer Lopez sniffs grapefruit oil. Christina Aguilera’s fad is even odder – she groups foods by colour – while Maria Carey eats only purple foods three times a week.

Smearing foodstuffs all over your partner and licking it off is considered fairly normal – though I doubt that as many do it as say they do.  I certainly prefer my chocolate straight out of the pack and my olive oil on my salad. But then I don’t like being sticky!  Even eating fish with jam or sitting on cakes doesn’t seem so bad when you hear of what some folks get up to. Take Vorarephilia, for instance, or rather don’t. Not unless you want to eat someone.  Or be eaten.  Now that really is taking it to extremes.

© Clodagh Phelan February 2012


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More Angel Food: two favourite authors and two new ones

I took loads of books out of the library to cover me over Christmas, and I still haven’t read them all.  I’m very short of time this week, more so than usual, because my blog writing time has been taken up by a long letter to the Chairman of John Lewis – part complaint, part praise but that’s maybe for another time.

I thought I’d just do a quick list and even quicker reviews of my some of my recent reading. I originally set out to write about nine books, but am stopping at five as once again, I’m running out of time.

I’d been really looking forward to reading these first three books – I was thrilled to discover that there were some books by my favourite authors that I had yet to read.

Tigerlily’s Orchids – Ruth Rendell. One of my favourite authors, though I prefer her when she writes as Barbara Vine.  This book is more Vine than Rendell, similar in that respect to The Keys to the Street, but that’s where the comparison ends. Some interesting characters but some I soon tired of.  Overall it was disappointing, especially as the main premise was so obvious and easy to spot.

The Vault – Ruth Rendell. Much hyped and reviewed.  Linked to her earlier novel A Sight for Sore Eyes. I knew I should have re-read that book first but, although I have nearly all the Rendell and Vine books, I couldn’t find it and was too impatient to wait. I don’t generally like the Wexford books; this was no exception. Since I couldn’t remember much about the first book, I spent the whole time wondering when I was going to be reminded of the earlier crime. That didn’t happen until the very end.  I don’t know if that made it better or worse for someone who hadn’t read the first book.

Blue Monday – Nicci French. This was also much hyped but with justification. I love the fact that, like most of the French books, this one is set in London. At first the plot seemed fairly pedestrian – small boy goes missing and at the same time a psychiatrist is faced with a patient whose dreams seem to indicate some guilty knowledge. But the plot deepens. The characters are very well drawn. It’s difficult to end a book well, especially a mystery/detective/thriller. This one has the most wonderful twist in the tail, which makes for a great ending.

The next two authors were unknown to me although I don’t know how I missed Derby Day as it was on the Booker shortlist.

Derby Day – D.J. Taylor. Subtitled ‘A Victorian Mystery’ this lives up to the description in spades. The book feels authentic from page one.  I could really put myself in the scene. D.J. Taylor brings the era alive, I really related to the characters and felt as if I would understand them as easily as I would someone living today. I haven’t even finished this book – I’m about three quarters of the way through and am just as engaged as I was at the beginning. From looking at the chapter headings I know there are still some surprises to come – and we haven’t even reached Derby Day yet.

Any Human Face – Charles Lambert. The late and much missed Beryl Bainbridge said ‘Charles Lambert is a seriously good writer.’ I totally agree. The book moves from the mid-80s to 2008 and back again, with a side step into the early 60s. Beautifully put together, each section revealing a little bit of the story, until they combine to show the links between apparently unrelated crimes. This is always a brave thing to do as the author must rely on the reader staying with it even though this may demand some patience. The setting is Rome, but a part of Rome the tourists don’t see, the seamy fringe of Rome’s gay scene.   The characters are engaging especially the colourful and poignant Birdman.

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And the Oscar goes to …


Courtesy of Dog News Daily

… well we’ll have to wait until Monday to find out. No I haven’t got that wrong. The people Oscars do take place on a Sunday, on February 26th in fact, but this year there’s another very important date in the Oscar calendar. For Monday, 13th February, sees the inauguration of the annual dog Oscars. The Golden Collar awards have been created by Alan Siskind, the founder and CEO of Dog News Daily, a digital-media and marketing company.

Courtesy of Getty Images/Kevin Winter

Uggie has two nominations!

It’s about time.  Dogs have played an important part in movies for over a hundred years. The first being Rover the Collie in a British short, filmed in 1905; he was followed by many more. Some now forgotten, others enshrined in movie memory.  Old Yeller and Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. Skip, Marley and Hooch. To say nothing of the dogs in family films like Hotel for Dogs and 101 Dalmations. They make us laugh, they make us cry. The cinema would be the poorer without them.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/GK Films

Blackie – a dastardly plot?

Of course there’s a commercial element to these Oscars. Not to mention their value in the marketing mix.  Nevertheless, just because that’s true it doesn’t make the creation of the Golden Collars any less laudable. Apart from the recognition it brings to these clever, hardworking dogs and their owners and trainers, there’s another excellent reason for welcoming them. For it’s been announced that all the proceeds will go to rescue charities. And that alone is a good enough reason, in my book. And it’s appropriate since at least two of the dogs are rescue dogs.

Courtesy of Hollywood News

Hummer- how cute is that!

Categories include best dog in a television series, in a reality television series and in a direct-to-DVD film as well as best dog in a foreign film and best dog in a theatrical film. This last category, like it’s counterpart in the people Oscars before it, has stirred up some controversy.  Originally Blackie the Doberman, star of Hugo, was not included. Until the film’s director, Martin Scorsese kicked up a storm in the media, insisting on the stars inclusion in the list.

Courtesy of The Envelope

Cosmo-from Rescue to Film Star

It was unfair he claimed. Just because cute Jack Russell Uggie, star of The Artist, plays a nice little mascot who does tricks and saves his master’s life, whereas Blackie plays a ferocious guard dog who terrorizes children, that was no reason to exclude her.  To add insult to injury, little Uggie actually has two nominations, the second for his portrayal as Queenie in Water for Elephants.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/GK Films
Charlize Theron – nominated for a humanitarian award


Dog News Daily responded by saying that rather than engage in a war of words about two extremely talented dogs it would leave the public decide, via Facebook. If it received 500 nominations for Blackie by 6th February, Blackie would be in.  He’s in! Joining Uggie and Blackie on the short list for Best Dog in a theatrical film are Cosmo, as Arthur, in Beginners, Denver as Skeletor in 50/50 and Hummer as Dolce in Young Adult. Uggie in fact has two nominations, the second for his portrayal as Queenie in Water for Elephants.

Uggie has already won the Palm Dog Award at Cannes in 2011
The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that 10-year-old Uggie will be retiring this year. But he’ll go out on a high – he’s already rehearsing a very funny skit with Oscar host Billy Crystal. So lets hope he cleans up at the awards too – Go Uggie!
Breaking News! After no less than 3 recounts, it’s just been announced that there is a tie in one of the categories for the Golden Collar awards. This is unprecedented! Now I wonder which category that is!? Watch this space.
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Penguins that can’t fly and cockroaches that can’t pee … what a wonderful world we live in


Who would have thought that a festival titled Death could be so stimulating! Or such fun.  Well I would for a start, but then I rather like the strange, weird and offbeat. I’m cheating a bit mind you because that wasn’t the full title of the event. Its full title was Death: festival for the living and it was held at the South Bank last weekend.  And in case you might have thought it would be somewhat gloomy, macabre or even distasteful a glimpse at the jolly yellow programme cover with its lively horses and neon stencilled coffin would make you think twice.

Good luck with that …

There were all manner of things to see and do, most of them fun, all of them informative.  For me one of the highlights was ‘Before I Die’ part of an on-going international project by artist Candy Chang. Visitors were invited to share their dreams, ambitions and resolutions – on an enormous L-shaped chalkboard. The contributions ranged from the poignant ‘before I die I want to meet my gran’ to the wit who declared that they wanted ‘to get away with murder.’  There was endless variety – one individual wished to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, literally, including the resurrection, someone else longed to teach a penguin how to fly and another message said plaintively ‘before I die I want to have a puppy.’

Scattered around the foyers of the Royal Festival Hall, a variety of jolly coffins added to the general air of merriment.  These creative inventions are the work of the Paa Joe workshop in Ghana and Crazy Coffins in Nottingham. A few, such as the giant corkscrew coffin, were imaginative exercises, but for the most part they were commissioned by people who wanted to celebrate their life as well as their death in a truly unusual, and indeed a life-affirming way, if that’s not too much of a contradiction and I don’t believe it is.


Fly away home …!

Gives a whole new meaning to being eaten by a lion 

I love the crosses – nice touch!




For me, however, the true highlight was the Sandi Toksvig Memorial Lecture. Entitled ‘Die Laughing’ it certainly lived up to it’s billing except for the death bit. No one died, as far as I know, and if they had they would have gone out in the happiest way possible. I did bruise my thumb I clapped so much and got a sore throat from the community singing but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. What with some wonderful singing, a guest appearance from Jeremy Hardy, the unforgettable knowledge that a cockroach can’t pee and Sandi T herself, who must be one of the funniest persons on earth, I rolled out onto the South Bank with a grin from ear to ear and very happy to be alive.

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