The Compleat Imbiber

One of the reasons for the trip to Cow & Co on Friday was to pick up a copy of a new food magazine called The Gourmand. Part of the reason for wanting a copy of The Gourmand was that it had in an article about a series of book/anthologies called The Compleat Imbiber. I had picked up a copy second hand a few years ago for £2.00 and was intrigued to learn more. In all there were 16 volumes published intermittently between 1956 and 1992. They were all  edited by Cyril Ray. I have volume 11 published in 1970. Its original home was in Walton Library and amongst other things it contains articles on the longest wine list in the world, the best restaurant, food in Marcel Proust and this poem by Adrian Mitchell. I am not sure that the poem lives up to the title.


Anchovies in aspic                                                                                                             With marinated aubergines                                                                                          Beetroot bellies in brandy                                                                                                  With a bucket of Heinz Baked Beans.                                                                         Alligator puree and I don’t care                                                                                               If you stuff it with reindeer rind,                                                                                             But gastronomic pornography                                                                                                Is booting me out of my mind.

Cavair and cakemix                                                                                                         Makes coriander chocolate cheese.                                                                               Chutneyed carrots and coffee-                                                                                        Won’t you slice me a doorstep please.                                                                               Pass me down a mousse with its antlers on                                                                         You can cook it in fairy snow,                                                                                                  For gastronomic pornography                                                                                                       Is dragging me down so low.

Gammon stuffed with garlic,                                                                                         Geraniums and gooseberry fool.                                                                                         Grouse, gazpacho and ginger,                                                                                               Burn your kitchen and leave to cool.                                                                                                I want Mrs Beeton to be my man                                                                                                 And Elizabeth David too,                                                                                                             For gastronomic pornography                                                                                              Makes my stomach feel like a zoo.

The Gourmand also has an article on Mark Hix’s library. One of the books featured is called Rude Food and is a series of glossy photos of half naked woman with items of food artfully draped around them. Mum and Dad used to have a copy. Do they still have it somewhere?

Saturday afternoon was spent shifting the grenhouse. The wind on Wednesday night had managed to move one side of it eight or so inches across the patio stones it sits on. Fortunately all the glass had stayed in although a couple of panes had buckled loose. On my knees trying to manoeuvre it back into position I was conscious of one of the loose panes of glass above me and had a brief vision of it slipping loose and taking my head off. It stayed in place and my head and neck remained intact. I then planted out some salad seedlings and spent the best part of an hour scrubbing out ground elder from all corners of the garden. It is almost time for me to dig out the recipe to turn it into soup.

In the evening we ate deep fried soft shell crabs with garlic, pepper and coriander followed by a seafood stew made with prawns and scallops.

The base of the stew was an intense tomato sauce made with fried garlic, white wine, stock, lemon peel and oregano. This all cooked down until it was thick and pungent. I then strirred in the raw prawns and scallops to cook through together with half a block of feta cheese.

It reminded me of a lunch I had one Sunday in Barcelona almost fifteen years ago. It was in a fish restaurant down by the harbour. When we got there at 2.00 the place was empty but over the next hour or so it filled up with families all gorging themselves with fish. I had monkfish in a tomato sauce that had some sort of creamy cheese stirred in.


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