Sound Bites by Alex Kapranos: 52 in 52 Book #16

Sound Bites

Back in mid-March, Jim and I took an excursion to London for the day. We went for two reasons. The first reason was to celebrate Jim’s birthday and have a day out of the dreary setting of Medway. The second was to see Franz Ferdinand, one of our favourite bands, on the London leg of their tour.

The concert was amazing. We were right and the front and screamed, sang and cheered until we sound like frogs that had eaten sandpaper. We watched Alex strut and meander across the front of the stage and mesmerise with his vocals. Jim eyed up Nick’s guitar and watched him play like a puppy idolising his master. I stared at Bob’s left hand slide up and down the neck of his Rickenbacker bass, trying to force my memory to permanently store how he played. We watched Paul too, but he was a bit further back. He seemed to be enjoying himself.

After a train journey through London and Kent, I made a beeline for the bookshelf when I got home. There, tucked behind a copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was a little book with a picture of the Franz Ferdinand frontman on the cover. This book was Sound Bites by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand.

This books started life as Articles Alex wrote for The Guardian newspaper back when touring with Franz Ferdinand in 2005-2006. These articles were a commentary on what he ate on the tour in various locations around the planet. These have then been compiled into a little book and illustrations added. It reads autobiographically, flicking between the present and what Alex is eating in a particular location and flashing back to his life before Franz Ferdinand.

The descriptions are amazing, as is to be expected from a man who co-writes some of my favourite lyrics. Not only is the food described impeccably, but the location, the people, the feel of where he is and who is with him. Alex paints a picture of everything around him and it makes for a truly engaging read. Also, for those who wish to experience these things for themselves, there is a small glossary of all the places he mentions in the book situated at the back.

The style is rather Marmite in style. I love it, as does Jim, but it might not be to everyone’s tastes. But that’s okay; that is what books, like food, are supposed to be like. You might enjoy some bits and not others. Personally I would recommend this book to Franz fans, foodies and those who wander the globe but I’m not sure whether it would have a wider appeal. I hope it does though.

 

Kat

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Freshly Grown: An Introduction

It’s no secret that I like to grow plants. As a little girl, my dad used to take me to the allotment with him and assist with the gardening. Together we dug up potatoes, plucked blackcurrants, pickled shallots and sowed many and seed. We even had matching Head and Assistant gardener jumpers.

Where I live now, we have a patio garden with a couple of flowers beds. Whilst I can’t have a full vegetable garden here, I do like to grow some things. Last year was mostly a flower year but we did manage to get a couple of strawberries off of plants I potted into our hanging baskets. The nasturtiums we planted in the main flower bed pretty much took over the garden they grew so big. I did slip a couple of the flowers into salads though.

This year, I’ve gone a different route. The strawberries remain in their hanging basket but I doubt they will produce much at all. In a slight impulse purchase on eBay, I ended up with seeds for eight different varieties of tomato (not bad for 99p!). So currently on my window sill are eight little pots, with tiny saplings growing. The varieties are as follows, with pictures of what the eventual fruit should look like:

Peach Red

Peach Red

 

White Cherry

White Cherry

 

Green Cherry

Cherry Green

 

Hillbilly (or Flame)

Hillbilly

 

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc tomatoes

 

Red Apple

Red Apple

 

Cherokee Purple

Cherokee Purple

 

Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry

 

To those who know me, they might be wondering why I’m growing all these tomatoes when I don’t actually like them! The answer is that I don’t like supermarket tomatoes, and those are the only ones I’ve ever tried. I am trying to expand my food repertoire and possibly a more exotic or weird-looking variety of tomato will appeal to me. Although I don’t eat tomatoes on their own, I do put them in a lot of dishes I make, such as pasta and couscous and would like to try my usual recipes with slightly different ingredients. Also, Jim does like tomatoes and will happily munch them all if it turns out I don’t like them.

We’re also growing some other edible delights. Alongside the propagating tomatoes are some demon red chillies for Jim that are growing very well! Outside in a trench style tub are radishes and spring onions and in round terracotta number we have some lettuce growing.

I’m looking forward to tending the plants, watching them growing and eventually bear glorious food! I’ll be writing updates as we go along and including as many pictures as I can. Hopefully, the fruits and vegetables of this labour will be worth it.

 

Kat

The One Kilogram Challenge

Aside

The Date: Saturday the 23rd of February
The Location: The Nosey Parker, Lincoln
The Challenge: One Kilogram of dinner!

Such a bold and brash challenge to take up, I think you’ll agree. Leaving Kent for the weekend, Kat and I went back to my hometown of Lincoln to see my parents and to generally escape the misery of Medway. Naturally, we (my mum, dad, sister and girlfriend) all went out for dinner at Lincoln’s Nosey Parker restaurant.

The restaurant used to be owned by a company called Tom Cobleigh, which used to own restaurants in and around Lincoln, or so I believe anyway. I think they branched out further a field but this was a long time ago. I digress. Within the past few years though, The Nosey Parker was bought by a company called Flaming Grill and just after it had re-opened under new ownership, we went there to see what it was like. Upon opening they had an eating challenge on their menu. Called the Flaming challenge back then it required the eaters to blast through a whole kilo of food in less than 45 minutes for a chance to be placed on the as of yet, rather empty wall of fame. I tried it a few years ago and could not manage it all. I opted not go for the challenge, instead I just took my time but I still got full and had to ask for help from my family to help me eat the rest. I had failed and I knew I had. I was beaten by food! However on my return it was suddenly a whole different story.

So, cutting out the waffle of ordering whatever everyone got their meals before me and I was waiting in anticipation for this mountain of food to be wheeled out of the kitchen. After telling everyone else that they didn’t have to wait for me to start as chances are I will be eating a lot long after they had, the waiter bought out my dinner, set it down in front me and told me that I was in for a challenge and half. I told him I attempted it before and he wished me luck. The Flaming Challenge – now called the 1kg Challenge – is basically a burger meal that you would find in any other gastro-pub. However, that is where the similarities end. You see, this is two twelve ounce flame grilled beef burgers, two breaded chicken fillets, bacon, chili beef, cheddar cheese, onions, six onion rings and a heap of chips with two bread buns. It’s hard to describe so the picture below may help a little with trying to explain the size of the thing. I mean, it could barely fit on the plate.

This is a small portion in America

This is a small portion in America

The challenge has eased off a bit now so rather than finishing it in 45 minutes, I just had to finish it full stop. I wasn’t in it for the long-haul. I was just happy to eat my way through it just as I had done previously. It all looked so appetizing but with any meal this size, you kind of don’t know where to start. My heart was sort of in my throat because I had no idea how I would react with this again. Would I accomplish this battle or would I be left in a heap of ‘no guts no glory’ shame like I had done before? I tucked in, going for some of the chips and bite of the bun. Realizing that this may fill me up straight away, I thought that these were the least of my worries as the main focus would be on the meat. The chips and bread were not important. The meat would be the best bit so I popped the toasted top bun onto my napkin and set on devouring the pile of deliciousness, starting with the chicken. The breaded chicken was very good. Adequately sized portions meant that they went down rather quickly if I’m honest. The chilli beef was rather wonderful too. It had just enough kick to make it spicy but was also mixed with various tomatoes and peppers that made it palatable and not too heavy. The bacon was perfectly grilled and held a lot of the flamed flavour from the burgers, which were the best bit. They were grilled to perfection and also held a lot of that smokey, flame grilled flavour that has become signature to the chain. They were properly thick too so don’t think that these were like the type of thin burgers you’d find in McDonalds. Each must have been as big as a standard hamburger by themselves. And by hamburger, I mean the full thing, with the burger and buns! There was a lot of beef there! Slowly but surely, and after dipping in and out of everything else on my plate, the burger was going down. Even after eating the first burger, I felt that this was a lot of food. Eventually I started to feel full after finally finishing the second burger. I would say that this was the equivalent of my previous attempt. I was ready to throw in the towel. At least the meat had all gone but there was still rather substantial amount of steak-cut chips and two bread rolls left. I slowed down to a snail’s pace only using my fork to eat now. The mayo I used earlier on in the meal wasn’t really helping. It made me feel a bit sickly to be honest, although, that could have been the anxiety kicking in as I knew that it was only half of what I had eaten already and that I could do it. Brave faced, I continued.

This is my brave face

This is my brave face

Spreading the chips out didn’t seem to help either as it made the plate look full again. A huge wave of defeat and dread spread over me. I couldn’t do it. I was eating the chips but every time I looked down at the plate, there seemed to be more and more. And that wasn’t including the bread. Chip by filling chip, the pile started to decrease. Finally there was about 15 or so left. I held my forehead thinking that this could not be done. It is impossible even though the 15 chips left seemed so minuscule. With the bread I was hopeless. Encouragement ensued from my family and 5 chips later the remnants were going down as well. After a long fight, all of the chips had gone! And the thought came across my mind that the bread could be tackled in the same way. The bread was by far the hardest to get through. It was so filling and there was a lot of it. Again, probably about the same amount of bread in each bun would be the same as what you would get in a Big Mac. I had to resort to tearing small bite sized pieces from the first one that was set to the side on my napkin taking a drink every few bites to calm me down a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so much ever and it was starting to take its toll on me and my internal organs. I felt full after the burgers had been devoured but not as full after all the burger, all of the chips and half a bun. I chewed on. And the bun went away! It was gone. I could do this! The other bun still had chili beef on which was nice but because it had been so long since I started, it had gone a bit soggy and soggy bread isn’t the best thing in the world. I can only feel sympathy for the ducks. It was still rather tasty and its started to disappear as well; I was going to do this. A few fork full later, victory was on the horizon until 3 scoops were left. Success was there. 2; only another bit of bread. 1; last scrapings. GONE!

This was full over an hour ago

This was full over an hour ago

One kilogram of food had now been eaten and the challenge beaten! I received my certificate, which is now hanging in my hall of fame.

And I was even on the wall of fame in the Nosey Parker!

Greatest achievement ever?

Greatest achievement ever?

So, what’s for dessert…?

Within regards to this I may very well try different eating challenges, Man vs Food style, although I have a big appetite, I am only a weedy chap and therefore may not find it particularly easy. But I will keep you posted! There’s a restaurant not too far away from me here that does a spicy wings challenge… Watch this space!

Posted by Jimmi