How to Cheat at Cooking

This piece was written as an application to join an online snarky blog run by a couple of London politicos a few years back. The Frog had to choose a current affairs topic and say something contentious.  This is the only one without swear words that I can publish here!

Delia upsets Organic Foodies.

The free-range organic brigade is up in arms lately. This time it’s because Delia Smith has pronounced that the chemical goo masquerading as food on our supermarket shelves is adequately edible, but only if you’re desperate enough. The current rehash and re-launch of her 1972 publication “How to cheat at cooking” suggests that there is no shame in making tasty quick meals from tinned mince lamb and frozen mashed potatoes. It’s supposedly a book for busy mothers on a budget.

Delia’s comments are regarded as apostasy by the those trendy chefs who ride around on scooters between organically certified delicatessens, but the sad fact is that she is right, basic supermarket fare might be crap, but it’s cheap, and probably won’t kill you.

Organic food is probably better for you than ‘value range’, but it doesn’t taste much different and it’s over twice as expensive. Most trendy yuppie couples start off eating nothing but organic tofu and fair-trade muesli before they breed, then they need to buy a place with an extra bedroom. They only to revert to buying family packs of battery chicken after they face the choice between cheap food or the cancellation their gym membership.

The smart people are those who simply avoid processed food. They buy cheap cuts of meat, basic vegetables and are savvy in the use of herbs and spices. They spend the money they saved on drinkable wine. That’s how to cheat at cooking.


The Ice Hotel

The Big Frog wrote this travel piece for The Guardian newspaper a while back but it is still a favourite:

The ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, has to be the coolest destination on the planet, in every sense of the word. The experience is simply astounding. Everything is made of ice, from the building itself to the vodka shot glasses, which increase in size every time they are refilled. The excitement is hot enough to almost thaw the walls in the hotel bar, a vast ice-cave filled with translucent frozen furniture. Only Vodka is available, as lesser drinks would be turned solid before they reached the glass.

There is an incredible sense of immediate camaraderie amongst everyone from the moment they arrive, probably caused by the sense of shared privilege at the aesthetic wonder of their frozen surroundings. Ice sculptures are illuminated in deep azures and sea-greens. A trip to the hotel lobby is like a surreal step into an arctic acid trip. Guests can sleep on a bed of ice topped by reindeer skins.

Before a breakfast of cured reindeer, they can take a sauna in a wooden caravan parked on a frozen lake; dropping through the caravan’s floor into the heart-stopping natural plunge-pool beneath.
Hardcore types can take a five day dog-sled safari across the cleanest, whitest breathtaking stillness on the planet. You can hire a snowmobile and howl across frozen lakes at near- motorway speeds as the bark of your engine echoes off steep valley walls and the ice cracks just behind your skids.

Drink schnapps and BBQ late into the night outside your cozy pinewood chalet as you marvel at the truly seminal dance of the Northern Lights in the cloudless sky above.

There are few unspoiled wilderness areas left on planet earth, but Jukkasjärvi still retains a vast incredible cleanliness and an awesome serenity. It deserves respect and demands a return visit. Experience this place before you die.