Food and Drink: Gastropod

AMONG the exhibitors at the House and Garden Eating-In Show, to be held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, north London, the weekend after next, none has a more amazing story to tell than Edgardo Pasquali. A Milanese interior designer, Mr Pasquali was involved in a consortium that two years ago unsuccessfully tendered to open Britain's first private prison. In the process, he visited many penal institutions and became fascinated by prison farms.

He was particularly attracted by an institution at East Sutton Park, near Maidstone, which seems to be populated mainly by women serving the last quarter of six- to eight-year sentences for attempted drug smuggling. The inmates take great care of their cows, which produce 72,000 litres of rich, creamy milk each week.

Mr Pasquali suspected this might be ideal for making mozzarella and ricotta. Back in Italy, the cheesemaking branch of the Pasquali family analysed a sample of the milk and confirmed his hunch. Thinking laterally, Mr Pasquali then persuaded the Home Office to invest pounds 80,000 in hi-tech Italian equipment and to convert three rooms of the prison into a state-of-the-art cheesemaking facility. This is now ready to start churning out 9,000kg of mozzarella and 4,000kg of ricotta each week. While Mr Pasquali searches for retail outlets, the first batches of cheese will be on sale at the H&G show, under the singularly appropriate brand name, Mama Mia]

COMMUTERS in the South-east and readers of the Independent on Sunday may have noticed a series of adverts for Cafedirect, featuring photographs of appealing, underprivileged children with such slogans as: 'You discover excellent coffee. They discover school.' One recalls being encouraged to support the Sandinistas by drinking Nicaraguan coffee, but Cafedirect takes politically correct coffee-drinking into a new dimension. It chanels the profit directly back to the growers in Latin America who have suffered since the collapse of the price of coffee, in 1989, which has brought current prices down to the level of the Thirties.

Cafedirect, which is jointly owned by four non-profit companies, pays twice the market price for raw green Arabica beans, enabling small-scale farmers in Costa Rica, Peru and Mexico not only to invest in their own communities, but also to keep growing coffee rather than some more profitable crop. As the last in the current series of ads says: 'You get excellent coffee. You don't get cocaine.' Cafedirect medium-roast filter coffee sells for pounds 1.55 per 8oz packet in Safeway, Waitrose, Asda and Gateway.

EXCELLENT though he is as a wine correspondent, Anthony Rose cannot claim to be clairvoyant and it seems he spoke too soon when he observed last month that gold medals still eluded English wine. The 1990 Seyval Blanc from Breaky Bottom in Lewes, East Sussex, and the 1991 Ortega from the Throwley Vineyard at Faversham, Kent, have both been awarded gold medals at this year's International Wine Challenge. The Gastropod joins Anthony Rose in congratulating Peter Hall of Breaky Bottom and Alan Smalley of Throwley's on this important breakthrough.

IF THE response to the Gastropod's competition in conjunction with Tabasco is anything to go by, readers of this column - including Kate Edwards of Runcorn, D A Follows of Wilmslow and Lord Birkett of Petworth - evidently enjoy nothing more than spicy barbecues and making up ridiculous rhymes. T Rogers of Birmingham is particularly commended for his skilful parody of W B Yeats:

I will arise and go now to Lake Avery Isle

And Tabasco peppers plant there,

bright red and fiery hot;

A salt mine I will dig there, a home for the harvest hands

And live alone in alligator-loud glade.

And I shall make some sauce there,

to spice up all we eat

And Tabasco will be seen on shelves around the world

where'er the charcoal glows.

But the first prize of a barbecue goes to Moyra E DaBinett of Wantage, for this epic:

Tabasco goes down very well

With Satan whilst dining in Hell.

From Avery Island

To your place in your land,

You'll savour its flavour and smell.

While drinking and chatting and chewing

And watching the meal barbecuing,

Tabasco adds relish,

Is bound to embellish

The pleasure of what you are doing.

Australians call it a Barbie.

The Springboks enjoy a good Braai.

For dining al fresco, a dash of Tabasco

Improves what the Englishmen fry.

To Irish with fiddles,

Big Texans with griddles

And Tongans with deep Hungi pits,

This hot chilli relish

With beef, pork or shellfish

Enhances the tastiest bits.

From Boston to Delhi, the name McIllhenny

gets tangled on various tongues.

Tabasco is easier, its flavour the pleaser,

With all folks it's Numero One]

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