IN summer, the process of restocking the family freezer can be tricky for those living in rural areas and having to drive miles home from the shop, with their ice-cream turning to milkshake on the back seat. But there is now an alternative to insulated boxes and fast driving: home delivery.

Eismann, as its name suggests, is a German company. It has a huge refrigerated warehouse in Corby, Northamptonshire, and a network of offices throughout the Midlands. Eismann franchises operate refrigerated vans that will deliver a range of 240 frozen food products to your door.

Much of the stock is imported exclusively from Germany, which does tend to mean that the gateaux, profiteroles and pavlovas are delectable. Not to mention ice-creams: peach and strawberry delights (ice-cream moulded into the shapes of their respective fruits) are the sensation of chic dinner parties from the Humber to the Wash.

Readers living in those latitudes who wish to contact their friendly local Eismann should telephone 0536 407010.

THE GASTROPOD is all in favour of encouraging the development of children's culinary skills and so is delighted to report the latest development in home baking for five- year-olds. Hornby, the toy company, has come up with the first working oven for children that passes EC safety requirements.

The Safe Bake Clever Cook, which costs pounds 40, ingeniously maximises the heat from a 45-watt light bulb. Small, fairy-sized cakes, made by adding water to McDougall's cake mixes, can be cooked in it in only 18 minutes. Among its safety features is a temperature sensor that prevents impatient fingers from prising open the oven door until the cakes are cool enough to handle.

While waiting for their cakes to cook, the little darlings might have fun with the Doctor Dreadful Drink Maker, which costs pounds 22. Looking like a junior chemistry set, it consists of a series of beakers, tubes and flasks through which kids can see liquids bubble and fizz.

AT THIS time of year, the Gastropod would rather be in southern California, cycling through the vineyards of the Napa Valley. There you glide along quiet, tree-shaded roads, stopping at wineries and lazing in grassy meadows.

Sadly, that is not possible this year, but the Pod can experience the Napa Valley vicariously through the pages of Napa Valley Appellation, magazine of the rich and vinous. This glossy quarterly has found its way on to British news-stands, price pounds 1.95.

The cover girl on the summer issue is an investment banker called Susan. Inside, you can learn about folks who work in wineries but play in rock bands (including one called Hydrogen Sulphate whose motto is 'We stink'), Hampton McIntyre's architecture (he built wineries in the 1890s), and the annual Vintner's Dinner for 1,600 guests.