FOOD / Gastropod

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THE latest English cheese, Cambridge Blue - blue- veined, full-fat, soft and made in the heart of the Vale of Belvoir - has just established itself on the shelves of Tesco. Its next task is to find a place in the nation's hearts, minds and deepest recesses. According to a survey conducted on behalf of The Cheeses of England & Wales by a psychologist, Dr David Lewis, thrusting young men enjoy nothing more than the tangy flavour and creamy texture of Blue Stilton, whereas timid women tend to prefer the more subtle taste of Red Leicester.

More extrovert women, particularly teenagers, show a definite preference for Cheshire, which also appeals to fun-loving and friendly men. Double Gloucester is the overwhelming favourite among folks in their twenties, while more mature citizens prefer the stronger flavour of English Cheddar. Who will go for the mildly piquant flavour and edible white rind of Cambridge Blue? The Gastropod fears it may appeal to the same group as the much-discussed Lymeswold. That turned out to be a very small group indeed, and Lymeswold ceased production last year.

NOODLES have never been more fashionable, thanks partly to the success of the Japanese film Tampopo, in which the actors played the bit parts and noodles took the lead. Wagamama (071-323 9223), the coolly designed basement restaurant near the British Museum that serves ramen, Japanese noodle soup, has become hugely popular in the few months since it opened, while in Soho's Brewer Street the rather less stylish but more authentically Japanese Hamine (071-287 1318) is also going great guns.

Now at Ming (071-734 2721), the elegant eau-de-nil establishment on the corner of Greek and Romilly Streets that specialises in the cuisine of northern China - where noodles are a dietary staple - you can get a complete meal for pounds 6 or less from the Ming Bowl Menu. There are thin and crispy egg noodles, fat and flabby white rice noodles and thick wheatflour noodles served cold with chicken salad. Christine Yau, the charming hostess, will not admit the noodle menu is a sop to passing fashion; she cheerfully explains it is her hedge against the longer-term trend, of recession.

THE British Journal of Addiction's report on the phenomenon of raw carrot abuse has caused consternation among members of the British Carrot Growers Association. Between them they account for about three- quarters of the 40,000 acres of land devoted to Britain's second most popular vegetable, (in case you wondered, the potato is the first), so they were not pleased to read that the carrot habit can be as addictive as cigarette smoking, leading in severe cases to the addict's skin turning orange.

Now is the time for all right- thinking Britons to come to the aid of the humble carrot. After all, carrots helped to save our bacon during the war, when the Ministry of Food used a cartoon character called Dr Carrot to persuade the Nazis that it was these 'bright treasures dug from good British earth' that enabled Allied pilots to see in the dark, rather than radar.

Carrots contain high levels of beta-carotene and are an important source of vitamin A, a deficiency of which can cause nyctalopia (night blindness). Furthermore, evidence from America suggests that a regular intake of carotene-rich foods can prevent lung cancer even among hardened smokers, and the US National Cancer Institute is researching carotene's potential for preventing damage to DNA.

Certainly our sportsmen like their carrots. Ian Botham prepared for his comeback two years ago on a diet of carrots and water, Nigel Mansell believes carrots can calm his nerves before a grand prix and Sam Torrance claims they cured his shaky putting problem. A recent profile of Michael Jackson, whose face has been the cause of controversy, noted that carrots are his favourite food. The Gastropod cannot help but wonder whether sustained carrot use could be responsible for the superstar's peculiar skin tone.

LAST weekend's prediction that Timothy Taylor's Landlord Ale would be named champion beer at the Great British Beer Festival was only just wrong: it was actually runner-up to Woodfordes Norfolk Nog. Today is your last chance to revel at the festival, on at Olympia from 11.30am-10.30pm and culminating in a fancy dress party. There will be prizes for the best costumes, on a theme of beer or pub names. The Gastropod is going as The Slug and Lettuce.

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