LINFORD CHRISTIE is Britain's greatest athlete and bananas are the secret of his success. 'After a race, it is vital that you replace the energy you have used as quickly as possible,' explains the great man. 'I find bananas ideal. Not only are they packed with fructose, sucrose and glucose, but they're easy to eat, swallow and digest.'

Linford is so fond of bananas that he carries one at all times, he says, even while running (as those who have seen him in slow-motion can confirm). When not preoccupied with carbing up for the next race, the world's fastest man likes to snack on a banana, plus a Marmite-and-cheese sandwich, which he keeps in his lunchbox.

At home, Linford enjoys the subtle flavour of bananas in a variety of unusual ways. A dinner party chez Christie is more than likely to start with a banana souffle, continue with a vegetarian banana lasagne and finish with an apricot-and-banana crumble.

All these provocative combinations and more are to be found in a booklet entitled Bananergy: Optimal Energy Recipes For All Lifestyles, which Linford has co- written with a nutritionist, Jane Griffin. It is free to those who send an 8in x 9in stamped and self-addressed envelope to: Linford's Bananergy Power Pack Eating, PO Box 21, Godalming, Surrey GU7 2SS.

BEING vegetarians, Kath Flewitt and Jeremy Frost are also great fans of bananas and they like strawberries, too. That is why they decided to name their business Banaberries.

A delicatessen at 11 Little Underbank in Stockport, Cheshire, Banaberries (061-474 0511) has just become the first shop in the country to be allowed to display the 'V' sign. That's not 'V' for victory, but 'V' for 'approved by the Vegetarian Society'. Besides bananas, the deli stocks a mind- boggling array of international snacks for folks who do not eat meat, from bhajis, samosas and vegetarian haggis to chimichangas and quesadillas.

OF COURSE, you could not get bananas during the Second World War. For children's tea parties, resourceful mums would mash boiled turnips up with banana essence instead. But this is not one of the delights on the retro menu being served next week at Bracewell's Brasserie in the Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly (a popular hang- out during the blitz, because its underground ballroom doubled as an air-raid shelter), to commemorate D-Day. Nor is there a spam fritter to be had.

Instead, there will be a selection of decidedly robust and meaty dishes, with the alternative of a vegetarian Woolton pie. Older readers will recall this as a notoriously unpleasant wartime speciality, named in honour of the then Minister for Food. But the Gastropod has sampled Bracewell's version and found it quite acceptable.

Readers who would like the recipe, or are interested in wartime food, are reminded that the Imperial War Museum's excellent 'Wartime Kitchen & Garden' exhibition has been extended to 29 August.

AMONG the vessels re-enacting the Normandy Landings on Monday is the only surviving Liberty ship, a hurriedly built type of open boat resembling a sardine tin, that was used to convey American troops across the Channel on that fateful day, 50 years ago.

Liberty ships were not built to last, and few did. This one was restored by the US Navy with partial sponsorship from the Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco, whose flagship beer, Anchor Steam Ale, has just made its debut in the off-licence section of Sainsbury's.

Anchor also makes a powerful Liberty Ale and has donated several cases to the crew of the Liberty ship to see them across. Sounds like a certain recipe for seasickness.

MORE than two dozen readers wrote in to explain the solera system and win themselves a bottle of Tio Pepe Fino sherry. Gonzalez Byass has promised to reward them all, on condition that the Gastropod makes it clear that the Tio Pepe brand is this year celebrating its 150th anniversary - not its 160th, as a typographical error had it a fortnight ago.

For anyone still in the dark, here is the explanation supplied by Dennis Wheatley of Brighton: 'The solera system (from the Spanish suelo meaning floor) is a traditional means of gradual blending. The wine, stored in tiers of butts of varying ages, is moved downward from the youngest butts at the top through to the lowest, oldest butts on the floor.'

Mr Wheatley goes on to express his desire to try some Gonzalez Byass Vintage Oloroso. Under normal circumstances, the stuff is too precious to give away; but the Gastropod has procured a bottle which he will graciously pass on to Mr Wheatley. He deserves it: it can't be much fun having the same name as the author of all those spooky novels.

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