Gastropod

'IT'S what Italians put on pasta' says the slogan in the new television advertisement for Sacla pesto, which started broadcasting in the TVS region this week. This is perfectly true - but it's also being a bit generous with the truth. Many Italians prefer to pound together the basil, garlic, pine nuts and cheese themselves; it's the British who put ready-made pesto sauce on their pasta. We buy almost a million more jars per year than the Italians. At least, we will this year. Next year things may be different.

Last week the Gastropod saw sodden mounds of pungent basil being packed with brine into barrels in Piedmont, to be shipped off to makers of second-rate pesto. Heavy rain had waterlogged the fields around Asti and Giuseppe Ercole of Sacla, the Italian brand leader, had rejected the whole crop, which would usually provide three-quarters of the company's annual production. Signor Ercole is optimistic about getting replacement supplies, but people who are addicted to having Sainsbury's red pesto on toast with their tea should be warned that supply could be tight next spring.

WHEN the Bombay Brasserie (071-370 4040) celebrated its tenth anniversary last month by offering its renowned buffet lunch for the 1982 price of pounds 5.50, the response was so overwhelming that the normally imperturbable waiters were all but overrun by the hungry hordes. The restaurant, in Courtfield Close, SW7 (opposite Gloucester Road tube station) has therefore decided to continue this offer every Thursday and Friday lunchtime throughout July. While tucking in, you may find that you are the Bombay Brasserie's millionth customer. Lights will flash, bells will ring and the lucky one in a million will win a holiday in Goa.

IN YOUR rush to take advantage of the Bombay bargain, don't forget that many other restaurant treats could be yours, as a member of Les Routiers' Club Bon Viveur. This column is giving away a couple of dozen memberships to readers who write in before the end of the month with the most entertaining eulogies, revolting recipes or wittiest dissertations on gastropods. One of the earliest replies comes from Dr John Taylor of The Malacological Society of London, which also uses a gastropod as its logo and next year celebrates its centenary. In order to raise funds to continue its work in molluscan biology, the society is marketing an Irish linen tea-towel depicting a particularly attractive snail. The towels cost pounds 3 and are available from Dr David Reid, c/o The Natural History Museum, London SW7: cheques should be made out to the Malacological Society of London.

AT THE launch last week of Giles MacDonough's biography of Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Judge and his Stomach (John Murray, pounds 25), the first person spotted by the Gastropod actually dipping in to the new tome was the diminutive antipodean Glynn Christian. He confessed to finding it rather heavy going: 'There are more characters in this book than there are on stage in Les Miserables, and they've all got hyphenated names. But I'm enjoying it,' he insisted.

COUCH potatoes across the country have scratched their heads, contemplated their navels and rubbed their tummies in front of the television set every Sunday night for several months as Loyd Grossman has deliberated, cogitated and digested his way towards this weekend's Masterchef final. Why did seven of the nine regional finals feature bloody venison. Where were the vegetarians? On what basis are the celebrity judges chosen? What is the appeal of the series?

Last week the expert judge was Alastair Little, which put the Gastropod in mind of the self-taught chef's debut on the Food and Drink programme, when he was asked why sweetbreads weren't more popular with housewives. 'They look so offal,' he replied.

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