Alex James: Chillis, cheese and matters of taste

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

The Scoville scale, for measuring the heat of chillis, has been in the news recently. Scoville has gone from being an obscurity, a pub quiz answer, to a word that everybody kind of knows. It is because chilli sauce is getting hotter all the time. No doubt that's true, but according to the Scoville system, it is now many, many thousands of times hotter than it used to be.

For this reason, I don't rate the system – it may be good for selling chilli sauce to Cro-Magnons, but little else. It's a shame, a missed opportunity. It is good to have frames of reference for things that we can taste. It probably increases our ability to taste and enjoy things, but I don't understand how something can be a thousand times hotter than it was. It might just be that vanilla ice-cream is a thousand times nicer than having a splinter, but I'm not sure how many shades of vindaloo we can distinguish.

The last thing the world needs now is more zeros. We bandy trillions and billions and millions like we know what they mean. We don't. Now we need to add them to everything, apparently. What we need to apply when it comes to food is the concept of a limit, a place where the laws of gastronomy cease to apply. There is a limit at which things are palatable. Anything over the limit isn't food.

I've been thinking this through because it's the cheese awards coming up and after the judging I'm going to be left with a couple of tons of cheese that I'm going to convert into the smelliest substance in the universe. At least, I think it is: fromage fort, or potted cheese. It's the cheese equivalent of moonshine, a sort of distilled essence of cheese.

You boil up a leek and keep the juice, grate hard old cheese mixed together with eau de vie into it. Then you bury it and leave it all to ferment for a couple of weeks. It's rarely seen these days. It's a health and safety inspector's nightmare. Forget chillis, this is properly edgy, so smelly and almost poisonous that if an elephant farted in the same room as a tiny piece, you just wouldn't be able to tell. Really mature specimens can measure up to around three-quarters of a Titchmarsh on the Westbrook scale.



There's more to a field of gold than money



I've been keeping my eye on what has happened in the top field and I'm certain no one has done anything particularly clever. The wheat has grown very well all on its own, 40 acres of it. There are one or two bald patches, but by and large that field looks just like all the other wheat fields around here. It would be hard to spot the new boy.



How beautiful it is to behold shimmering gold in the evening sun. How sugary the ears taste when rolled on the tongue. How complacent we are about this miracle. It's hard to believe that not long ago agricultural wealth was the only kind of wealth. Farming was what built every single one of the nice houses in this part of the world. Now farming means either subsistence or self-indulgence.



Of course, for me it's the latter. Once the wheat has been cropped, in the next week or two, I'll have my runway at last – the world's first biodynamic airport. But it has become apparent that what we really need here is a public car park. Cars are now parking all the way up the verge along one of the boundaries and it makes me furious. The verge is where the little animals live. There was a Jag parked in front of the farm gate yesterday, too – a low-spec one at that. There were so many cars that traffic had to pull out into the road on the summit of a blind hill to get round the cars.

It's a strange transmutation of the rural dream but I have been left with no choice. Park life.



Driven mad by rural landscapes



I spent last week by the sea. What a different proposition life is to the man who looks out of his window and beholds a seascape and not a landscape. The sea can't be bent into shape. It's just a huge beautiful abstraction. Look at the sea and it says "Play, relax, chill out, go fishing". The rural landscape is a tease. Look at that for a long time and it is soon promising it can be anything you want it to be. Before you know what has happened, you're inside a landscape of your own mad design with car parks, runways and cheese caves.



All the time we were away it was on my mind that I might miss the plums, one of the highlights of the year in the garden. It's surprising how short the shelf life of soft fruit is. A few sunny days and I might have missed the entire crop. Fortunately, our run was well timed and today I have eaten nothing except purple plums, nor wanted anything else. The yellow Victoria plums are next and then the peaches, the arrival of which spells the high tide of summer.



I've decided to plant more and more fruit trees. An orchard is the prettiest thing there is and requires very little maintenance, and if you get it right you can have something in fruit pretty much all year round. Soon I won't need a car at all.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay's Chris Martin “consciously uncoupled” in March  

My best and worst stories of 2014

Simmy Richman
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015