Charles Nevin: News from Elsewhere

Sheep's urine may save the world, but can anyone save the Black Forest gateau?
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The Independent Online

Hello and welcome to the column that keeps you absolutely au courant with what else is going on in the world, providing breaking news, updates and overviews right across the off-agenda agenda. So let's start with the weather, where it was a great pleasure to welcome back an old favourite, the shower of frogs, this time reported in Odzaci, Serbia. Long range forecast: I'm very excited about the next bank holiday, as the two in May both produced tornados, the first in Hoghton, Lancashire, and the second in Ely. It's up to you, but I shall be avoiding Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire on the 29th.

Hello and welcome to the column that keeps you absolutely au courant with what else is going on in the world, providing breaking news, updates and overviews right across the off-agenda agenda. So let's start with the weather, where it was a great pleasure to welcome back an old favourite, the shower of frogs, this time reported in Odzaci, Serbia. Long range forecast: I'm very excited about the next bank holiday, as the two in May both produced tornados, the first in Hoghton, Lancashire, and the second in Ely. It's up to you, but I shall be avoiding Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire on the 29th.

Traffic Update: I imagine you've heard all you want to about road charging, but you might have missed an interesting development in Hampshire, as it happens, where the Stagecoach bus company has started spraying sheep urine into exhaust fumes to reduce harmful omissions. And the news has clearly travelled quickly, too, as a ewe called Myfanwy made a break for it from a farm near Mold, leaping into a lake and swimming to a small island where she seemed relieved to be surviving on daffodils.

Cows have been quiet, apart from just the one, which escaped unhurt after it fell down a mountain in Austria and landed on a milking parlour roof. Please attempt your own plays on shake, express delivery, cowslip and whoops-a-daisy; I'm rather fond of Heifer Bump.

Chickens, as you know, are not so publicity shy. Last week we had the one that was allowed, on appeal, to cross the road in California, which followed on from Lucky, the Cheshire chicken adept at picking lottery numbers until it was eaten by a fox. Now, in an obvious attempt to upstage the heifer, an Austrian fashion designer called Edgar Honetschlaeger is showing a range of fashion outfits for chickens. Very fetching. The models to watch, apparently, are Heidi Kluck and Eggs Macpherson.

Anyway, prawns. They're tremendously good for your skin, you know, being rich in copper, which helps form superoxide dismutase, the powerful anti-ageing enzyme. This might explain why, according to a report, prawn cocktail remains the nation's favourite starter. Difference between a prawn and a shrimp? Size, mostly: fewer than ten to the pound, safe to assume it's a prawn, but don't worry, they all taste the same under the Thousand Island. Actually, we were very close to a great link here, as it's time for the wondrous shapes suddenly appearing on foodstuffs round-up; but the crisp on which a clergyman's daughter-in-law from Florida has spotted the image of Christ is, sadly, sour cream and onion flavour.

Picking and peeling

The nation's favourite main course is still roast beef, which is all very well, but not much of a boost for those evangelical gourmets hoping for a little more explorative enthusiasm from us. Here, though, at least, I can help. Have you noticed how little importance the food-toffs seem to attach to the concept of ease in eating? Picking bones out of fish, peeling and hacking at things: is it really worth the candle? And what are you supposed to do with the channel changer? Exactly.

Which is where this little beauty I've just discovered comes in: yes, the motor-powered self-twirling spaghetti fork! Twenty-two rpm, powered by two AA batteries (not provided), the fork is readily available at a reasonable price at the click of a mouse. (Actually, while I remember, the same source, called for some reason, stupid.com, also offers a little lifejacket you can slip on to your golf ball when playing a water hazard.)

The most startling favourite food finding, though, comes with the afters: for the first time I can remember, there's no Black Forest gateau. This, for mine, makes a mockery of the title of the new Sky series which commissioned the survey, Greatest Dishes in the World. Without the BFG? I ask you. "The survey showed Brits are quite adventurous with exotic puds," said a spokesman. So? How exotic can you get? Did Horst Jankowski play in vain? You must remember "A Walk in the Black Forest": it's only 40 years since it was number one, anniversary this August, marvellous. I recommend "Meet Mr Black Forest Vol Two", although "Black Forest Explosion" has its admirers (as does, of course, "Horst Jankowski meets Beethoven").

Hard cheese

Cheese? There was a bit of a rush a few weeks ago, with rows over the provenance of Feta and Parmesan, but all I can manage since is the Frenchman jailed at Uxbridge for attempting to smuggle 194 pounds of hard cheese with an orange rind into the country. Still, he could be useful if things get any nastier.

Drink? I should say so. Actually, there's a brewer in New Zealand working on Black Forest gateau-flavoured beer. There is: Dicky Fife, of the Dux de Lux bar in Christchurch. The Dux de Lux. Careful with that stereotype, if you don't mind. Which reminds me: a German has come up with the world's first chocolate sausage. He has: first prize at the world championships in Berlin. The Forest strikes back!

No, no, I must go. Just time for a Zhang Xingquan update. You will recall how Zhang, 38, pulled a car 20 yards with his ears while walking on eggs; well, now, I see, he's pulled a train 40 yards with just the right ear. Splendid. More as I have it!

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