A CHILLY wind blows across the grasses and dunes of the Cape, a narrow arm of land which juts out into the ocean south of Boston, but bright sunshine is pouring through the window as I write.
THE head waiter’s beard bristles as he takes our order in a slightly sinister manner. ”Would it be possible,” I ask politely, ”to turn the heating up a little?” One of our party has just arrived from Los Angeles and is feeling the cold.
”No,” he barks. ”It’s at maximum power.” Not for the first time I wonder how on earth people get into jobs for which they are manifestly not suited. An experienced head waiter would deal with the problem more gracefully. He would beam his co-operation, say ”certainly, sir”, twiddle with the control and allow our imaginations to do the rest.
Such subtlety is beyond our friend. Nor can he let matters rest. By now he has the look of a villainous walrus. His small powerful body is hunched in an attitude of pure hatred. ”Too many people,” he says with a bluntness that could be described as offensive, ”sit on top of their coal fires.”
The Herald, Editorial Notebook, 20 Feb 1993.
THEY are serving broccoli again at the White House, as a side dish to taxation stew. Mrs Clinton has restored them to the menu from which they had been hounded by Mr Bush. He also banned them from the presidential jet, Air Force One.
A LETTER arrived from Warsaw this week. At least, it was a belated Christmas card that had somehow grown into something bigger, an epistle of six pages jotted down between times by my old friend Stas, running from one card on to another and then on to writing paper.
SCOTLAND’S greatest gift to international cuisine is not, I submit, salmon, beef, mutton broth, haggis or oatcakes, or even the simple bacon roll, that blessed balm for over-indulgence. It is the finnan haddock, served with a poached egg on top.
FOR EVERY pub discussion I’ve heard about why Guinness tastes better in Ireland I wish I had the proverbial quid. That it does so is a starting point accepted without argument: it is a creamier pint.
The theories are numerous, nowhere more so than in Ireland itself. They say that at St James’s in Dublin the brewers have a mystic secret that has eluded their counterparts in Park Royal, London. It’s the Liffey water. The Irish version is not pasteurised. The Irish drink so much of it that constant movement out of the keg keeps the stout in tip-top condition. Publicans must look after their stout better because an informed public would accept nothing else.
COMING through the ferry terminal at Larne the other day, surveying the unappetising and bland food on display at the buffet, and sipping the almost tasteless coffee dispensed from the machine, I reflected on how public catering so often still lags behind public taste. The improvement in coffee, in home and cafe, has been part of the revolution that has given us foreign travel, eating out, and wine with meals. In my boyhood coffee essence was common. For years after the war the British palate was satisfied by instant. Now tastes are developing, although they still have some way to go.
SOMEWHERE in the Italian lakes, perhaps, a tall and portly head waiter called Philippo is presiding theatrically over an elegant, fashionable, and suitably expensive restaurant. In my mind’s eye I can see him clearly against a background of lake and mountain, and can hear the rolling cadences as he tells some party of diners about the day’s bill of fare. What he does not know is that he almost certainly if indirectly inspired a character in the latest Rumpole by John Mortimer.
From the Arnold Kemp archive
SOMEWHERE in the Italian lakes, perhaps, a tall and portly head waiter called Philippo is presiding theatrically over an elegant, fashionable,
and suitably expensive restaurant. In my mind’s eye I can see him clearly against a background of lake and mountain, and can hear the
rolling cadences as he tells some party of diners about the day’s bill of fare. What he does not know is that he almost certainly if indirectly inspired a character in the latest Rumpole by John Mortimer.
Philippo used to be head waiter at the Malmaison, Glasgow, in the last days of that famous restaurant which for so long was effortlessly the best in Scotland. It was about 10 years ago that I first made his acquaintance when I went there to dine with a party of friends.