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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Cleaning sea bass, reviewing plays and making up a comedy character.

Well folks I have been a busy boy. Not only have I been doing my fishmonger's job at Tesco but I have also been out in the evenings reviewing plays mainly for my theatre website. Additionally I have been working on a new comedy character called Donald J Ducky and have been enjoying making some videos for my comedy blog. I have also been writing for Sardines magazine with a feature/interview about a musical theatre school celebrating 50 years in existence.

Back to the fishmonger's counter and here are a few pictures from my set up one day and some of my job cleaning sea bass. Enjoy.

Cleaned sea bass and tools used to clean them.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

My entry in a comedy writing competition.

Hi there dear readers. The other day I entered my very first actual comedy writing competition. The competition is connected with a touring theatre production of Anita and Me starring Shobna Gulati and the premise is that entrants write a piece of comedy in any format relating to one of the themes of the show. There is  500 word limit. The first prize is £300.

I chose to write about the theme of racism and yes, whilst racism certainly isn't funny, some humour can be had out of exposing the bigotry and ignorance of others like Alf Garnett in Til Death Do Us Part for example.

As I like to write about food I made up a composite character called Mr Donald J Ducky based on the Nottingham accent and things I have heard people express over time about their aversion to anything foreign.

I would therefore like you to please check out my COMEDY WRITING SUBMISSION and if you like it please help me by 'liking' the pink heart next to my work. I have 40 likes so far and would love to build this to 50. I have plans to build on this character and his friends and make people laugh at their off kilter world view. I cannot reproduce the comedy writing on here because one of the rules is that it has never been published before.

Thanks for checking it out. Oh and do share this post with anyone you think might be interested in reading my comedy stuff at 60Plussitdowncomedy.

Phil Lowe

Monday, 27 February 2017

Food and theatre and an A to Z look at these two passions of mine combined.

Apologies for not being present too much of late on my food blog. I have been increasing my hours at my food related job at Tesco to bring in much needed dosh and in the meantime have been working on my professional writing and in particular on my theatre reviewing. There aren't enough hours in the day for what I like to do but my life is fun nevertheless even when the ghosts of totally totally skint rear their scary heads.

Anyway, so today is my 61st birthday and yet again I have been busy writing! This time I have been compiling a comedy piece for a competition to do with the theatre production of Anita and Me (touring). Hopefully I will win the £300 top prize. "Bostin'!"
In between time I have been writing for Sardines magazine and here is my original version of the piece I sent in. In the published piece the A-Z bit has been edited to something slightly less serious than what I originally wrote. No offence to the editor but I prefer my version re-produced here.

Phil Lowe as Kim in Festen

"The playwright Shakespeare must have known a fair amount about the world of the senses as he very often writes about the look and taste of food in his theatre works. Food and drink could be metaphors for the times he lived in, a poetic way of describing human nature and the communications of his characters or simply the enjoyable experience of eating and drinking for humans and animals writ large.

From Othello we have “Good wine is a good familiar creature if it be well used.” Henry V has “I would give up all my fame for a pot of ale” and Anthony and Cleopatra go Come Dine With Us crazy with the quote “Eight wild boars roasted whole at breakfast but twelve persons there.” William Shakespeare also offers us warnings through the medium of food which some would do well to heed even today.

From The Comedy of Errors Act Five Scene One brings us the stark warning “Unquiet meals make ill digestions” and in A Midsummer Night's Dream Egeus tells his actors “... dear actors, eat no onions or garlic, for we are to utter sweet breath; and I do not doubt but to hear them say it is a sweet comedy...” Even a monster like Caliban in The Tempest must eat and in Act One Scene Two he starts off his monologue with “I must eat my dinner...” He doesn't go to say what the dinner actually is but that is theatrical licence for you!

Of course many playwrights introduce elements of food and drink in their plays. Sometimes they are the title of the play itself such as in Alan Bennett's A Chip in the Sugar. Here Bennett's clever word play gives us two food references in the title which are directly referred to in the character's monologue itself “And I looked and there was a chip in the sugar.” It this sense his character is registering disgust. Unlike in Arnold Wesker's play Chips With Everything Alan Bennett's character Graham definitely doesn't like his chip within sugar or without.

In Bennett's A Cream Cracker Under The Settee we can determine just how dangerous food can be if left just out of reach by the elderly. Bennett's ubiquitous cream cracker is almost a character in itself as it cruelly watches the old lady dying by the front door. In my humble opinion that kind of drama really takes the biscuit. However, it does get to the crunch in a mere fifty minutes. I regularly review plays and there is nothing worse than an over cooked play. I digress.

The controversial play Festen requires three actual meals for a large, violently at odds, Danish family to eat whilst falling out spectacularly over the stomach churning subject of sexual abuse within the family. A definite case of the returning son Christian seriously spilling the beans and upsetting family apple cart.

In the play Saturday, Sunday, Monday by Eduardo De Filippo the Italian family cast do virtually nothing but eat beautiful Italian food on stage and, in between family rows, speak lovingly of Italian food throughout the entire play. When it has been performed worldwide the audiences leave the theatre drooling from sensory overload. Subsequently, it has been said that Pizza restaurants close to the theatres have experienced a massive upsurge in post theatrical dining! Who says that theatre doesn't influence people? Now, who had the dough balls?

In the musical Les Misérables the cast sing of terrible hardships and near starvation. M. Thenardier rejoices in his corruption of foodstuffs he offers to his guests and if Jean Valjean hadn't gone and stolen a loaf of bread to feed his sister's family he wouldn't have gone to jail. Therefore, there would be no story to tell at all. You see, one's vitals are often vital if a play is to succeed.

The comedy/drama Toast by Richard Bean and starring Matthew Kelly on its recent UK tour is set entirely in a troubled bakery in 1975 and examines the lives of the bakers who need to get a vital part of the baking machinery working or they could potentially lose their jobs.

There has recently been a new production in York called #ChipShoptheMusical that got excellent reviews. It is always a risk with any new show and Cod forbid it could've got a critical battering.

It isn't always meat from animals that gets eaten in shows. Sometimes the flesh is an acquired taste. Two prime examples would be the lovely human flesh meat pies in Sweeney Todd and the comically horrific revelation that Mam's lover Stuart has been chopped up and eaten in Lee Hall's dark comedy drama Cooking with Elvis.

If all this is making you hungry let's look at my very tongue in cheek A to Z of plays and things theatrical that feature food and drink. Enjoy.

A: Abigail's Party – a social nightmare of 1970s food and excessive drinking.

B: The Baker's Wife by Stephen Schwartz. Could also be called Burn 'em the musical.

C: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

D: The Dumb Waiter by Harold Pinter.

E: A Day In The Death of Joe Egg. A cracking play.

F: “Food Glorious Food” from Oliver!

G: Grease – a vital ingredient for cake making or frying as well as a popular musical.

H: Hair. An unwanted item in foodstuffs and also musical showing plenty of flesh.

I: The Iceman Cometh – Eugene O'Neill's family drama about a fridge breaking down.

J: Jack and the Beanstalk. A pantomime which can include optional custard pies.

K: The Kitchen by Arnold Wesker.

L: Little Fish – 2003 Off Broadway show.

M: Milk and Honey – musical by Jerry Herman.

N: Noises Off – references to sardines. Someone should pick up on this. Magazine title anyone?

O: Omelette – original title of Hamlet. Changed at the last minute when they ran out of eggs and found something meaty and Danish to present.

P: Picnic by William Inge.

Q: The place leading to the toilet after too many interval drinks.

R: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.

S: Spamalot by Eric Idle.

T: Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn.

U: Urinetown - the musical. Not strictly food and drink but certainly an after effect.

V: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show.

W: We Will Rock Cake You. Musical about the Queen of hard core baking.

X: Exit quickly stage left – when the pre-show curry suddenly has a dire effect.

Y: York Mystery Plays – Jesus does miracles with fish and wine yet is crucified for it.

Z: Zzzz is the sound people make falling asleep at the theatre after a big meal.

There were a few others that didn't make the final choice. These are A Cookery School For Scandal, The Government Hotel Kitchen Inspector, Spotted Dick Whittington, Blood Pudding Brothers and of course The Best Little Bakehouse in Texas.

Phil Lowe

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Trout eggs. Poor man's caviar.

Recently at work on the Tesco fish counter we have been encountering the brilliantly orange eggs (roe) of the rainbow trout as we gut and clean the fish for customers. I haven't had the 'guts' to actually eat any as caviar but have been impressed by their super shiny appearance. They are like little golden jewels. There are plenty of recipes for their preparation and eating on the internet and they are often spoken of as poor man's caviar. Try Pinterest too for recipes. The ones in the image below are some I photographed from trout I gutted at work.

Generally,with most caviar type products methods of preparation vary. The female roe is harvested, rinsed to remove the egg membrane, lightly salted, drained of excess liquid then packed. Many are also pasteurised to extend their shelf life by a few months. Most eggs are soft and translucent with a salty taste and grainy texture.

The Japanese enjoy the roe of the flying fish. It is called Tobiko and the delicacy is fast gaining international recognition. Like the trout roe it is naturally golden and although the flying fish roe can be served as a stand alone dish it is most often used as a garnish to sushi.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Rick Stein's Long Weekends DVD now available.

As I wrote in an earlier post linked HERE Rick Stein's superb book supporting his very popular television series Rick Stein's Long Weekends is available to order and now so is the fantastic series on DVD. I can't wait for mine to arrive in the post!

Both can be ordered through the Amazon links (below and in the banner at the top of the blog) in this blogpost and many hours of food and travel stories via the very popular TV food presenter and cook Rick Stein can be yours to enjoy. Bordeaux, Berlin and Cadiz have to be my top favourites and the Italian ones like Bologna have given me a few new dream holiday places to think about.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Happy New Year 2017 to all my readers.

I am delighted to wish all my lovely readers a very Happy New Year for 2017. Thank you very much for reading and sharing my blog posts on Mug Of Strong Tea. This morning my stats recorded that I am now getting 13k hits a month on this blog! Wow! Thank you too to those readers who have used the Amazon link at the top of the site for their various purchases.

For those readers who aren't aware I have also been writing a comedy blog for a few months and because the content isn't always about food the comical blog posts I write don't always fit onto this foodie blog. Lots of them do link in though and this one, recently posted, is about the Groundhog Day nature of my travels to work each day. Obviously the story is exaggerated for comic effect. Click on this LINK for my funny blogpost 'Is Your Day Getting More and More Like Groundhog Day?

If you like my 60plussittdowncomedy blog style do please follow and share.

Phil x

Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas Day dinner chez moi. Roast rib of beef and a brussel sprout free dinner.

After a very busy week at Tesco preparing whole salmon and a few mirror carp (Friday 23rd was especially busy) I had an early night on Christmas Eve after watching a Westworld on DVD. Starring Yul Bryner as the dangerous robot cowboy, the film was like the curate's egg - only good in parts. The computers in the Delos holiday resort operations room looked very dated with their spinning tapes and meaningless patterns on the computer screens. It is hard to think back as to why I liked the film and probably went to see it two or three times at the cinema in its original release. Anyhow, early to bed I trotted for a well deserved kip.

On Christmas Day morning I caught up with some clothes and bedclothes washing and ironing and put the oven on to cook my roast beef rib for Christmas dinner. The single bone rib was placed in a casserole with some cold water and some spices including cinnamon bark, cloves, star anise and a couple of bay leaves. I cooked it for two hours at gas mark 5 giving it a basting half way through the cook. I kept my dinner simple with some roast potatoes and a jar of baby carrots and petits pois. The gravy was made with a beef stock cube added to the cooking juices from the joint. A bottle of Prosecco saw me toasting a nice relaxed Christmas Day with Harris and Soufie - the cats from next door. Not a single brussel sprout entered my kitchen.

After dinner I listened to the Together album by Michael Ball and Alfie Boe and I watched the delightful Katherine Jenkins in a Christmas concert. After some French Fitou red wine from the Languedoc region I nodded off like one does on Christmas Day. In the evening I enjoyed another DVD of comedy by Bill Bailey. Part way through I realised I had seen it before but watched him until the end anyway.

During the day I rang my step mum to offer my seasonal best wishes and was also busy on my Samsung tablet wishing my friends a Merry Christmas. My lovely neighbour Jo popped round with some cat food and a few nice presents for me. This year I am cat sitting for a few days to help her out whilst she spends some time with her family in the Wirral. And now on a quiet Boxing Day morning I would like to wish a very 'Merry Christmas' to all my super readers. Phil Lowe

By the way: as well as working I reviewed at least eight Christmas shows in the East Midlands prior to the run up to the Christmas shopping frenzy at Tesco. Most of them are still running so if you are undecided what to go and see do check out my reviews at East Midlands Theatre.