I thought In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food might be a bit on the dry side, but it turned out to be a rip roaring trek through food taboos since the year dot. After reading the section on the Aztecs and chocolate, I'll never look at a bar of fruit and nut the same way again. Highly recommended.



This man makes my kind of salad: baked aubergine with halloumi and mint; chickpea and chilli; fig, San Daniele and mint; and crab, cucumber and peach. Can't wait to try them out...


Global rations

Hot on the heels of the revelation that the US army has developed bread and sandwiches that last for three years, comes the news that the British army is rejigging its emergency rations. Beef stew and dumplings are on the way out, to be replaced by chicken balti with rice, and meatballs with pasta.


Chain reaction

Now you can catch up on the Starbucks gossip - somebody has to monitor America's favourite drug dealer according to Jim Romenesko. It's probably the UK's favourite one too, judging by the numbers of them that seem to have appeared recently. Although at the moment, Newcastle is being inundated with Subways rather than coffee shops. From a standing start of none about 18 months ago, there's now four. Maybe our local student population is going off the idea of kebabs...


Fatty Chef

It may be taking the desire to slim down slightly too far - the Little Chef logo has been declared too portly, and has been redesigned. Maybe Colonel Sanders or Ronald McDonald will be the next in line for a makeover.


Sad news

Julia Child has died in Santa Barbara, at the age of 91.


I ate what must have been the worst chicken Caesar salad in the world yesterday. Huge chunks of chicken, pale anaemic bacon (??), fatty croutons and some sad soggy leaves of lettuce, drowned in an absolute slick of dressing. All for the ridiculous price of £6.90. And it wasn't in a motorway service station - it was in a fairly decent pizzeria in Jesmond - somewhere you'd expect to have (a) good ingredients and (b) the knowhow to put them together. I won't be going back to Avanti again.



Where to start...well, been away at the Big Chill down in the south, and then spent ages working on the pie-man.com website, and then it's just rained. Solidly for about a week, it feels like. So no news from the world of food for a while folks. Apologies. To make up for it, a random selection of links

Ooh, and the chillies arrived from the Spice of Life in Aberdeen. The chipotles are fab - huge and fat and black. And I've got a tantalising envelope of sumac, just waiting for me to do something middle eastern with. Possibly in conjunction with the preserved lemons, which have been sitting on the kitchen worktop preserving away for just over a month now.