Contains: Cowdygate, when foodie nonsense begins to grate, the songs that make Vlad mad, and Amazon goes grocery shopping
A version of this appeared in the Scottish Daily Mail May 17 2016
It’s over! Sad to hear that James McAvoy and Anne-Marie Duff have decided to call it quits after ten years of marriage; one of the latest casualties in a busy month for celebrity lawyers.
Drew Barrymore also announced she was breaking up with the father of her children after four years together, and Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne have admitted that they are now heading for the divorce courts. Ozzy confirmed the separation by biting the head off their solicitor. The Osbournes were married for 33 years, and Ozzy remembers almost five of them.
Meanwhile both Stewart Hosie and Angus MacNeil have ended their marriages after affairs with the same political journalist, Serena Cowdy. Even worse: Serena keeps a blog:
She also reveals why she doesn’t fancy being a politician; she just fancies them.
And she turned to Twitter to keep an eye on Angus, who sits on the Scottish Affairs committee, during the Independence Referendum.
“I really do get the impression that the SNP is a real warm family” she posted on Twitter, whilst breaking up two real families.
So having established that Serena has a type, who else might she be eyeing up?
Amazon has announced that it is going to start selling its own-brand groceries online from next month. Should supermarkets should be worried — after all Amazon is a £120billion company? Because Amazon is also a business that reacts to you buying a washing machine by going “THIS PERSON HAS BOUGHT A WASHING MACHINE. THEY MUST LOVE WASHING MACHINES. NOW I’M GOING TO BOMBARD YOU WITH EMAILS CONTAINING NOTHING BUT MORE WASHING MACHINES”
It’s cauliflower again, I’m afraid. There’s no escape from it nowadays.
100 years ago with meat in short supply it would have been Oxo on toast that would have been the food fad to complain about. 50 years ago it was fruit flan and fondue. 5 years ago I tried drinking green tea, even though it tastes like bitter tears and sproutwater.
Now it’s cauliflower — although you might not immediately recognise it at first glance. Cauliflower has become the Mike Yarwood of the food world. It’s sliced and deep fried as steak, grated to look like couscous or rice, or pureed into pretend mash potato. In Eating Well With Hemsley + Hemsley, it’s even faffed, blitzed and moulded with buckwheat and ground almonds into “pizza bases” with much the same earnest purpose that I used to make mudpies.
It’s just been announced that the BBC may close its common sense cookery website, leaving its 11,000 archive to fend for itself. Yet Hemsley meals — precious, expensive, and ridiculously labour intensive — have just been given a primetime slot on Channel 4.
Melissa and Natasha Hemsley are impossibly glamorous, impossibly chirpy sisters, who claim good health lies in a gluten, grain and refined-sugar free regime.
This means “bone broth” (meat stock to you and me), quinoa bars, and tons of disguised cauliflower. The Helmsley’s say their clients called them ‘food fairies’ because they go through cupboards swapping ordinary table salt for “proper sea salt” and substituting brownies with cakes made from sweetened mashed black beans.
How delicious! If I went into my kitchen cupboard and discovered that a Helmsley had swiped my biscuit tin and replaced it with something made from miso and legumes, then I too would have another name for the Helmsley’s.
You may wonder why they are waging war on grains anyway; wholegrains are good for us, and gluten is problematic for a minority who suffer with coeliac sprue.
And while the recipes sound healthy, some are not. The Hemsleys fuss about cheap sugar but often replace it with more exotic and expensive sugars, like date syrup or raw honey. Their ‘Guilt Free’ beany brownies contain 150ml of maple syrup, as well as 230g of “grass-fed” butter. If you listen closely, you can hear your arteries fold and surrender,
Most of us already know what constitutes proper balanced meals — that’s why President Obama once told a group of kids that his favourite food was broccoli. And then he probably said, “Is Michelle out the room now? Cool, because it’s really banoffee pie”
We may wish we led more nutritionally righteous lives, most of us eat like opportunistic seagulls because vice tastes better than virtue.
The Helmsley’s unconvincing solution is to trick our eyes and our palates by turning veg into strings of noodles with a gadget called a spiralizer. However if it’s spaghetti that you’re craving, then cold, raw strips of courgette just aren’t going to cut it.
Ironically, one vegetable which falls naturally into noodles is the spaghetti squash. As the name suggests, it’s very like spaghetti, but even by Hemsley standards it is also about as widely available as carb-free unicorn nipples.
Earlier this week, Donald Trump said that his proposed ban on Muslim immigration was a suggestion, rather than a firm policy idea.
That’s how we should view the Helmsley’s fetishised vegetarian fetuccinis and cauliflower crusts; a mere suggestion of pizza and pasta.
Just like The Donald carries a suggestion of hair.
A shop in New York is selling popcorn that has been soaked in wine. Apparently, that’s also how they’re getting people to sit through Sacha Baron Coen in Grimsby
Since the weekend, I’ve been troubled by two infuriatingly catchy songs, both of which are now lodged in my mind like stray harpoons.
However I can’t sing either of them, or at least not out loud, because the lyrics are way too odd. “Thunder and Lightning — it’s getting exciting!” enthused the man from Russia as he climbed around a Eurovision Song Contest set that felt like an ad for an energy drink.
The other song was in French, despite being the entry from Austria. A pretty Austrian trying to pass as French? That ended so well for Marie-Antoinette.
Neither of these won of course, and the UK slid to the bottom three after a voting system that made the Holyrood list election look like a model of simplicity.
While someone got out a sliderule and their algebra jotters, our Swedish hosts wheeled on Justin Timberlake to do a couple of songs and remind us that he had a movie coming out.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of the Eurovisions” he told us. This counts as the worst acting Justin has ever done; and I speak as someone who reviews both Southland Tales and Yogi Bear –The Movie.
Basically a three hour ad for Brexit, Eurovision’s message about setting aside our differences in order to achieve harmony didn’t seem to be choed by the public vote, which backed the Ukraine, and a song about a Stalin massacre with modern parallels almost as unsubtle as Georgia’s 2009 entry, We Don’t Wanna Put in.
Two things are now certain. Since the UK gave its highest marks to Georgia and Ukraine, I will be sleeping under the kitchen table until Mr Putin calms down. And next year you can depend on the trendspotters ensuring the contest is full of miserable yodels about the horrible things the Russians did to our grandparents
One of the odder social media campaigns at the moment is a drive to give Elsa from Frozen a girlfriend. That’s right: we’re pondering the sexuality of a cartoon character in a Disney film.
Actually, there’s nothing in the story to suggest that Princess Elsa isn’t gay, but the point of the film was that Elsa was a rare female character who didn’t require propping up by a girlfriend or boyfriend. And how refreshing that Elsa is neither odd or eccentric just because she’s self-sufficient and single.
It’s an important step: plenty of male characters exist without a love interest, but women are usually defined by their sexuality.
I’ve no beef with LGBT role models - although who wants to rely on a on multinational film studios to supply them — but Elsa’s struggle to hide her true self is already a metaphor for being gay.
Should all drama make its symbolism clunkingly explicit? Should Sunset Song’s Chris Guthrie walk around the Mearns announcing that that all the changes in her life mean she’s really Scotland in the early twentieth century?
Or should Tim Burton halt a scene in his upcoming Alice Through The Looking Glass so that his heroine can explain that although Lewis Carroll never took anything more bracing than a dose of aconite and arsenic for a stubborn case of the sniffles, a whole generation of filmmakers have embraced the stories to tune in and turn on some woozy drug allegories.