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This week's fiddle-faddle


Must be MC; they have a waxed jacket, says @heidistephens

Mini M&S 99p cheeses


Personalised gifts

Always luggage, never towels. Distinction c/o @ohchrisburton

Cheese toasties

Need a more grown-up name, says @Gary_Bainbridge

America's "grilled cheese"

Not good enough. Implies there's no bread involved

Croque Anglaise

Possible winner from @Robins_Books

Supermarket pasta salads

Always, always rubbish

Andrex's "rollaphobia" campaign

No, we do NOT leave loads of rolls around the house!


Grand and colourful; very MC

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    When is a gravy boat not a gravy boat?

    Is any other area so open to rebranding-through-language as food? In the modern world, the humble bun can be reborn as a muffin, fast food as street food, Shreddies reinvented as “Diamond Shreddies” merely by tilting them by 45 degrees.

    This process has been applied, we note with some sadness, to the traditional and surely much-loved gravy boat. Clearly feeling that gravy was too lumpen and 20th Century a concept, John Lewis has rebirthed its traditional table receptacle as a “sauce boat”. 

    This is to be regretted because, in our opinion, sauces belong in more upright, jug-like containers while the majesty of the elongated bath of a boat is merited by the brown, juicy magnificence of gravy alone. It also implies a downgrading of the importance of gravy – a grievous error because as any good mc knows, the ability to fashion a good gravy is one of those true tests of a chef’s mettle, like making bread and butter pudding and not overdoing the beef.  

    It hurts us to say this, John Lewis, but we are most disappointed in you. Not angry, you understand, just - disappointed.


    Sharp charcuterie: slipping the Lidl cooked meats into a buffet

    On the day that several established supermarkets posted declining sales figures I went to a small lunch party at a friend who lives in the suburbs of York. He is a great cook and the food was excellent, particularly the selection of salads and an ample plate of cooked meats. I asked about the origin of these two particular elements: “The Leon recipe book, and Lidl,” he said, and I noticed there was no joking about Lidl as there might have been a year or so ago. “Lidl have really good cooked meats. Cheap, but really good. Maybe because they’re German.”

    I’ve heard a similar thing said before, and it makes me realise how flexible people’s ideas about premium goods and quality can be; Lidl might be seen as a bargain basement, but that doesn’t stop people believing the stuff can be ok – or a good deal more than OK if the provenance works. Perhaps the likes of Tesco have rather forgotten that in recent years.

    Flickr: jasonlam

    On the fashion for filter

    For a long time now, middle-class coffee culture has worshipped the espresso and its frothier, milkier variants. Filter coffee has been a poor cousin in the coffee world: cheaper, blander, waterier and certainly less sophisticated. A bit too lo-fi to compare well with the mystique of the espresso machine, its high-tech chrome and dramatic sound-effects.

    That seems to be changing. In Small Batch – the nerve centre of Brighton’s middle-class coffee scene – filter coffee is now seriously challenging espresso in the coffee-fetish stakes. When it’s delivered to your table, it comes in an alchemical-looking beaker, slotted into its own special wooden tray, complete with a personal card giving the flavour notes (lingering floral tangerine acidity). And it’s pricier than its espresso counterpart too, overturning familiar coffee hierarchies from every point of view.

    So why is the filter-coffee tortoise starting to overtake the espresso hare? Filter does justify, to a greater extent, the term ‘hand-crafted’ which is now an essential descriptor on the coffee scene. While it’s hard to argue that an espresso can truly be hand-crafted, the new filter-coffee culture does look genuinely more artisanal, involving an almost medieval panoply of beakers, siphons and alembics, alongside a lengthy manual stirring and pouring process.

    In fact, it’s precisely this lo-fi nature that is now driving filter coffee’s ascendancy. The modernity of machines is losing its appeal and we all want to go back to the artisan’s workshop for a bit of hand-blended alchemy. 


    What does your lampshade reveal about you?  

    Just over 200 years since Sir Humphry Davy invented the arc lamp, and 100 since Thomas Edison developed those ideas into a practical domestic light source, the lightbulb has been causing as many problems as it solved. Namely, how best to keep it covered. So, how do you shade yours?

    Drum-shaped shade with a modern print – Maybe bold line drawings of leaves or foxes. In a colourway that goes with the rest of your studiously modern-but-homely home. The John Lewis home furnishings department makes you a bit excitable. As do the property pages of the local free magazine. You probably own a couple of Kilner jars.

    Modernist Danish shade, especially the Norm69 – It seemed like a good idea at the time. It would demonstrate that you truly appreciate design and can handle hard edges. No House and Garden for you. It’s Wallpaper* all the way. Unfortunately you didn’t realise how hard it would be to a) assemble, and b) dust.

    Baby Plumen bulb – the anti-shade. Just a bare (designer) bulb. Whoa, you really are urban! Lampshades are for wimps. This is a design classic and a philosophical statement. A piece of functional purity. It looks perfect in your loft apartment, ironically-industrial rural retreat or coffee-shop start up. 

    Plain white paper lantern – Only acceptable if you recently left home, or are a student or intern trying to make your rental pad feel more homely on a limited budget. 

    Light ‘fittings’ – These are not merely coverings to be slipped over an eco lightbulb and clipped to a plastic cable, these are complete ensembles hanging from their own chrome cables. It’s all about detailing. And being able to afford an electrician to install it. Which is why you are more a Heal’s customer than an Ikea one.

    Chandeliers – dismissed as being OTT, a bit ‘ideas above your station’, but that’s by people who don’t live in houses as big as yours. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of bling, as long as your interior designer offsets it with some more pared-back contemporary pieces. Which they have.

    Tapered shade – This used to be the only shape a lampshade came in. Which is why we’d now do anything to avoid it. Generally now only found in rental properties, or homes over-70 chintz-botherers. Which means an ironic revival must be imminent.


    How to be middle class in winter: ‘just put on a jumper’  

    It’s one of the perverse logics of British social class that the higher we aspire socially, the colder our homes tend to be. A middle-class home is often a chilly one in the bleak midwinter – and it’s not just bills or environmental dedication that play a part. Here are some of the more aspirational reasons behind the shivers being experienced across many MC homes this winter.

    MCs love period properties. The higher the ceiling, the better, which makes a home notoriously hard to heat. Best of all, you’re the proud owner of a listed building, which means double glazing is banned – an aesthetic atrocity anyway, if you’re MC. It’s far better to endure the frosty blasts that leak in through your authentic sash windows than submit to the indignity of PVC.

    MCs also like hardwood floors in the living room and granite slate in the bathroom, making for a chilly trip to the loo in the middle of the night. The cosiness of a fluffy wall-to-wall carpet is only for tropically over-heated bungalows and other such property nightmares.

    Above all, MCs love to be stoical and self-reliant. Rather than rely on the ease and cushiness of central heating, it’s much better to ‘just put on a jumper’. On a really cold day, it’s best to huddle around an open fire, which provides a gratifying extra level of hard work and hassle. If you’re MC, nothing should come too easy.