Category Archives: Food

The greatest mystery in all of China is to be found in a Northwood restaurant

I will be going to see more movies in the China Image Film Festival in London later today.

In round figures, there are 4,000 cinema screens in the UK.

In China – a vastly larger country – there are only 6,000 screens.

But, within the next five years, China will have 20,000 screens and will become the second biggest film industry in the world after the US – larger than India’s Bollywood. In the last year alone, there were 500 films made in China.

I had a meal in a Chinese restaurant in Northwood last night, not far from ’the bunker’, and got home to watch yet more on the BBC News channel about a world economic situation that is barely – or perhaps not – under control. All the ‘advanced’ countries seem to be in debt that will stretch decades into the future.

But China is sitting on vast amounts of money. The irony of a Communist country becoming rich on capitalism.

The last decade was all about China making things but the next decade will be all about China owning things.

Which reminds me of something a history teacher once said as a throwaway line at my school when I was about 13.

He said: “Civilisation and power moves westwards because invading armies have always ridden westwards, following the daylight.”

Trite, of course.

But, in the northern hemisphere, it is roughly true.

At the moment, power is moving from North America to the Pacific Rim (a phrase that always sounds to me like a dubious sexual practice).

What confuses me is that the Chinese are very expansionist of late.

They have been putting money into Africa, especially into very suspect regimes, for a couple of decades. They are building an aircraft carrier or, at least, have refitted a Russian one. They are now investing heavily in the West.

This seems very un-Chinese. The Great Wall was built to keep the uncivilised long-nosed foreign devils out and to preserve the integrity of China which, with quite a lot of justification, looked inward at itself as the only truly civilised place.

Japan was always the regional expansionist power, not China.

Of course, there was the invasion of Tibet in 1949, but that seemed an unfortunate exception to the rule and a knee-jerk reaction after Mao Tse-tung’s Communists took power.

It seems to be very un-Chinese to be expansionist. It is a great mystery.

Though, sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Northwood last night, it was secondary as a mystery in my mind to the greater ongoing mystery of why the Chinese – who, let’s face it,  invented pretty much everything – never invented the teacup handle not the knife-and-fork. And why on earth were chopsticks thought to be a good idea in a nation where the staple diet was and is based around small grains of rice?

Life is a constant mystery.

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Filed under China, Food, History, Movies, Travel

Could spaghetti-juggling have a future?

There are going to be two spaghetti-juggling events held as part of Malcolm Hardee Week at the Edinburgh Fringe in August and, last week, Alan from Johnstone got in touch with Tom Morton’s afternoon show on BBC Radio Scotland to say “Many years ago I discovered a unique talent while seated at the kitchen dining table…”

Yup.

It was spaghetti-juggling.

So the momentum is building, something that is always useful in the art – or possibly it is the science – of spaghetti-juggling

The two Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contests on 24th/25th August also now have a sponsor. The far-sighted Blue Moon cafe/bar in trendy Broughton Street, Edinburgh, has offered to supply spaghetti for the event.

Juggler Mat Ricardo’s enterprising chum Julie-ann Laidlaw also suggested to me the bright idea (which I will, of course, pretend was mine) that, in the spirit of turning food wastage into art, I should donate the remnants of the contest to someone who can craft a piece of sculpture out of the mess left behind.

I did contact Edinburgh College of Art about this but, apparently, they feel spaghetti-juggling is a wee bit beneath them.

So I am now open to offers – an e-mail to john@thejohnfleming will get me – food sculpting with the late Malcolm Hardee freely providing the pasta-based raw materials – remnants of 45 minutes of spaghetti-juggling on 24th/25th August at the Edinburgh Fringe.

If Tracey Emin can make her name with an unmade bed and Damien Hirst can become a millionaire on the back of a shark in formaldehyde, then spaghetti-sculpting could be the next big trend in Art.

Quite what we would do with the resultant piece of high art I don’t know, but my tendency would be to try to auction it off in aid of Scots critic and polymath Kate Copstick’s Mama Bashiara charity which is already set to receive any profits from the delights that are Malcolm Hardee Week.

The two debates, the two spaghetti-juggling contests and the two-hour variety show are being staged in Edinburgh as part of  the too-too wonderful Free Festival, so there’s no charge for participants or punters but, if they like what they see, an appreciative audience can bung money – coins or preferably notes – into a bucket.

So long as one does not lose one’s dignity.

I think that’s so important.

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Food, Radio, Theatre

Guinness Book of Records spurns spaghetti-juggling as “too specialised”

The ghost of late, great godfather of alternative comedy Malcolm Hardee must be turning in his urn.

The Edinburgh Fringe this August will host The Malcolm Hardee Spaghetti-Juggling Contest – Year One but, today, Guinness World Records cruelly dealt a bitter blow to spaghetti-juggling enthusiasts worldwide when they shockingly refused to recognise spaghetti-juggling as a legitimate event.

“While we certainly do not underestimate your proposal,” Guinness World Records write, “we do however think that this item is a little too specialised for a body of reference as general as ours. We receive many thousands of record claims every year and we think you will appreciate that we are bound to favour those which reflect the greatest interest.”

How can people not be fascinated or, indeed, be obsessed by spaghetti-juggling?

I am sure I read somewhere that Nero juggled spaghetti while Rome burned. He later spread the rumour he was playing the violin because he wanted to seem more cultured.

My lifelong hopes and dreams of spaghetti-juggling becoming a recognised, legitimate – perhaps even Olympic – sport may have been dented today, but they will not be so easily crushed.

Spaghetti-juggling may not be in the Olympics next year nor in 2016, but the stupidity and pointlessness of an idea should be no barrier to its acceptance as an event. This is Britain, where stupidity and pointlessness have been widely cherished for centuries. And still are.

Clay pigeon shooting.

Marmite.

I rest my case.

And spaghetti-juggling is an event in which Britain could take a decisive lead this August.

Throwing a javelin is a remarkably pointless thing to do in the 21st century, except possibly at Celtic v Rangers football matches. But people still get gold medals for it. Or arrested.

Spaghetti-juggling has the potential to rival javelin-throwing and curling – an Olympic sport which is basically just polishing ice as quickly as you can.

Spaghetti-juggling is the future for pointless sports. It has its days of glory ahead of it, starting this year at the Edinburgh Fringe Outside The Beehive Inn on 24th and 25th August.

Be there or risk missing the start of a cultural phenomenon.

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Why I may have a taste for cannibalism

So I have this chum called Franz Liszt…

No, of course I don’t. Who has a chum called Franz Liszt? But I have this chum who doesn’t want to be named. So let’s say I have this chum called Franz Liszt…

…and yesterday afternoon, over lunch, Franz asked me (this is absolutely true):

“If you had to eat somebody, who would you eat first? Someone you liked or someone you disliked?”

“Erm…,” I replied. “I guess someone I didn’t like. For one thing, you’d have to dismember the body, which wouldn’t be very nice if you liked the person.”

“But,” Franz countered, “If you liked the person, it would be as if a bit of that person was perpetuated by being inside you.”

“But,” I said, “after a few days, you would shit them out and that might make you feel a bit disrespectful.”

“You wouldn’t want someone you didn’t like inside you, though,” Franz persisted.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to eat a tasteless comedian,” I said. “It’s a bit like chicken, I think.”

“Chicken?”

“Human flesh,” I said. “I think I’ve read or heard people who have eaten human flesh and it’s a bit like chicken.”

“I wouldn’t know,” said Franz.

“Ah,” I said. “I thought maybe you might.”

“No,” he said.

Then, after a long pause, he added:

“Do you like the taste of chicken?”

“Sometimes,” I replied.

In fact, I do.

A lot.

Now it’s a worry to me.

Life. Don’t talk to me about life.

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Filed under Comedy, Crime, Food