Fudz yesterday

Yesterday I spent most of the day working in the library at Oxford University Press’s (OUP) venerable headquarters (they’re the UK publishers of WEIT). It’s the world’s largest university press, one of the oldest (founded in the early 1600s), and now located in a huge old building on Walton Street that was finished in 1825. It’s a lovely place, with a central garden and nice facilities.

Here’s the main entrance on Walton Street; the person standing in the arch is my friend and editor, Latha Menon, renowed for her work in trade science books. She’s a wonderful editor, as many of her authors know, and is also in charge of their best-selling science book, The Selfish Gene (did you know that was an OUP book?)

But after a few hours of “labour,” it was time for lunch, and fortunately OUP is within easy walking distance of three gerat pubs: the Lamb and Flag, the Eagle and Child and the Royal Oak. Of these, the Eagle and Child is most famous, for it was where the “Inklings“—the writers’ group that included C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien—used to meet, drink, and discuss their work.

Over the years I’ve gone to both the Lamb and Flag and Eagle and Child many times, but Latha suggested that we repair to the Royal Oak, only half a block north of the others.  It turned out to be a good choice, for both the ales and food were better than those two other vaunted pubs, which are jammed with tourists at lunchtime.  The Royal Oak, while just as atmospheric as the others, had plenty of room in its warren of small rooms.

This is what you want to see when you enter a pub: a decent array of cask ales with hand pumps.  After due discussion with the bartender, and sampling a couple (they’ll give you a taste if you’re unsure), I decided on Sharp’s Doom Bar, as I wanted a “session pint” (something good that you can drink several of without bloating) that was delicious but not too hoppy—something like my favorite pint, Taylor’s Landlord. (Americans think that a microwbrew is not “real” unless it’s reeking with hops, and we tend to overhop our hand-crafted ales.)

Upon discussion with the woman dispensing beer, I was heartened: I asked her if they ever got Landlord, and she gave me a long spiel about how they got it occasionally, but didn’t like to keep it because they had a small cellar and they had to let the beer settle for three days after the cask arrived so it could be served in good condition. That let me know that they were serious about their ale, and they were.  The ales were superb, and I chose Sharp’s Doom Bar bitter: a fine pint. It was delicious, of medium body, well-kept, and lovely.  Look at this beautiful amber drink!:

England’s greatest glory

The food was equally good: for £8.95 you could choose two courses, either a starter and a “main”, or a main and dessert. I had the former. opting for Caesar salad and sausage and mash. One needs substantial British food to go with a good pint, and it was cold outside.

The Caesar salad was great: almost a meal in itself.  While I eschewed the malodorous anchovies, it was also full of hunks of chicken and shavings of real Parmesan cheese:

The sausage and mash was also great: three plump and savory sausages resting on a bed of real mashed potatoes, dressed with lashings of gravy. It was a LOT of food, and oy, was I full afterwards.

So, if you make your way to Oggsford, I would recommend both the Royal Oak and the Turf Tavern as your pubs of choice, for both have really good food and a good selection of well-kept ales.  (The Turf is also known for its variety of ales and cask ciders; they usually have at least a dozen on tap.)

I had dinner as the guest of Professor Dawkins at New College, and it was great fun. We sat at the High Table, with Richard wearing the obligatory gown for Fellows, and had a nice meal with both red and white wine (begun, by custom, with grace in Latin).  I did not take any pictures, as that wouldn’t have been seemly, but Richard was in fine nick and is working on an autobiography.

96 Comments

  1. Duncan
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    Now I’m starving. Those sausages look very nice. And that pint…..

    It’s 8.24am and I’m ogling a pint.

    • Miles_Teg
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      I’m always a bit nervous about sausages. I’ve heard too many stories about what goes into them, including from a former butcher’s shop assistant.

      • Dominic
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:58 am | Permalink

        Why? In most countries people used to eat virtually all of an animal, offal, numbles, black pudding etc. In Italy it is common to eat half a sheep head at Easter, with its eye staring up at you accusingly. It is all cooked, so what is the problem?!

        • Miles_Teg
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

          Yeah, I know. They eat dog in some countries, but I suspect even Jerry wouldn’t touch that. I loathe black pudding, brains, etc but happily eat kangaroo tail soup, liver and kidneys. The guy I knew who worked in a butchers shop dropped some sausage mince on the floor, and started scooping it into the bin. The guy in charge saw him and reprimanded him, and told him to take the mince from the bin and make sausage from it.

          I’m happy with sausage from reputable vendors, but even then try not to think about its journey from the slaughterhouse to my plate.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

            You left haggis off your list of food you’d rather not read the ingredients list.
            Not being a geographer of food (not even a terribly attentive user), I suspect that every country in the world has at least one “peasant food” dish that epitomises the Yorkshire diktat to “use everything from the pig except the squeal”.
            And having tried a good few, they’re generally good. Honest food that does what you need of it, without needing a fancy-shaped plate, spices and condiments everywhere, and the distractions of a buxom serving wench.
            So … tonight do I make Russian (Tartar) “mante” for dinner, or roast something with Real Yorkshire Pud? That’s not the stuff you have to tie down in high winds, but the stuff that you can freeze and use as a shield against a black belt in Eckythump.

            • Dominic
              Posted November 22, 2012 at 3:44 am | Permalink

              Lost on many I expect! Eckythump! ;)

              • gravelinspector
                Posted November 22, 2012 at 4:51 am | Permalink

                Eeee, bah goom!

      • Graham
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:00 am | Permalink

        Speaking as a butcher’s son, I know that some butchers use their sausage as a dumping ground to grind up any old rubbish they couldn’t otherwise sell. Notice how cheap supermarket sausage-meat is extremely finely ground? That’s so you don’t taste the individual bits of lord-knows-what that they’ve put in it.

        On the other hand any butcher wanting to make a name for himself will only put good ingredients into his sausage and will be good to eat, without wondering whether you’re ingesting offal. Same applies to mince or any other ‘meat’ where you can’t see the original pieces.

        There are several good butchers in Oxford Covered Market and any city centre pub with a reputation for good food is probably buying sausage from one of those.

        The continued existence of Oxford’s Covered Market is a minor miracle. Left to market forces, being in a central location it ‘should’ have been replaced years ago by something earning more revenue. Fortunately common sense has prevailed and the market is still in business, both as a facility for locals and a tourist attraction.

        • gravelinspector
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          One of my friends tells a tale of being a schoolboy during the War (WW2) with an after school job as a butcher’s assistant . One of his jobs was to feed the mincer for making the sausages. So he knew exactly what went into them (this was at the Co-Op, by the standards of the day an honest butcher, due to being a customer-owned business). After doing his couple of hours work, he’d get “some messages” for his Mum with the family ration book and go home, making deliveries on the way.
          One time he decided to separate the good bits of meat from the feedstock, and use them to make a round (length?) of “good” sausages for his mum. So he did that (and everyone else got slightly more bread / fat / squeal in their sausages that day), and sneaked his package of “special sossies” in with the regular “messages”.
          Mum wasn’t pleased – she thought the sausages tasted foul and gave him a right ticking off for “getting the wrong ones” and “wasting our meat ration for the week!”

          • Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

            Your friend might have left out the fat.

            A good sausage is at least 20% fat, and preferably 25% and sometimes even more. Less fat, and it’s dry and has no taste.

            That’s why the sausages at Whole Foods, expensive as they are and made only from the best ingredients, aren’t worth the intestines they’re cased in. And the same applies to most other sausages sold in similar stores…Trader Joe’s springs to mind, for example.

            Many of the modern pre-packaged sausages make up for the lack of fat with excessive amounts sugar as well as various “texturizers.” Frankly, I’d much rather eat what your friend was making, questionable bits of the hog and all.

            I understand there’s a butcher not too terribly far away over the Phoenix border that makes quality European-style sausages. I need to give them a try to see if it’d be worth going that far away to shop…everywhere I currently shop is in the exact opposite direction from my home, and closer.

            b&

            • gravelinspector
              Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

              On my wife’s first visit to the UK, on her first day we were being relaxing (jet lag in the bad direction) so went for a wander through some of the local villages – 600 year old ironstone cottages and so forth – then onto a bit of Saturnalia shopping. We took lunch in the cathedral tea rooms, because she likes that sort of thing. Lunch … well, after I described what a “sausage roll” is, we had that.
              Her comment, after one mouthful, was “This is not ‘sausage’!”
              Which I couldn’t deny.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        I hope it was only a finger from the butcher’s assistant!

  2. Duncan
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    Excellent news about Prof Dawkins’ autobio. When’s yours coming out Jerry? I’ll buy it.

    • Dominic
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:59 am | Permalink

      A travelogue with catz! Wha would it be called?

      • js
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        Catz and fudz.

        • Marella
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

          +1

  3. Paul Spence
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:59 am | Permalink

    I’m really glad you enjoyed the beer. It’s odd that in all my years as a student at Oxford I never visited the Royal Oak. My favourite was the Turf Tavern. I lived in the US for 18 years and visited many microbrew pubs and you are quite right. They haven’t got the taste right (for a Brit at least).

  4. limey
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:29 am | Permalink

    Oh I do love a pint of Doom Bar, good choice sir.

    • Dermot C
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:25 am | Permalink

      Yeah, Doom Bar’s a good ‘un, from Cornwall.

      Dunno if I’ve posted this before but I like the story.

      Lewis, proof-reading Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings as the latter was writing it – “Oh no, not another f**king elf!”

      • Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

        Another good Cornish brew is Tribute, in my humble opinion (brewed by the St Austell Brewery). Very crisp. Ummm…

  5. Finbarr
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Ah, Doom Bar! One of my favourite ales, clearly you have good taste. I don’t know if you can get it in the pubs in Oxford, but in Cambridge you can occasionally find some excellent ales by Woodforde’s (a local microbrewery) including Wherry and Nelson’s Revenge. Both are definitely worth a try if you manage to find them!

  6. Dominic
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    One whiff of the barmaid’s apron eh?

    PS It doesn’t get cold in this bloody country! Well, not so I have noticed. I hardly ever wear a coat now…

    • gravelinspector
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      As the Noggins say, there is no such thing as bad weather ; only bad clothing.
      (Which is why I like the fact that Arctic service helicopter survival suits are made by Helly Hansen : confidence inspiring.)

  7. Kevin Anthoney
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Hate to be picky, but those are hand pumps, not gravity pumps. A “gravity pump” is just a tap stuck directly into the barrel – very traditional, but if the barrel is kept in the cellar the bar staff have to keep going down there to get your pint, and if it’s kept behind the bar the beer warms up too much.

    If you find yourself in Manchester – I think you’re going to Denton – try out the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road. It’s a typical city pub – i.e. not the prettiest you’ll ever see – but it’s the Marble Brewery Tap, so there’s a huge range of ales from different micro breweries, especially Marble itself, of course.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:15 am | Permalink

      Indeed; I’ve corrected it, thanks. And I believe that Matthew took me to the Marble Brewery tap when I was in Manchester a few years ago. A really nice pub!

  8. Graham
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the Royal Oak recommendation, and thanks for describing Oxford with a visitor’s eye and reminding me how lucky I am to live here.

  9. Dawn Oz
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Can we have a photo of you and Richard Dawkins together?

    • gravelinspector
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      “Video or it didn’t happen!”

  10. TJR
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Who would have thought that Jerry would ever put up a post praising *British* food?

  11. Chris
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Nice looking lunch. A lot of the better pubs do really nice food (am thinking about a couple of my nearer hostelries in south-east London and drooling a bit, my local also having 8 guest ales on tap).

    Doom Bar is not a bad pint either. Maybe not my first choice but definitely worth a thought if available.

    As for hoppy beers, I like it in IPAs and other paler ales but it’s definitely a bit cloying in darker brews.

  12. HaggisForBrains
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    A word of warning while you’re over here, Jerry.

    I’ve hesitated to mention this before, but in some parts north of the border the word fud (rhymes with thud) can refer to the female genitalia. Just one of the amazing number of words we have for body parts we’re not supposed to mention.

    Please guys – that’s not a request for a list.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Will you allow one, in the same vein? William Safire, Nixon’s former speechwriter who went on to write the wonderful On Language column for the NYT for many years, once toyed with the idea of referring to to all the redneck conservatives of the country as Merkins until he discovered the archaic (Shakesperean era, IIRC) meaning.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Yes, I know that one, and use it when feeling cheeky. I think it was Dubya who always sounded as if he was addressing “My fellow Merkins”.

        Colin.

  13. gbjames
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    Green with jealousy, I must go pick up a bottle of Taylor’s Landlord this evening and pretend it was pulled in a pub.

    • JBlilie
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

      I’m going to have that the next time it’s on offer. I’ve never had it.

    • Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Taylor’s landlord is a great IPA one of my favourites. Right now I’m drinking some Skinner’s Betty Stoggs, very nice too. Usually you can get a 3 for 2 in Tescos or Waitrose on one of these, or something equally interesting, which makes the habit a bit more economical.

      • gbjames
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        Tescos and Waitrose are a bit far away from me for regular shopping… nearly 4,000 miles too far away! ;)

  14. JBlilie
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    “Americans think that a microwbrew is not ‘real’ unless it’s reeking with hops, and we tend to overhop our hand-crafted ales.”

    Right on, Dr. C.!!

    Seriously, if I never smell or taste another Cascades Hop in my life, that will be fine with me.

    Oy, we could sure learn something from British Ale makers. And Belgian, Polish, Czech, and Franken beer/ale makers.

    I think it’s the same with wines: We make them overripe and over-oaked (generally, with notable exceptions.)

    And with coffee: Starbucks is burnt, not roasted.

    • gbjames
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      Word!

    • JBlilie
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      It’s a reaction to “American Light Lager” the piss that passes for the huge majority of beer in the US.

      So, the craft makers went as hard in the other direction as possible. The other thing is: IMO, the entire craft brewing business in the US is child of Charlie Pappazian and his book, The Jot of Homebrewing. He inspired more than one generation of brewers and almost every brewmeister in the US started out as a home brewer. This also tends to make the brews more over-the-top.

      Jimmy Carter is denigrated for many things; but please remember that he signed the home brewing legislation into law in 1978. This revolutionized US brewing. Lift your glasses to Pres. Carter.

      • JBlilie
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

        Joy of Homebrewing

      • Hempenstein
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        Not to detract from Jimmy Carter at all, but let’s remember Fritz Maytagfor his pioneering contributions with Anchor Steam, too.

        • JBlilie
          Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

          Agreed. He did yeoman’s work keeping a real beer going through the valley of the shadow of death.

      • Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        And who can forget Billy Beer?

        I was much too young to have actually partaken of it, so I have no clue if it was at all worth drinking….

        b&

      • gravelinspector
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        but please remember that he signed the home brewing legislation into law in 1978. This revolutionized US brewing.

        I don’t know of this tale ; I’m guessing that one of the offshoots of the Prohibition (1918, IIRC?) which effectively banned making beer at home. Which, in the context of a Prohibition, makes sense (or rather, without it, an attempt at Prohibition makes no sense what so ever).
        How did it (the law) handle breadmaking?
        As a side-thought, how many people here could NOT make a home distillery given an hour to think about how to do it, and access to a standard hardware store?

        • Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          It is perhaps unsurprising that it is illegal in the States to grow opium poppies.

          However, you will find many gardens with a few “bread seed poppies” in them. Beautiful flowers, and one plant will make enough seeds to fill your spice jar.

          Not many gardeners (publicly) realize what any botanist would know in an instant: they’re the exact same species.

          What’s more, the California Poppy, the state’s official wildflower and a protected species, also produces opiates, though not quite as much or as profitably. The Mexican Poppy, too, and they grow by the roadside here in Arizona as well as in many front yards.

          Despite all that, I have never heard of anybody making heroin from home-grown poppies of any variety.

          What we’re about to find out in Washington and Colorado is that you’ll soon see casual gardeners openly growing a couple marijuana plants, and much of their crops winding up back in the compost pile just like any other prolific garden herb (such as anything in the mint family). Those growers will be little different from people who brew beer at home, and they’ll get wasted as often as home brewers get drunk — that is, occasionally, but rarely. Instead, they’ll enjoy a modest amount, a single “serving,” with some regularity, and that’s it.

          This is in stark contrast with those who currently grow marijuana in residential neighborhoods. They’re illicitly doing commercial growing of high-volume high-potentcy cash crops, in a perfect parallel with those who distilled moonshine during the Prohibition Era. Neither is healthy either personally or for society, and both are prevalent only in conjunction with prohibition.

          Arizona already has a medical marijuana law. I have no intention of partaking, myself, but I’m really hoping that we’re one of the next ones to follow in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington. Mexican drug cartels are a real problem here, what with that big stretch of border and all, and I’d really like to see them put out of business.

          And, as a newly-minted Master Gardener, nothing would tickle me more than to help a neighbor how to grow weed rather than weeds. We’ve got too much weedy gravel on the block now (including my place); more green would be a good thing.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • gbjames
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

            It’s all a matter of framing. Pitch the idea this way. “Legalized marijuana will help catch illegal aliens.”

            A sure bet to pass the legislature and be signed into law lickety-split. Probably doesn’t matter if it makes any sense or not.

            • Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

              You know? That’s really not a bad idea.

              It’ll have to wait a year or so for the dusts to settle after the Washington and Colorado laws go into effect. But that’ll make for a great letter to the editor during the 2014 election cycle.

              b&

              • JBlilie
                Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

                I enjoyed home-grown in Alaska in the 1980s. It’s much as you describe (predict) Ben: Many mildly buzzed people having fun together. Nothing serious.

                I hope WA will be the same — since I will be retiring there! I’m sure this will be true amongst my friends. We also make wine and beer — very good wine and beer.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

            I had a friend – deceased a couple of years ago – who nearly lost his job thanks to that “poppy seed bread”. Years as a trade union activist, and one day when the flight to work is delayed he gets a roll (with seeds) from the airport airside canteen ; gets out to the rig, immediate piss test (it was strange how, whenever it was a “random test”, it was almost always the trade union members and safety representatives who got tested ; strange that) which showed opiates. Fired on the spot.It took over a year of industrial tribunals to force him to be re-employed on the grounds of the “poppy seed bread” containing significant opiates (we had piloting associates take samples from the same batch at the same counter that day – fast work guys, and thanks!). We also forced them to make the piss tests universal – everyone gets tested or no-one gets tested – which severely their effectiveness for harassment.
            It still rubs, angrily.
            Is Arizona damp enough that you can afford all the water that you’re pouring on the garden? We have the opposite problem (most of the time), but I hear that it’s a real issue in a lot of the SW. FSM-hell ; Chaco Canyon and all that jazz.

            • Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

              “Is Arizona damp enough that you can afford all the water that you’re pouring on the garden?”

              It’s no problem if you have the right kind of garden. Many of the native trees, cacti, agaves, and yuccas can survive with little or no irrigation, and established non-native dryland fruit trees (figs, citrus, pomegranates, apricots, etc.) need surprisingly little water, especially if they’re in a sheltered, well-chosen location.

              • gbjames
                Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                I think this was more about how well a marijuana crop might fare.

              • gravelinspector
                Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

                Ben had recently mentioned putting an irrigation system into the garden, so it’s fairly plain that he’s not planting drought-resistant species. Of course, if he’s in a metered water area ($0.0x per gallon), that’s very much his look out.
                But there are abundant reports of looming water shortages all over the “civilized” world, including significant amounts of SE England, SW USA … which is the main thrust of my question ; not the water demands of a house full of skunk weed.

              • Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

                Not sure whether “skunk weed” applies to my yard or Ben’s, LOL! No weed here. Just beautiful native oaks, barrel cacti, agaves, jojoba, chiltepins, flowering shrubs for half a dozen species of hummingbirds…plus pomegranates, citrus, passionflowers, and lots of rocks (ours is a two-geologist household).

                Water has always flowed toward money in the western U.S. This is a huge many-tentacled environmental issue, though mostly ignored at the moment.

              • Posted November 21, 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

                First, on the subject of poppies and drug tests.

                When I taught at Motorola University, their award-winning catering chef also ran the cafeteria, and she’d regularly use it to try out new recipes. She really liked poppy seeds, but was frustrated that she could never use them for exactly the reason of drug tests. I think she wasn’t even allowed to have them in the kitchen.

                Also, my mom once upon a time for a brief while did the lab work for drug testing at the local jail. One day, she tested herself after having eaten a bagel topped with poppy seeds. Had she been on the other side of the bars, the judge would have thrown the book at her.

                Now, to water.

                There’s no doubt but that water is a precious and rare resource here in the Sonora Desert.

                Except that, unless you’re a wildlife conservationist or a public works official, there’s not even a hint of the fact.

                Arizona is a significant grower of cotton and lettuce and roses and even citrus. We have huge golf courses everywhere, and every block has at least a few backyard swimming pools. It’s not uncommon for most houses on a block to have a pool. While desert landscaping prevails, lawns are still common.

                I personally pay under ten dollars a month for the water portion of my municipal services bill, and about half that in related wastewater fees. My water and sewage portion combined are frequently less than the $12 I pay in service line insurance. (Indeed, that insurance is the biggest single line item on the bill.)

                I don’t have the garden in, yet, but I could put 50,000 gallons on it per month and still have a municipal services bill less than my telecommunications bill. That’s more water than in a typical backyard swimming pool.

                Indeed, my biggest water-related concern for the garden isn’t water usage, but salt buildup. I’m toying with the idea of using ollas for irrigation…you (mostly) bury an unglazed pot, fill it with water, and the water seeps through the clay and into the dirt. Except, rather than a bunch of pots, I’m thinking of adapting a below-ground rainwater capture system and using a permeable (possibly thin brick) lining instead. I’ve still got a lot of research to do on that front.

                And there are lots of absolutely beautiful plants native to the Sonoran desert. Go to any of the region’s riparian areas and imagine duplicating that in your home. It wouldn’t take even a noticeable amount of water consumption…and, as a bonus, you’d have a wildlife habitat the envy of the area — a bird-watchers paradise, right in your own home.

                The current plan is for a Victory Garden in the front, and that sort of a wildlife habitat in the back, with some exotic fruit trees in the back thrown in for good measure. But nothing’s set yet, and it’ll still be a little while before I’m ready to start digging.

                But soon….

                b&

    • Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      I love coffee, but I hate what it does to me. So, every few months or so, I’ll treat myself to a cup with breakfast and really, really enjoy it.

      I know not what they serve at Starbucks, but it most emphatically is not coffee. I’ve only had a couple cups over the years, and I don’t think I had more than a few polite sips.

      Ironically enough, when I make my morning tea, I pour the pot into a Starbuck’s insulated coffee mug, and then dispense the tea from the mug into a small Chinese teacup. It’s a wonderful stainless steel vacuum thermos, dishwasher-safe and all.

      b&

    • Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      Thank God!

      I thought I must have been the only person on the planet who doesn’t like Starbucks, for precisely the reason you mention.

      As far as large chains go, Caribou and Dunn Bros are much better.

      • JBlilie
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        Hear, hear! I’m from the Twin Cities (of MN) and we drink both of those: Real coffee!

        • Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

          Fellow Twin Citian, here!

          Say, you’re not a physics professor, are you?

  15. Notagod
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I suspect it is about time, isn’t it?

    begun, by custom, with grace in Latin

    http://www.obhikkhu.com/2011/06/there-is-no-god-and-no-soul/

    Pierre-Simon Laplace the great French Mathematician had no need for God in his mathematics. One day he placed in the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte a copy of his “Celestial Mechanics”. The Emperor of The French, being himself a mathematician, naturally read the book with great interest. When La Place called on him again, Napoleon told him that he found his book quite interesting. “I find only one fault with your book,” said the Emperor, “there is not a single mention of GOD.” La Place replied: “My Celestial Mechanics is quite complete without God.”

    I can only hope that no heads were bowed?

  16. Pete UK
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Doombar still tastes good, but early last year Sharps was acquired by gargantuan piss-manufacturer Coors. I tremble for its future.

    I’m delighted that the Lamb and Flag is evidently rated. In my day althhough it was cheap, and convenient for escaping the organic chemistry lab at lunchtime, it served only keg beer – and one of the most unpleasant beers I ever sampled, at that: Watney’s Star. I would have settled for Coors then.

  17. jiten
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Do guests have to wear gowns too?

  18. Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Didn’t know that the Selfish Gene was still a bestseller. I haven’t had much success in getting my friends and family to understand it, beyond being confused by the title. Going to try Magic Of Reality this Christmas I think, in my continuing quest to educate my family. But don’t imagine I’m going to get many ecstatic thank you letters.

  19. Pete
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    All looks delicious.

    However, I have no idea what people are talking about in saying American ales are overhopped. The primary reason for this is because American brewing is incredibly diverse. If you’ve found that all the American ales you’ve tried are overhopped perhaps you might try ordering something that is not labeled IPA. If IPAs are not for you then there are innumerable alternatives.

    Personally, I love American IPAs. Some more than others. American brewing would be much worse off if they went away.

    And I’m not alone. A few years ago, while attending a tasting session hosted by the late, great Michael Jackson, he confided that he believed US brewing was world class (I agree) and that everytime he came to the States he made every effort to find himself a Tupper’s Hop Pocket.

    Cheers.

    • Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure that Michael Jackson would be the first name that came to mind when one was considering who might be a good judge of ale!? Perhaps one of those darts players, such as Eric Bristow, would be a better judge, if quantity of sampling were considered to be a relevant issue.

    • JBlilie
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but. I doubt there are very many people in the US who have tasted more beers than I have (US domestic and world). And here’s what I find:

      1. Almost always (same caveqat throughout) over-hopped. Way too much resiny hops and bitterness. Now I love a good, bitter beer — sometimes. Not all the time.
      2. Use of only one hop variety: Cascades
      3. Rarely match their yeast to the brewing style (with some very notable exceptions like Ommegang in NY state)
      4. Insufficient malt flavor for the style
      5. Too carbonated
      6. From brewer to brewer much too much similarity. This shouild eventually sort itself out; our brewing is very young.

      And continue to try US brews and I just continue to find the same tastes, again and again.

      One notable exception: Ommegang brewery in NY state. They hit the Belgian ale styles very close. Excellent work. (Unibroue in Quebec is also excellent; obviously not in the States.)

      I seek balance. I find in European and UK brews (mainly).

      Beer Heaven (IMO) lies in three places: Belgium, the UK, and Franken in Germany. There’s more variety in beer flavor in any single Landskreis in Franken than in the entire US. Every village has its (ancient) brewery and antive yeasts, local grain and hops, and every village’s beer tastes different (and wonderful).

      I’ve never had a US micro that tasted anything like a real UK cask-conditioned, hand-pumped ale. I keep looking forward to the day I do …

      • gbjames
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Be sure to post here when you find that elusive beer!

        I read on a page for a microbrewery in small town southwestern Wisconsin that we may see more UK-style (more malt less hops) in the near future because of rising hops prices. I don’t know if that is true or not. Hope so.

        • Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

          I find it very interesting to be reading all these comments about US ale breweries. Very interesting indeed. As a fella who resides on the other side of the pond, I wish you the best of luck with it all! I was under the impression the US was dominated by lagers so it’s great to hear otherwise. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before gbjames’ ‘elusive’ beer appears. :-)

          • gbjames
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

            It’s not as dire as we make it sound. We do have an awful lot of choice these days when compared to, say, twenty years ago. But when you go to a store with a large variety, over-hopped IPAs dominate. I’ve been trying to seek out brews that try to be UK-ish. One I’ve found is from Sand Creek Brewery in Black River Falls, WI. It is called, appropriately, “English Pale Ale”.

      • Pete
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        Briefly:
        1. You must not be tasting enough ales. Go have a nut brown with Willamette hops.
        2. Simply incorrect.
        3. A little diversity’s ok. May not pass muster with those German “purity” laws but what the heck.
        4. I often find American ales that are too malty for me. But, alas, that’s a matter of taste.
        5. Agree. American beers definitely more carbonated than British ales. But I can often find a nice cask conditioned ale on tap at an American bar.
        6. I suspect that on any measured scale there’s probably more uniformity across brewers in England and Germany than in US.

        Ommegang: agree. They’re very good.

        Beer heaven? I’ll take CA. But, then again, I do really enjoy the citrus/floral characteristics of those Cascade (and Centennial and Amarillo) hops.

        I really could use Sierra Nevada (or a Red Seal) ale right now.
        Cheers.

      • Kotvin
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        I work in the beer industry in Portland Oregon and can assure you there are many people who have tasted more beer than you. Now it’s true that we in the Northwest enjoy our hops but the most sought out beers are not hopped exclusively with Cascades. The big breweries who are mass producing use Cascade as they cheaper due to the size of the cone. Fuggles, Simcoe, Willamette, Crystal, Armarillo (my personal favorite), Cluster, Columbus, Nugget is a short list off the top of my head of hops sought out by brewers in the U.S.

        As for breweries matching the yeast to the style also not true. We have breweries using exclusively Belgian and French strains for Farmhouse beers. We have breweries dedicated to German style beers. Not to mention the sours. And nearly all breweries and reputable brewpubs here have a few cask conditions beers available; hand pulled and all.

        Ommegang is a great pioneer in the craft brewing industry but if you take a closer look I think you’ll discover a terrific variety of beers to choose in the U.S. today.

  20. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    If you were at OUP, you should have popped into ‘Jude The Obscure’, just up from OUP on Walton Street. Good food and always a few good beers to chose from.

  21. Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Oxford – beautiful town.

    Boy have you landed.

    Sausage and mash – a.k.a. “bangers ‘n’ mash” is probably our greatest and most ignored culinary creation; our bangers are as varied as our beers, and our gravies are as piquant as our, um, other piquant things.

    And mash is one of those things that has to be made by boiling great big potatoes till they’re just turning soft and then mashing them up with a great big masher. Anything else (instant mashed potato, frozen mash microwaved) is akin to blasphemy.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Oxford is not a town, it’s a city.

    • Posted November 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      Not only do mashed potatoes need to be made from actual potatoes, they need to be made with actual cream. Too many people who go to the bother of making mashed potatoes use fat-free milk or some other abomination…at that point, you really might as well use those flakes that come in a box.

      Good mashed potatoes also have healthy portions of garlic, onions, salt, and pepper in them. And the potatoes should be mashed *with* the skins.

      The variety also matters, with Yukon Gold being a good choice.

      b&

      • jiten
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        I’ve never heard of anyone mashing potatoes with skins.

      • JBlilie
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

        I like them both with and without skins. Otherwise: agreed all around.

      • JBlilie
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        I once ate in a Peruvian restaurant (in Vancouver, BC) — who knew?

        Anyway, the variety of potatoes was astonishing. Flavor, color, texture. Amazing. Made me realize that our potato varieties available are almost as limited as our banana varieties (here in the US.)

        • Posted November 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

          Much like sweetcorn! I’ve seen photos of some crazy different varieties. Seemingly endless different types. And yet, I’ve only ever seen the standard variety here in the UK. One day perhaps… :-)

        • Posted November 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

          Here in Ecuador we can now get locally-produced packages of mixed-breed potato chips—the bag comes with blue ones, magenta ones, golden ones, white ones, all mixed together. Every valley here used to host a different variety of potato.

          • Marella
            Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

            Waaaaant!

        • Posted November 21, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

          Potatoes, as with every other plant with a litmus-based pigment, come in every color of the rainbow.

          Also, corn, wheat, rice, lettuce, onions, cabbages, tomatoes, okra, and lots more.

          Our local Fresh & Easy just started carrying bags of inch-sized mixed red, white, and blue potatoes. And I do believe that I’m going to make home fries with some for breakfast. Slice the potatoes in half, cook for a couple minutes under pressure in the pressure cooker, cool instantly, and then toss and brown with the onions and garlic I’ll have been sautéing in bacon drippings.

          Gotta get cooking….

          b&

      • Marta
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        “Good mashed potatoes also have healthy portions of garlic, onions, salt, and pepper in them. And the potatoes should be mashed *with* the skins.”

        Absolutely NOT. Garlic mashed are appreciated in their own right, but should not substituted for regular mashed. Also, no onions in mashed potatoes, unless that is the variety you’re making.

        Also, it’s perfectly all right to use half and half, although you’ll want to up the butter content (use unsalted butter, please). Pepper’s fine, but use white pepper. As for leaving the peels on, a little peel provides texture, color, and a bit of flavor. A lot of peel provides a disgusting mess.

        So let it be written; so let it be done.

      • Marella
        Posted November 20, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        I knew it had to happen eventually, I cannot agree; mashed potatoes should NOT have skins in them.

      • Posted November 21, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        To all those who think skins don’t belong in mashed potatoes, I would assume that you’ve never had them prepared properly with the right variety of potatoes.

        Done right, and the skins are very reminiscent of apple peels (and, incidentally, rose petals) with a similar texture and tartness.

        Just as peeled apple slices are boring, so too are mashed potatoes without the skin.

        But, again, it needs to be done right. I don’t think I’d even try it with a Russet, for example, and the potatoes need to have texture themselves. If the potatoes are mush — if they’re the same consistency as the flaked boxed instant shit — then the peels won’t work, either.

        b&

        • teacupoftheapocalypse
          Posted November 21, 2012 at 7:54 am | Permalink

          Additionally, most of the vitamins in a spud (at least, those that aren’t destroyed in the process of cooking), are present in the skin.

          • Marta
            Posted November 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

            One does not eat mashed potatoes for their nutritional value. There might be some nutrients to be had in the skin or just below, but the cream and butter in mashed potatoes make eating them a net negative. (If it’s nutrition you’re wanting, mash the potatoes with a good stock. Fewer calories, decent flavor profile.

            • Posted November 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

              One does not eat mashed potatoes for their nutritional value.

              Agreed, which is why I personally chose to ignore the claimed nutritional value of the skins in favor of their culinary merits.

              I also wouldn’t worry too much about the nutritional harm from the cream and butter. It’s possible to over-eat fats, but your body makes it hard to do so.

              The real nutritional evil to watch out for is fructose, in whatever form. There’s little to no satiation trigger associated with fructose, as opposed to fats and proteins…and sugar gets metabolized by the liver into fat and cholesterol.

              A 20-ounce Coke has 240 calories, all of it from sugar. A quarter stick of butter, an ounce / two tablespoons calories, all of it from fat. Most people would still be hungry after drinking that 20-ounce Coke (and maybe even more hungry), but few people would be able to eat two tablespoons of butter without getting a significant feeling of satiation. Now, consider doubling the portions: two bottles of Coke is nothing, but can you really eat a half a stick of butter in a single sitting? Double it again, and it’s not hard to imagine drinking four Cokes over the course of a single meal if you’re a bit dehydrated. But an entire stick of butter?

              Serve a good salad with plenty of fresh veggies with your mashed potatoes and feel no guilt. But you’d be wise to keep your annual refined sweetener consumption (sugar, honey, HFCS, maple syrup, agave, whatever) to under ten pounds per year, or less than a tablespoon per day on average. Considering that sugar is in almost every packaged food and restaurant meal in very significant quantities, that’s much easier said than done….

              b&

  22. gbjames
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    I wish I could remember the names of all the fine brews I tasted in my few trips to the UK, but one or two come to mind. One in particular, Easy Rider from Kelham Brewery in Sheffield. And then there were a couple from Wadsworth brewery in Devizes (6X ?).

  23. Roo
    Posted November 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Whatever. I’m not jealous. Going to McDonald’s now and then going to wash it down with an awesome pint of Beast. With my cat. More or less the same thing.

  24. Ray Moscow
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    Sharp’s Doom Bar is one of my favourite ales.

  25. Galactor
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Gad! There’s nothing wrong with Taylor’s Landlord. Nothing at all!

    I quite like Tetley bitter myself.

    • Ray Moscow
      Posted November 22, 2012 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      Landlord is excellent. Tetley’s — not so much.

      • gbjames
        Posted November 22, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        Yes. I had forgotten how disappointing Tetley’s was and ordered one a couple of months ago. Couldn’t finish it.

  26. Chris Quartly
    Posted November 23, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

    Hi Jerry

    It’s a shame you weren’t doing any speaking events in Oxford during your stay. I moved away last year but am back for a visit at the moment, hope you enjoyed your time here!

    Next time you visit, you must try a cookie from Ben’s Cookies in the covered market.


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