All pleasant and correct

The other night, Gary Lineker introduced 4 swimming finals on BBC1. On Channel 5+1 there was Police Academy 5 and Ghostbusters 2. On More 4, Season 14 of River Cottage. The 50 greatest magic tricks were on Watch. And on BBC2, there was Episode 5 of 29 from season 33. Do you ever get the feeling that television now is the triumph of quantity over quality?

I’m Home Alone at the moment. One day I will go into the reasons why, but not just yet. Suffice to say this year has been something of a horrible anus. Pretty much everything from the pension fund to my favourite pastis water-jug has been broken or just gone down the tubes. Within a day of arrival, the hedge clippers died, followed in short order by the dishwasher. Then the downstairs loo cistern plunger snapped, and the washing machine stopped rinsing. The pool cleaner had a cerebral episode from which it has only partially recovered, my favourite hammock split, and the cafetiere took to going “Urrrr” but not much else. Now my netbook has died, and over the last few days I have been camp commandant in charge of three bitches: one with wanderlust, one in season, and one who thinks hiding in the garden and 11 pm is hysterically funny. I am that man constructing a conning tower with searchlights.

I’m not good on my own : I am what the shrinks call ‘group dependent’ – or as my wife puts it, “You need an audience”. Three terriers make a terrific audience, but wagging tails are not quite as satisfying as the thunder of applause or an explosion of mirth. So of an evening down here (assuming no hard-pressed Athenian is giving me the lowdown on yet more elite embezzlement) I often watch some decent telly or  surf around for bizarre stuff on the virtual superhighway of unregulated bollocks. Unregulated bollocks is different to MSM bollocks, in that its purveyors do actually believe the delusional drivel they transmit; but it can be very funny indeed. Even more satisfying, though, is the odd gem that never quite makes it into the Big League.

Last night on one of the endless BBC digital channels there was a so-so documentary about finding life on Mars. All my life I have been a wide-eyed fan of space travel and boldly splitting infinitives into the Final Frontier. I decided years ago that the physical version of space exploration will be the subject of great hilarity fifty or more years from now. To my great satisfaction, everything Einstein suggested continues to be proved correct by colliders and French scientists, and so I’m still firmly of the view that Electromagnetic timeless rope from one place to another will be the breakthrough allowing us to go wherever we like. Such a thing does, of course, beg the question as to why no aliens have been to check us out yet…although the unregulated mad would have you believe that they’re all around us. Harriet Harman fits the theory, but as far as I know there’s only one of her.

The Mars thing fascinate me chiefly because, to the commonsense layman, it seems perfectly obvious by now that there’s never been life of any kind whatsoever on the Red Planet. The BBC docu I was watching tried manfully to suggest that there just might quite possibly who knows and you never know once upon a time have been a spoonful of water on Mars sufficient to sustain something or other for seven nanoseconds, but it failed to convince.

For an ageing heretic like me, this doesn’t add up. Mars has a thin atmosphere, and is too far from the sun to support life. The gamma rays alone – cuting through the diluted Martian stratosphere like a steak knife through butter – would’ve zapped anything aeons ago.

But finally, a gem from French News online that I must share with you.

The jet set will soon be able to order prime Saint-Geniès des Mourgues boeuf to complement their Château Pétrus in those top class restaurants in the capital where nothing so vulgar as price is ever raised.

Thanks to adventurous agriculteurs in the village of Lunel-Viel, in the Hérault department of south-eastern France, beef farmers are now being encouraged to let their cattle tipple generously on strong Languedoc wine. The principle being that the taste of properly prepared beef can only improve if during l’élevage,the cows have regularly consumed generous quantities — two litres a day to be precise —  of Saint-Geniès des Mourgues.

If the Japanese feed their Tajima or Kobe beef on beer mash why can’t we be French and fatten ours with vin, asks Jean-Charles Tastavy president of a local wine marketing group and the man who has led the bold four-month experiment where Angus and Camargue breeds were fed special diets supplemented by Languedoc wine.

According the French new agency AFP he hit on the idea after reading about studies done in Canada and Spain showing that happy cows give the best meat. What could be happier — he might have answered if he had been asked — than a cow driven to drink, or rather well supplied with some of the best local muscat?

“For each animal, alcohol intake should be equivalent to the amount recommended by health authorities for a human being, namely two or three glasses of wine a day, which in cow terms amounts to about one or one and half litres a day,” he said, (cue a whole new sub industry as wine growers line-up to offer wine tasting for discerning cattle, and while we are at it will the beef that choose wines stoppered with cork rather than screw caps sell for an even higher price?)

Together with the Conseil Général de l’Hérault  M Tastavy has now registered the “Vinbovin” trademark and set out rules for breeding a new special wine- enriched beef for French tables.

Speaking to AFP about the development, M. Claude Chaballier the Languedoc cattle breeder who carried out the wine feed experiments said: “The cattle greatly enjoyed their menu of rolled barley and hay washed down with two litres of Saint-Geniès des Mourgues , consuming it with relish. Indeed I even thought about giving them Muscat next time so as to imbue the meat with a musky taste,” said M. Chaballier, director of the the Hérault breeders union who added that “the better the quality of the wine on the cattle menu, the better the meat that will emerge.”

This marriage of wine gastronomy and livestock has met the highest expectations of all those involved. “We subjected it to some close tasting scrutiny and it was exceptional”, M. Chaballie said.

The only downside is the added cost of the feed even if the wine-enriched diet is only introduced in the last 4 months of the cow’s life. Their daily meal costs accompanied as they now are by high quality wine, rise from 5 to 15 euros. However this is offset by the retail price at the butchery where a kilo of wine-enhanced bouef will cost “hundreds of euros for the noblest cuts”.

Laurent Pourcel, a Michelin-starred chef agrees with the farmers. “This is a luxury concept for fine dining and farmers have all the incentives they need to produce it. “The texture is very special, beautiful, marbled, tender and caramelizes perfectly during cooking. It has a fine and very strong taste.” he said.

Mr. Pourcel has already convinced some of his Parisian colleagues that this is the next big thing on their luxury menus. “All the great Parisian restaurants will take it,” he predicts.

On the whole, I think Monsieur Pourcel’s expectation exceeds that of the Mars scientists by some distance. But all thinhs are relative.