shumach11115Autumn at Sloggers’ Roost

There’s been a letter to the editor up at the specially constructed page for three days. It has been used up to but not quite once for replies.

My email inbox has not started filling up with letters for publication. In fact, it is deficient in that communications form up to and including 100%…or as American Yoof says, “Todallee’.

Just thought I’d point this out. If you think the idea sucks, do please let me know. In fact, why not send a letter to the editor for publication?

Well, I think that now feels like a virtuous circle.


Most of the Quinces have now dropped to the ground, and apart from a dozen or so that went to make Gelée aux coings, they sit there accusing me of not being tidy. For the first few years here, I amused myself by inventing a sling gun and then bombarding the nearby rabbit warrens with them. A few cricket bat swings can be amusing after a good lunch. But the ultimate, bottom-line, no BS problem with Quinces is that they got left behind once apples, pears, berries and Biltong were shown to require far less Neanderthal teeth.

Quinces are well ‘ard, mate. They are harder than an adolescent male on a bus full of Miss World entrants. In the middle ages – when peasants were hungry and therefore focused enough to be creative about cricket balls as a potential food form – they were at the centre of an agrarian diet. Thus, stiff conserve was pressed into boxes, sliced, and eaten with the fingers as part of the dessert course. But you see, that’s the thing with your Quince – it needs the peeling, mallet-crushing, pressing, boiling, harsh cooking sort of treatment to turn it into chewable thing. Then the addition of mace, allspice, sugar, honey and crack cocaine to turn into an enjoyable thing.

Ancient warriors from the Caucasus allegedly introduced it to the Cretians (probably as a weapon of mass submission) and the ever-creative islanders then planted trees and exported it to both east and west. But given that without the splattering and sweet-additive process they taste like lime-enhanced turds, it was only a matter of time before medics decided the quince must have healing qualities. It does in fact have a long history of medicinal use… a diuretic, a styptic, an astringent, a dysentery cure, and a poultice for inflamed breasts. I know many women who would like something to inflame their breasts, but that’s another story for another day.

The quince’s sole saving grace really is that it’s very high in pectin, and thus a doddle when it comes to making jam and jellies. Here in south west France, it’s a delicacy. My neighbouring farmer – a lady – is invited every year “to profit” from the harvest, and always gives me two jars of the jelly afterwards. The locals eat it with cold collation – it is excellent with ham – but I’m not much of a cold meats chap myself. Jambon cru and the various cured Serrano, Parma and Black Forest don’t need it anyway – being orgasmic enough on their own. It is, however, underestimated as an addition to certain types of blue cheese, soft young goat’s cheese, and perhaps best of all older Cantal. I’ve also served it a few times with foie gras, and that never evokes less than enthusiastic approval. But I mustn’t say any more about foie gras otherwise I shall surely descend to the white-hot furnaces of Hell.


HillWHouseI can’t resist this plug for Mad Magazine, an institution for the clinically sane that has been going now for 63 years – only four less than me. I first encountered it during 1960, and decided instantly that it knew better than anyone or anything (via some still undiscovered well of knowledge) why our species is unutterably dysfunctional.

Its role remains somewhere on a spectrum spanning the UK’s Private Eye, Bunuel, The Onion, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the Daily Mash and Punch; but it’s not my job to say exactly where…because that’s in the laugh of each individual beholder. Suffice to say that, over time, the world has become so mad, it has vindicated the title of its founders editor Harvey Kurtzman and publisher William Gaines – all those years ago when Dwight D. Eisenhower was still putting on the White House green.

The character at the core of the magazine is Alfred E. Neuman, whose epithets are infamously tasteless. My favourite by miles was his enthusiastic support for the ideals of the cigarette industry, which went, “Smoking helps you lose weight….one lung at a time”.

Earlier at The Slog: the madness of Microsoft