The first Friday of 2013. How’s the year going for you so far?
1) Would you feed people Spam? I would not because it’s horrid, and spamapes? Just take a moment and reflect on the horror of that word..
So when someone tells me the way to cater for holiday crowds, in the midst of a double-dip recession, is to serve “spamapes”, I’m not wild with excitement. I’m told one can of spam can make up to 40 canapes for 5p each, and “make a party one to remember!” I’d prefer a handful of peanuts to spam bruschetta, far east spam balls or choux spam and cheese.
2) Best Cookbook of 2012? I’ve kind of given up on Nigel Slater as none of the cooking that he does nowadays seems in any way to relate to how I live or cook. The cookbook I’ve used most this year is probably Bill Granger’s Everday, which didn’t come out in 2012.
Jamie Oliver has done it again. For the second year running, his latest book, 15-Minute Meals, is occupying the No 1 slot on Amazon’s best-selling list. He and the other big names in food (Nigel Slater is a few spots down) are helping cookery books outsell every other genre. Of course, all the best-selling food books are backed up by TV, but this doesn’t stop them being good – I still rate just about everything brought out by the River Cottage empire (this year, Three Good Things) and I’m delighted that the gloriously stylish, eclectic Jerusalem also makes Amazon’s top 15.
3) The magic of money. Giles Fraser nails it again, I was having a very similar conversation with Ma over Christmas about a person we know.
What do I mean by magic? Forget Merlin. Forget Potter. I mean the belief that there is ever a short cut out of the constituent limitations of our humanity. That there is a way, instantly, with the flick of a wand or a credit card, of changing ourselves from one thing to something else entirely. Abracadabra. Magic is the escape fantasy of those who cannot cope with the fact that we are limited creatures, that we will grow old and die, that we can never have everything, that we will always be dependent on food and oxygen and the love of others, and that, because of this, we will often feel pain and loss. Magic is the belief that there is some other way of dealing with all of this other than simply by dealing with it.
4) The Honours System. Personally, I think it’s wrong and Danny Boyle and Ken Livingstone were right to refuse. For me it’s about the Queen handing them out. I know we’ve just had the Jubilee and I have no objection to the Queen as a person. It’s the position she occupies that I object to. The Honours system is everything I object to in our system of government. I want a republic!
It would be easy to view the New Year honours as the culmination of the year in which patriotism was rehabilitated; a bit more harmless pageantry, a chance to celebrate the best of Britishness in all our diversity. After all, the recipients making the headlines are largely the heroes of London 2012, and who would begrudge them further recognition for their phenomenal achievements? It’s only when you learn that Danny Boyle has apparently turned down a knighthood for his contribution that those niggling doubts start prodding at your conscience.
5) On Making New Year’s Resolutions. Worth thinking about.
The advice that Mullainathan and Shafir have for resolution-makers isn’t that you refrain from trying to better yourself, but rather that you lock in commitments to self-betterment that won’t require vigilance or attention in the year ahead.
6) Housing. I’ve been banging on about the housing crisis for years. Good to see that some action is being taken, but it’s not nearly enough or from Central Govt.
Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in her assessment of an “increasingly desperate” economic landscape, highlighted the vicious circle of working poverty in which people move in and out of insecure, badly paid work, “remaining poor … as they struggle to improve their lives”. The same can be said for housing, as fluctuating incomes force unwanted moves between housing tenures, from owner occupied to private rented, and then from better quality to poorer quality rented accommodation.
7) On the Catholic Church in the UK and how it treat gay people. I can’t even.
The church itself is to be handed over to the “ordinariate” of former Anglicans opposed to women priests. The Anglican subculture from which the ordinariate emerged was extremely camp, concerned with dressing up both physically and spiritually – so it’s difficult to see this as a decisive blow against gay Christianity. But it is a clear victory for Catholic conservatives
8) The Perfect Hot Toddy. I’m not drinking this month and I don’t have a cold but if you are and you do, this is a great place to start.
Plus, and perhaps most importantly, there’s that all-important psychological effect: nothing is more comforting on a cold, wet day when your eyeballs are about to pop out of your head, than a steaming glass of something hot and alcoholic to thaw you out. Surely even the grumpiest of January scrooges couldn’t begrudge us a little flu relief?
9) The C of E has problems too. Could do better.
The clergy of the group of parishes where I served worked on ways to inform people who would not accept communion from a woman when I was to preside, so they could choose to go to a different service. Or we would make sure that there was also a male priest available to distribute the hosts. There was frequently some aisle hopping, which I came to ignore on the surface, but deep down, I was hurting. My male colleagues did not have to put up with this, and it went completely against the church’s teaching that the worthiness of the priest does not affect the validity of the sacrament