Tag Archives: Guy Browning

How to…use Condiments

Guy Browning
Saturday July 12, 2008
The Guardian

English food leads the world in the variety and richness of its tracklements, ie tasty little relishes. Most cuisines work on the basis that you start with tasty food, whereas we traditionally boil up some tasteless food and then add a powerful, overwhelming taste on the side of the plate. These tracklements are the underarm deodorants of traditional cooking.

English mustard is basically napalm with colouring. Its function is remarkably similar in that it is designed to burn away the inside of your digestive system so that you won’t notice anything that comes after it. That’s why it’s so popular with British beef, which used to be little different from the part of the animal used to make shoes. By contrast, French mustard tastes like the mouth of an aged French lover.

All roast dinners have their traditional accompaniments. Mint sauce is commonly associated with lamb. This is like having your after-dinner mint during dinner. Horseradish is the English vindaloo and its consumption is a traditional test of manliness in remote rural communities. The only antidote to the bite of the horseradish is the firm application of a yorkshire pudding compress to the affected area.

Redcurrant jam has never made it on to toast. Similarly, you don’t hear about marmalade on roast pork. If you find yourself having onion marmalade for breakfast, something has gone terribly wrong in your life (although there are some legitimate cross-dressers, such as Marmite, which swing between toast and stews).

British cheese and pickle should, in fairness, be called pickle and cheese. For the French, the notion of cheese being in any way secondary to its condiment must seem as surreal and barbaric as shaving one’s legs. Chutneys are generally embalming fluid thickened by apple and sultanas. Like pillboxes, they are relics of wartime. Indeed, there are some jars of chutney that have been in continual circulation in bring and buy sales since the war.

Tomato ketchup is the lubricant on the slippery slope to obesity. It’s highly likely that anything you put ketchup on is also likely to be bad for you. People often imagine that a dose of ketchup counts as one of their daily fruit and veg, but sadly it qualifies about as much as a pear drop.

How to…Stare

Saturday October 20, 2007
The Guardian

Staring is brought about by rips in the normal fabric of life. People like to look at things that they can’t imagine happening (car crashes), doing (wire-walking) or being (7ft tall). We generally stare at things that are new and need extra mental processing. A pink car needs staring at because we’re not accustomed to pink cars. We also need to keep staring to see who gets out.
When you’re talking to someone, it’s rude not to blink and occasionally look away, otherwise they’ll get the unnerving impression that you’re seeing them too clearly. Lovers stare into each other’s eyes because it makes them feel incredibly intimate. Look closely enough and you can see yourself reflected in your lover’s eyes – which is really what that stage of love is all about.

Staring is generally considered rude because it’s a sure sign you think someone is abnormal. Exceptionally rude people vocalise their staring by adding, “My word, you’ve got a big chin!!” Even worse, they often say, “Look at his big chin, everyone!!” You can’t even embarrass them by asking what they’re staring at, because they’ll simply reply, “Your massive chin!!”
Celebrities are abnormal in that you know what they look like before you see them. This is such an unnatural phenomenon that it always prompts staring. The effect of celebrities when they are out in public is remarkably similar to a continual moving car crash.

It’s a general rule that the thicker you are, the more you stare. That’s because, when you’re thick, you have a very low gawp threshold. Staring open-mouthed is the preferred pastime of the very simple, and largely explains why village idiots are never bored. Proper wide-eyed staring happens rarely in life. This is when you receive more stimulus than you can process, and your eyes go broadband to cope with the flow. Being “stark staring mad” refers to people in a condition of permanent mental overload.

One of the most popular places to stare is into the middle distance, because it’s neither here nor there, it doesn’t require processing and no one can bother you while you’re in there. It’s almost impossible to look at the middle distance deliberately. If it were easy, we’d all spend most of our time in there.