Monday, 2 June 2008

NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE

We seem to be having one day on / one day off with the weather here - on Wednesday the heavens opened and remained that way all day, then Thursday saw the kind of weather more typical of the tropics. Well ok not quite, but you get the picture. After Friday's subsequent downpour, Saturday was a gloriously sunny and warm Summer day. Needless to say today is blah. Not hot, not cold, not wet, not warm, just blah.

This year, Channel 4 are hosting their annual taste festivals all over the country, and the weekend saw the second to be held in Edinburgh. Having missed out on this last year, I was determined to get in on the action this time around.

Saturday morning came and, as I have already mentioned, it was a scorcher. Perfect weather for strolling around the meadows, glass of champagne in hand sampling the wares of Edinburgh's best restaurants and finest chefs. I tried to round up some friends but to no avail. I phoned five - FIVE - different friends and not. one. of. them. answered their phones. Texts were sent but unacknowledged. Hello? It's me - you know - me! Your friend? Carine? Apparantly not. I resigned myself to another year of missing out and went off for a sulky walk when I stopped, had a long hard talk with myself and decided I would go to the ball alone. Or the Taste festival anyway. Now then, I'm not someone who shys away from doing things on my own - I'm very independant as it happens. Dinner on my own? Check. Cinema on my own? Tick. A drink on my own in a bar? Been there, got the t-shirt. Anything on my own is fine but for some reason a sunny day in the park felt like something to be shared with friends. Ah well. Off I went, solo.

Well, what a marvellous time I had to myself! Armed with my 'crowns' (official taste festival currency) I perused the various restaurants - Martin Wishart, Ducks at Le Marche Noir, The Tower, Santini, David Bann, number one at The Balmoral, the Plumed Horse, The Kitchin... all proud examples of Edinburgh's finest culinary hotspots. Amongst other things, I tasted braised shin of Ross-shire beef, pearl barley and root vegetables; shoulder of lamb with aubergine caviar, rosemary, tomatoes, black olive and beans and dark chocolate and Pedro Ximenez pot with roast hazlenuts and sugared doughnut. And the best part was that I didn't have to share any of it with anyone.

There I was, happy as larry, thinking how wonderful it was that I could spend as long as I wanted doing whatever I wanted without having to consider what anyone else wanted. Marvellous. And that's when it happened. The clouds parted, the heavens opened and everything was suddenly bathed in a soft glorious light. The world went very quiet but for the gentle singing of angels and the sound of harps. There they were in black and white, on page 7 of my wee taste guide, in the listing for the 'taste theatre' where renowned chefs were giving presentations. Those three words. Three precious, wonderful, beautiful words.

Anthony. Worrall. Thompson.

Now, before you all scoff and mock AWT's lack of super-duper-michelin-chef-uber-cool-credentials I must point out that it's not really his food I'm interested in (though I do think he is very good at what he does - good honest food and all that). No, it's not his culinary skills that do it for me. It's (and you may have to sit down here, I grant you) HIMSELF I'm interested in. Oh yes. I can't recall when it started, and I can't really put my finger on what it is, but I have a bit of a crush on Mr Worrall Thompson. It could be his ginger-esque colouring (I have had one or two run-ins with red haired gentlemen - none of them good as it happens), or it might be his unconventional (ahem) good looks (I've also had my fair share of run-ins with 'unconventional' looking gentlemen - none of them good as it happens), it may be a strange father-figure issue - call it want you want, but there it is. In fact no, I'm not being completely honest. I'll come clean. I do know what it is. He looks a bit dirty. But in a good way. A bit wrong. A bit like he knows what to do with his hands. Oh yes, My Name Is Carine And I'm An AWToholic.

And he was going to be there, in the flesh, at 14:20 until 15:00. Forty minutes of pure, unadultered Anthony. Thank god I came on my own. My friends all know about my AWT fantasies but it's fair to say that they are all a little - how should I put it? - horrified by them. Whilst they would of course have been more than happy to accompany me to see him, I do not doubt for a minute that at least one of them would have found a way to mortify me to the core. There would have been nudging and poking and giggling and snorting and possibly even some dry heaving. Again, thank god I came alone. And oh, thank god I remembered my camera.

I made my way to the taste theatre where Martin Wishart was finishing off his demonstration. Nearly 14:00 - another twenty minutes to wait. I was just considering going off to find myself a drink to calm the butterflies fluttering around in my stomach when to my horror I realised that people were already taking their pews for my beloved - what if I didn't get a good seat?! What if I was left standing at the back, craning my neck for a glimpse - and at 5'1" I don't have height on my side. There was nothing else for it - elbows out, I pushed my way to the front with all the gusto of a desperate housewife in the turkey aisle at M&S on Christmas Eve. I narrowly missed a seat at the front (oooooooh!), when I saw an elderly lady make a bee line for the bench on the second row - no you don't! I launched myself stage-dive-stylee, landed belly first and claimed it as my own. Result! Whilst I couldn't do much about the couple in front of me, I did have a prime spot. Phew.

A girl from Aberdeen and her friend came and sat next to me, they seemed nice enough, we introduced ourselves and started chatting. She had also been to the festival on Thursday evening where she saw Jean-Christophe Novelli. She clearly thought - as quite a lot of women do (not me) - that he's a bit sexy. So excited and caught up in the whole 'sexy chef' chat was I that I blurted out my wee crush on AWT. Said girl and her friend from Aberdeen looked all at once a) startled, b) nauseated and c) disturbed. Funny, their chat dried up a wee bit after that.

And then out he came. Every inch as dirty and wrong in real life as he is on the TV. Marvellous! And he did not disappoint. Whilst I couldn't really recount what he cooked (yes I can - goats cheese and beetroot starter, cod main, chocolate cake dessert) I can tell you that his chat was so outragous, so deliciously inappropriate I think I fell in love with him a little bit more. I won't bore you with the details but between the story about his great grandmother dying at the Boxing Day dinner table of his youth, the horror stories about going to the loo after eating beetroot (I know, I know) and his colourful language throughout, I was enraptured. He made many a pop at Gordon Ramsey: 'you could sail a canoe down the lines on his face' - ouch - which prompted lady from Aberdeen on my left to shout 'pot kettle black'. I just stopped short of shouting 'I'm not with them Anthony'. I swear to god I caught his eye and he smiled. At me. At ME.


And then his forty minutes came to an end, sigh. Excitement over, photos taken, off I went for more food. I bought Martin Wishart's new cookbook and then I even stood in a queue to have him sign it. Because I could. Because I was on my own. Have I mentioned I went on my own?

As I was walking back home in the sunshine, the phonecalls came. The various friends had hangovers from hell from various nights of debauchery, and had spent the beautiful sunny day in their various beds, curtains drawn. And while they were festering away in darkened rooms I was salivating over my little ginger unconventional looking Anthony Worrall Thompson. Well you know what they say, there's no accounting for taste.

5 comments:

Carrie said...

Wrong, wrong, wrong. You're a wronger, he's a wronger, it's all W.R.O.N.G

And by the way, what's with Msr Wisharts childlike scrawl? Was he drunk? He may know his way round a kitchen (if you like all that michelin star fancy nancy foamy stuff) but he sure as hell doesn't know his way round a pen x

carine said...

I had a feeling you'd like this post Carrie x

Gemma said...

Hmmm, I had been told of your love for AWT but hadn't quite realised the level of your infatuation - very worrying! Of more interest is the news that Martin Wishart has a cookbook, Amazon here I come...

We went to Taste last year, had some yum food and lots to drink but was sad I couldn't go on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall day :(

Might look and see if I've already missed the London one.

Gemma x

Anonymous said...

Hello! I have to agree with Carrie I think - sorry! However on a postive note I'm loving your blog, I can just imagine you talking through each wee story and it makes me smile! Dare I say it has also made me think about food more and make our teas more exciting that variations on mince!!!

Sara
xxx

Jennie Landels said...

I love this post!! It made me laugh so much!! I can just imagine your excitment!.. so funny!

I went to taste on the Sunday- a bit of a mistake!! I had my wellie boots on and a big brolly!! Not quite the same sipping the Cava and Moijito cocktails in the pouring rain!!

But loved the food!! Martin Wisharts knee joint with barley thing was devine... and did you try his chocolate dessert? I had the same feelings about that dessert as you did for AWT!!

Great writing lovely!! Really enjoying your blog!

Hugs Jen x

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