“Does my bum look big on this bar stool?”

vegetablesA recent Oxfam report indicates that the Netherlands is the best place to eat. But before all the gastronomes rush to cross the Channel from the country in 13th position (Britain) the report is not referring to the quality of the restaurants. No, the study is taking all kinds of other factors into account like access to food and produce, affordability, and diet-related diseases etc. It’s referring to ‘healthiest diet.’ Other countries in the top 12 were Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Australia, Luxembourg and Portugal.

But the report indicates that the Dutch show tendencies towards obesity with nearly 20% of the population having a BMI (body mass index) of more than 30. In case you didn’t know, the ideal BMI is between 18 and 25. But just how the average person measures this is not made clear … “he looks like a 23 to me.”

“Never! Much closer to a 20… hardly any wobble at all!”

The good news for those who are watching their calorie count is that the JD Wetherspoon chain have made it easy to pop down to the pub and have a meal of under 500 calories. They haven’t limited the calorie count on their drinks yet, so it’s up to the diner to watch that part of their intake. Their dishes sound quite appetizing – not at all like a friend who was on a 500 calorie-per-dish diet and remarked that the pile of leaves on his plate served up by his missus didn’t look like it was enough to keep a slug happy!

Hopefully the kitchen staff in the Wetherspoon pubs have one of those ultra sensitive Blumenthal-style scales that measures everything to the grain. All they need is someone in their eating area whipping out their own Propoints scale and checking that their Caeser salad (sans bacon) is not a fraction over “the allowance for the day” and then kicking up a fuss. One wonders whether ‘calorie count’ is in Jon Rutter’s stocktaker’s brief when they comment on profit margins and discuss ways of maximising value.

More good news (of sorts) for punters is that the Government plan to extend opening hours beyond the final whistle when England play in the World Cup. (Remember the concern a while back about closing times and the relationship to when England play their matches in Brazil?) The curve ball regarding the relaxing of the hours the pubs can stay open is that the Whitehall spokesman said that they have allowed for England being in penalty shoot-outs. Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that!

And for those pubs who don’t have sports channels to share football or other sports with their customers, Money-Makers have come up with some ideas of pulling in more business. One is that you could install a cinema room in your pub to keep the kids happy and occupied while mum and dad socialize with friends (… or weigh their salads). Another idea is to introduce ‘tribute dishes’ that let you share favourite meals or cuisines that famous people enjoyed. These, and other ideas have already been implemented by some establishments and they can attest to their success. Reports are that some of these moves “stimulate customer interest and also generate strong emotional attachment to the pub.”

If England have to go to penalties at 1 in the morning it would be hard to imagine what the “Roy Hodgson tribute meal” might be. The “strong emotional attachment” to certain pubs might backfire on the landlords!

Baubles, bungles and khazis

Toilet sign ogaCncGSolid advice given to children by no-nonsense mothers over the decades, “before you leave home to go anywhere, make sure you go to the toilet first.” Trying to arrive at the origin of this down-to-earth wisdom hasn’t yielded any results. Speculation is that the advice was dished out because any “khazi,” other than the one at home, wasn’t up to much and didn’t bear visiting!

Wetherspoon pubs across the country have received platinum awards for their loos. 96 others scooped the gold award for the “Loo of the year award 2013.” It’s always easy to forget, until it’s time to visit it, that the little room is also part of the pub or restaurant and also needs to be maintained and presented to the same standard as the public areas. Those who achieved their awards have acknowledged the role of their staff. Someone has to keep them up to standard and the landlady can’t do it on her own.

With the Awards Season on us (it seems to get longer each year), there are ten nominees being considered for the Observer Food Monthly, Chef of the Decade award. Nigella changed her image for the photoshoot when she discovered she was the only female nominated. So she dressed up as a boy in tux and bowtie to project an image of maleness as only Nigella can. According to reports, she was the most formally dressed of all the nominees and her spokesman made the point that the outfit “reflected her role as a woman in a man’s world.”

Image Adrian van Leen

Image Adrian van Leen

Jon Rutter and his stocktaker team’s efforts in helping to Beautify the Dip took another step forward with the planters scheduled to arrive yesterday. All part of making the town more attractive – hopefully the inclement weather didn’t disrupt the delivery. Clearly though, the stocktakers who attend to Selfridges managed, before the storm hit, to co-ordinate their orders of ginger and other baking ingredients in time for the Christmas window display of a gingerbread landscape. All part of the glittering display the shop is putting on. They’re even offering to sell you a 6ft polar bear for £1600. I know what my domestic stocktaker would say if I brought that home to put under the tree. Escape route, where are you?

But Shropshire chef, Daniel Baynham had a really lucky escape as his shift ended. A tractor, towing a trailer laden with maize, took the corner too quickly and overturned the load on Chef Daniel’s car, crushing it. Apparently this type of thing has happened before and even with the speed restrictions clearly displayed, the tractor drivers obviously can’t read or they think they’re on Top Gear, because they still regularly zoom round the bend. If Daniel had been in his car the outcome would have been much more serious.

Once his insurance has paid out and he can celebrate his escape from bad tractor drivers with new wheels, I’m sure the chef will find an alternative parking place. What’s on the menu tonight, Chef? Sweetcorn fritters?