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Friday, April 28, 2006

Cups, Cuisine and Cow's Nipples

I recently read that lingerie companies are having to expand their range to accommodate the now larger size of Chinese women's breasts.

An improved diet is apparently responsible. This naturally got me thinking, not so much of the mysterious world of women's measurements, but as to whether these new fuller women enjoy a glass of wine with their 'ample' meals?

Wine in China would appear almost non existent from my perspective in the west, but this is not the case. The Chinese have lots of grape varieties, and a strong tradition in drinking alcohol. Both wine and table grapes are produced. If you have a penchant for eating grapes rather than the fermented juice, Niunai or 'cow's nipple' is a popular variety. Niunai is from Xuanhua, north west of Bejing, which also produces the Longyan grape or 'dragon eyes' which is used for a high quality dry white wine. Cabernet and Chardonnay are some of the main wine varieties in China.

The Chinese government has been on a drive for quite some time to reduce the population's consumption of grain based spirits in favour of wine (and beer) for health reasons. The wine market is slowly growing in China and I look forward to suckling, ..errr I mean supping, some soon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Multitasking Molluscs

I don't often travel on the tube in London, but when I do I never know where to look.

Hurtling along an eerie tunnel, encased in what could only be described as a discarded aluminium cigar case, is not the greatest starting point. With this backdrop you then have to deal with the hoards of people. Eye contact is not the best plan, so to avoid this I either look at the floor, or gaze at Harry Beck's masterpiece of a tube map. To pass the time and awkwardness I have taken to looking at people's shoes and socks and trying to guess the type of person that adorns such items. You can tell an awful lot from someone's footwear and I have found myself constructing bite-size biopics of the lives of the strangers around me based on this snippet of information.

The other day I noticed someone with purple socks. This person could well be a direct descendant of a Roman Emperor, blissfully unaware of his distinguished ancestry, flashing this regal colour in a subconscious display of self importance, mirroring the purple of togas symbolising money and power in those ancient times. The origins of this dye are contained in rather a nice myth along the lines of Hercules' dog making the discovery by biting into some poor unsuspecting molluscs and ending up with a purple mouth. 'Tyrian purple' was produced in Roman times from mucus of the hypobranchial gland of molluscs, this was far from cheap to produce, unless you were fortunate enough to come across some molluscs with a particularly bad strain of the common cold. We clearly have much more than limestone beds (and therefore good wine) to thank the molluscs for, which is worth a thought when you next rip one apart and devour it after it has been boiled alive and marinated in the very wine its ancestors probably helped create.

Purple socks aside, I have sampled quite a few wines of a deep purple colour. I have found these wines to be full in body and complex in flavour. They are not my first choice with food as it is like ploughing through another parallel course, not so complementary to the meal in hand. I seem to prefer lighter wines while eating, and I am becoming a Pinot Noir fan, not just because two blokes in a red convertible Saab, with a penchant for driving into trees, raised its profile in 'Sideways'.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Miracle Worker

While the authorities are dealing with a plague of killer swans in the north we have more mundane worries in the south. We are running out of water, on an island surrounded by water, only wrong type.

In the absence of workable large scale desalination plants, this water is only good for aesthetics. It's now so cheap and easy to fly over it (ironically making it larger with plane emmissions), the general peaceful state of our immediate neighbours means it need no longer act as a large scale medieval moat, and any creatures living in it are rapidly declining due to our voracious appetite for smothering in batter and deep frying anything that dares to move. It can't even protect us from the evil swans. But we love it all the same, sitting there teasing us with its growing undrinkable vastness, while we stumble out of our houses with parched throats to join the stand pipe queue (we queue no matter how desperate in this country) of equally unwashed rather smelly people. Well it's not that bad yet, but we are warned that stand pipes could become a reality if the heavens do not open with more regularity. It would be an odd situation to be drowned by the very stuff we are seeking, due to the ever present global warming.

This is where Jesus would come in very handy. I am sure he could see his way to turning wine back into water if things were that bad (clearly only the plethora of cheap over branded supermarket rubbish that I sometimes get drawn to). While he is at it maybe he could open the heavens and provide a little rain? Judas made sure he would not be around to help. Well maybe we can't blame Judas. Today I read that a couple of Swiss restorers have managed to piece together 13 pages of papyrus, which was the codex found in a cave in Egypt by a farmer, recently translated as being the Gospel of Judas. Of course we are all world authorities on codex thanks to Dan Brown's revelations (albeit fiction). Anyway, apparently it contains evidence that Judas was no traitor and was just doing what he was asked by Jesus. This story does actually sound like it could almost have been written by the hand of Dan Brown himself.

I am finding myself conserving water, like turning the tap off while brushing my teeth etc. Of course if the water authority spent some of those profits on a stable leak free infrastructure maybe we would not have to worry.

There is plenty of water in wine, so ignoring the drastic dehydration effects of alcohol, and the vain hope of divine intervention, wine is the way forward in this crisis. If nothing else, it makes you feel better.