Friday, March 18, 2011

A sausage?

Hot news - well, yesterdays news actually. The Cumberland Sausage has been awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status (DEFRA announces the same).

This is great news for all lovers of a good length of prime sausage - there's nothing makes an evening go so well here at Stringers than a couple of portions of porky goodness.

What is it that makes the Cumberland Sausage so great?

High meat content. At least 80% - and that's pretty much real meat - not skin, and limits on the amount of "connective tissue".
Coarsely ground - the meat is chopped rather than mashed. So unlike many sausages, they're far more than a tube stuffed with textureless paste.
Great spicing - pepper, nutmeg, lots of lovely stuff like that.
Girth. At least 20 millimetres thick.
And of course, "The continual length of the Traditional Cumberland Sausage is one of its key features"

Yay! Sausage!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The reasoning of Professor D. Nutt.

Professor D. Nutt (honestly, it is the best name). Do you think he got picked on at school? (Bristol Grammar) and determined to show them all by swotting really hard (Cambridge, Guys, etc). Anyway, the good prof opines that there is no safe dose of alcohol for these reasons:
Alcohol is a toxin that kills cells such as microorganisms, which is why we use it to preserve food and sterilise skin, needles etc. Alcohol kills humans too.
This is true, as far as it goes, but then this is true for Oxygen also. So, the problem here is one of over-generalisation. What is true for alcohol in a certain context needn't be true for alcohol per se. A similar claim could be made for bricks. They kill mice and humans if dropped from a height onto them, but are generally considered safe as building materials.
Although most people do not become addicted to alcohol on their first drink, a small proportion do.
As a clinical psychiatrist who has worked with alcoholics for more than 30 years, I have seen many people who have experienced a strong liking of alcohol from their very first exposure
Just a liking then?
and then gone on to become addicted to it.
Oh, and then "gone on", so not addicted at first exposure then?
We cannot at present predict who these people will be,
Because you've just made it up.
so any exposure to alcohol runs the risk of producing addiction in some users.
Jeez, that sounds like a job for a Professor of Neuropsychopharmacology, perhaps you should look into that, David. Instead of wasting time grandstanding in the press?
The supposed cardiovascular benefits of a low level of alcohol intake in some middle-aged men cannot be taken as proof that alcohol is beneficial. To do that one would need a randomised trial where part of this group drink no alcohol, others drink in small amounts and others more heavily. Until this experiment has been done we don't have proof that alcohol has health benefits. A recent example of where an epidemiological association was found not to be true when tested properly was hormone replacement therapy.
I suppose the value of an epidemiological association is OK when we're talking about smoking, David? You cherry-picking devil, you.

Anyway David, you miss the point utterly. We like the booze. Some of us also like the E and the weed and that. Some of us would probably like a new magic pill from your lab. Fantastic. Get on with that, why don't you.

But remember, booze isn't just a dilute aqueous solution of ethanol. Beer particularly, is loaded (so we're told) with healthful goodies, anti-oxidants, silicon, fibre, goodness knows what. So, on balance, overall, is there a safe, or indeed positively beneficial, level of boozing? Don't ask the prof, he doesn't seem to care.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

By Jingo

Recent SIBA convert Hardknott Dave invites us to critique the "Proud of British Beer" vid, with the condition that we should, in that case, explain why we haven't made our own far superior advert for British Beer. Now much as I'd love to have a go at the film, I won't do that - although I will come back to the choice of music later. No, what concerns me here is the "if you think you can do better..." argument.

When most of us criticise a beer or a top footie team ("it/they was/were shite"), We're not normally required to point to our premiership football sucesses, or to our award winning beverages. We can say such-and-such a popular music artist is rubbish, and come up with a list of objections to the material, performance and person, without having to "top" the "charts" ourselves. We're entitled to our opinions, we're entitled to hold forth on them, and you're entitled to ignore us utterly.

That geezer Voltaire once wrote "The best is the enemy of the good." - OK, he wrote "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." , but it wasn't his fault that he was French, so we won't hold that against him. And of course if we're waiting for the perfect promotional short for British Beer to be made, we'll wait for ever. As to whether someone else could or should have made something better - that would depend to a large part on having the budget (which I guess was quite small), and the time, as well as having the inclination.

And here we are, the bit where I carp at the choice of music. Now, I know that cost and rights constraints have to be really important in a job like this. But, really, that selection out of Holst? I actually like this bit of music, but it's terminally besmirched by being the basis of the tune "Thaxted", to which "I Vow to Thee, My Country" was often sung. Let's all refresh our memories with the words of the first verse:
I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

Of course, this was written in 1908, when nationalistic fervour, and for that matter, senseless sacrifice and unquestioning obedience, was suitable matter for popular song. Ten years later, Owen wrote:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Fifty years after that, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong wrote (and Edwin Starr made famous):
War (Huh) What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. (Good God, Y'all).
Here, if you're interested.