"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


I had actually been very well behaved so far that day.

I had done an hour’s workout. Well, if truth be told, I had looked on in bemusement at the TV while playing a DVD of something called “Tae Bo” which seemed to comprise lithe young Americans whooping and squealing “GOOD JOB” a lot while I tried, with little success, to follow along to their rhythmic bending and stretching.

I had been on my best behaviour when it came to lunch too, turning down the opportunities of decent hamburgers in favour of a bowl of noodle soup and a turkey sandwich.

I had even done some work, sending over a dozen e-mails to food producers all over the UK in preparation for my EATING FOR BRITAIN project. Best of all, and no snickering here please, we are all adults. I had even found a supplier of Welsh faggots.

Then the phone rang.

“Hey brother, what’re you doing?”

It was my new L.A chum, Brent with whom I had bonded over his unlikely love of English football. His day’s work had been curtailed and he was looking for a willing companion to go for an afternoon bar hop. It was too good an offer to refuse and my work and good intentions were soon forgotten as I climbed into his air-conditioned car as he pointed it towards Santa Monica.

First port of call, Casablanca, which despite its North African name, Brent told me, had one of the best selection of Tequila in the city and some decent Mexican food to boot. He was not wrong and along with our first shot of reposado, I was soon tucking into a plate of soft and hard shell tacos stuffed with steak and chicken.

Blinking in the strong sunlight as we emerged from the dark restaurant with a pleasing buzz, we headed over to The Huntley Hotel and the Penthouse Bar, We added to our score with some badly made drinks which at least allowed us the opportunity to watch the Sun set to stunning effect over the Pacific before we headed to our last port of call, a sports bar called Q’s in West L.A where I sipped on a chilled beer while watching sports that were as bemusing to me as the Tae Bo had been in the morning.

When Brent dropped me off back at Sybil’s flat, she was already home. We had a supper planed. This time with another couple of her wide circle of friends, Brent’s wife, Felicia and her friend, Amanda. We were headed out for Korean food and this time, a if to confirm the bewildering variety of Asian food on offer in L.A, we were in search of a Korean speciality of spicy crab stew.

On Dal II, apparently there are three of them, was filled with the most incredible smells as we took a large table in the corner and were presented with bibs to protect our clothes from the delicious mess to come. There was no need to look at the menu and soon the table was filled with Banchan, the traditional side dishes that accompany every Korean meal. Kimchi, obviously, but also seaweed, light egg cakes and fried courgettes. To this was added a plate of raw crab dressed in chilli and a oily grilled pike.

All delicious, but we were warned not to fill up on them and understood why when we were presented with four large crabs cooking in pot of fiercely bubbling chilli broth. Our server took great care cutting up the shellfish for us and pointed out little nuggets of “sea squirts” which we were instructed to chew until they popped to release their contents and then spit out the shell.

The broth was spicy enough to make even my hardened companions break out in a glow and I was soon dripping like a leaking tap. But, we soon polished off most of the crab meat and our server returned to clean the pot and use some of the remaining soup to flavour a final dish of rice flavoured with more chilli sauce. We did our very best, but by now the combination of all of these dishes including my extra Mexican lunch had me turning an interesting shade of green. I was pleased when Sybil asked for the bill and even more pleased when I saw that our feast had cost a mere $22 including tip.

As I lay in bed that evening suffering the inevitable consequences of such a varied day of carousing, I promised myself another work out in the morning to make up for it. Billy Blanks, creator of Tae Bo might not approve, but in my own small way, I had definitely done a “GOOD JOB”

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