Googly nubs

Just a quickie … too much work, too many deadlines. So it’s over to you, dear visitor.

Item 1
Imported corn from the USA

Imported corn

Item 2
Local corn from Jamaica

local corn


A is for Ackee

After most of the children’s books drowned in the hotel flood, we bought some new ones in a local bookshop. One of the books was an alphabet colouring book. The first page had a blob outline and the text, A is for ackee. We had no idea what it was, nor what colour it should be.

Ackee - forbidden fruit

Soon enough we’d had our first taste of this strange fruit and all were pleasantly surprised by its resemblance to scrambled egg. Good, I thought, a new way of getting some vitamins in the kids without protest. However, I also quickly found out that ackee can also be extremely dangerous. Or as Callen Damornen puts it,

If the inside is not ripe or overly ripe, it is poisonous. The pod is also poisonous as well as the rest of the plant and seed. The water in which the fruit is cooked is also poisonous.

Uh-huh. AckeeScare me some more.

• Nausea and vomiting occur in 75% of patients; severe vomiting may be followed by a quiescent phase, followed by recurrent vomiting.
• Diaphoresis and pallor
• Tachypnea and tachycardia
• Headache
• Weakness and paresthesias
• Seizures, generalized tonic clonic, occur in 24% of patients.
• Drowsiness and coma occur in 25% of patients.
• Death may occur in an average of 12.5 hours in severe, untreated cases.

Source: eMedicine

“Tonic clonic” sounds like this year’s dance drug (I’m listening to a Leftfield Essential mix). But still, blimey, Callen recommends wearing rubber gloves when you handle the stuff. You’d think it was radioactive the way they go on, yet it’s sold on every street corner and is a staple food, served most tastily with saltfish.

To end, a little display of my fool-fool CSS skills, with a quote from my current bedtime reading, Michael Thelwell’s superb novel based on Perry Henzell’s celebrated film, The Harder They Come.

The Harder They Come
In the days when sugar was akin to gold, and the metaphor for wealth in European society was “wealthy as a West Indian planter,” that same planter class, anxious to increase profits, used the Royal Navy to scour the Empire for plants that would feed their slaves and so lessen their dependence on imported food.

Ackee_detail They had succeeded too well for their own interests, bringing yams, ackees, melons, assorted tubers and peas from Africa, mangoes from India, breadfruit, apples, and coconuts from the far reaches of the Pacific, finally bringing to the land the riches that helped end slavery and their world. For the Africans, taking seeds and cuttings, had simply left the plantations to establish free communities in the hills.


When you first enter the shop, the smell of cheese and ham is overpowering.

Claudio Volpetti in his shop

Volpetti’s: probably the best deli in Rome; definitely one of the main reasons we’re still here, particularly since it’s only a ten-minute walk from our house. We eat at their self-service restaurant, Volpetti più, at least once a week. So after almost three years we get great service to go with the great food – exchange of pleasantries, extra goodies for the kids, gluten-free meal for my son, lasagne hot from the oven and a complimentary glass of bardolino.

A final point in its favour is that it opens at 5:30, which suits our northern European routine of eating before 9:00. (Our kids are in bed when most Italian kids are eating dinner.)

For such extraordinary food, the restaurant is surprisingly unpretentious: self-service, plastic cloths on the tables and cheap metal chairs. The crowd is unpretentious too, mainly locals from the neighbourhood, Testaccio, a traditional working-class area built around the defunct city slaughterhouse, converted into a mediateque.

Testaccio is one of my favourite quarters of Rome. Its market is as colourful as the more famous one at Campo di Fiori, but the prices are lower. One of the stalls sells only tomatoes – 42 different varieties.

When the slaughterhouse was the main employer in the neighbourhood, the workers were given the cheap cuts as a perk of the job. This is why many of the restaurants boast of their … tripe specialities.

After a dinner of sweetbread, you can go round Monte Testaccio to one of the many clubs built into the base of the hill, which is itself made entirely from pottery shards.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

You better believe it, baby.

All’s well, now eat up

Happy ending

Little Maria Francesca (5 years old) can once again hug her dog Ribbon, whose disappearance yesterday had made her stop eating for days. “I’m so happy,” said the girl, “now I will never leave my ‘little brother’ again. I thought I had lost him forever.” The dog was found at Tiburtina Station thanks to the mobilization of the City Hall Office of Animal Rights and a joint police sting operation. It had been taken by a Rom tramp.

Your comments:
Stop eating for days?? Gimme a break! She missed one meal, and that was because she didn’t like it. She never eats any vegetables. I try my best! I’m not a bad mother!!

That crazy lady gave me 20 Euros to take the dog but I didn’t know how to make it sleep with the fishes. Can I go now?
anonymous Rom

Barf out!

If you’re in Birmingham, UK, this Sunday, why not try … competitive eating?

Gag me with a spoon!

Check out the “Bib sheet” of champion speed eater Sonya Thomas.

I can eat anything I want and never seem to gain a pound!” she giggles.

Word of the day: bulimia


I had an orgiastic 36 hours in Paris last weekend and spent much of the time enjoying sloooww eating, at Le Connetable, Montparnasse 1900 and the Taghit, in my old stomping ground.

More frenzied was our stop at FNAC, grabbing hard-to-P2P CDs with both hands
Kirikou et la sorcière

Great African children's story

Dimanche à Bamako
Amadou & Mariam
Bonga Angola
Seu Jorge
Calypso @ Dirty Jim’s
Calypso gets the Buena Vista treatment