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Posts posted by Marco_Polo

  1. Spaghetti coi moscioli — spaghetti with mussels Portonovo-style

    Le Marche is a region that presents contrasts, above all between the sea and the inland hinterland, a country of soft rolling hills that lead up to the Apennines, with isolated fortress-topped villages that look across to each other. Inland foods similarly contrast with the cucina di mare of the coast - here in the hills more robust foods such as smoked trout, coniglio in porchetta (rabbit stewed with garlic and wild fennel) and rich ragù di anatra (duck sauce to have over homemade egg noodles) are accompanied by similarly warming, richly flavoured red wines such as Rosso Cònero made from the characterful Montepulciano grape.

    Meanwhile, back by the sea, moscioli - the local name for mussels (cozze in Italian) - are cultivated in the protected bay of Portonovo and harvested and served in any number of simple trattoria, tables by the beach, the sea literally lapping at your feet.

    My friend Angelo's father is a fisherman in Ancona. His mother showed me how to make this typical preparation for spaghetti coi moscioli. The key, she told me, is to choose mussels that are not too big. The pasta and shellfish, bathed in a slightly piccante tomato-and-mussel broth/sauce, is most perfectly partnered with an equally forthright and full flavoured white wine from the region, ideally a well-structured Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi or Verdicchio di Matelica.

    Spaghetti coi moscioli - spaghetti with mussels Portonovo-style

    Serves 4

    1 small onion, finely chopped

    1 clove garlic, finely chopped

    1 red chili pepper, finely chopped

    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    1 tin chopped organic tomatoes

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 kg live mussels

    2 glasses dry white wine

    1 lb spaghetti

    Scrub and clean the mussels, discarding any that do not close when given a sharp tap. Rinse well. Take about half the chopped onion, garlic and chili and add to a pot together with the dry white wine. Bring to the boil. Throw in the mussels, cover and steam for 4-5 minutes, until all the mussels have opened. Set aside, reserving the cooking liquid. When cool, remove the mussels from their shells, reserving 8 or so in the shell to garnish.

    In a saucepan, heat the oil over a medium flame and sauté the remaining onion, garlic and chili for 5 minutes, taking care not to burn. Add the tinned tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Towards the end of cooking, add a few ladels of the mussel cooking liquid to make a thinnish but flavourful sauce. Add the cooked mussels five minutes before serving and keep warm.

    Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Mix well with the tomato-and-mussel sauce, and serve, garnishing each bowl with a few mussels in the shell.


  2. Surprised there is so much variation on this. Just to chip in my two grains of rice on this, in this house (and in my mom's and my grandma's) it has always been 1:1 Well, to be honest, it's usually just a tad more, that is measure out 4 cups of rice (why make any less?), from same cup (the little plastic one that comes with the rice cooker), measure out the exact same amount of water, then add maybe a quarter of a cup more water, just for good luck. The exception is shortgrain brown (which we love). For this it would be around 4 cups rice to 5 1/2 cups water.

    Our rice cooker pooped out nearly a year ago, so we've reverted to making rice the way my mother always did: rice and water in saucepan, stir, bring to the boil, stir well again, cover and immediately reduce flame to lowest setting. Leave for about 25 minutes. Perfect rice every time.

    I wonder if those of you making rice on the stovetop (not in a rice cooker of course) and using a much higher proportion of water are using a different method? I know some people prefer the boil and drain method.

    Another point worth bringing up: washing rice. Now my Korean grandmother always used to wash rice prior to cooking. She'd put the rice in a saucepan or rice cooker, add water, whooosh it around with her hands vigorously, drain, rinse, add water again, whoosh the rice around with more water, do this maybe six or seven times until the water was no longer milky but almost clear. I can still imagine clearly the noise of that rice being whooshed around the pot, anticipating a big bowl of steaming hot, lovely white rice: the sound and taste of comfort, of home...

    The problem with washing rice is that it's then in the pot all wet so it's hard to measure out precisely how much water to add, which is of course the subject of this discourse.

    My grandmother's method was simple and similar to the finger method above: once the rice was in the pot, she'd simply place her hand on top of the rice and bring the water up until it just covered the back of her hand (she had diminutive hands).

    I've gotten lazy, I suppose, because I no longer bother washing rice. Come to think of it, Halmoni always used not only to wash, but, once requisite water was in the pot, also leave the rice to soak. How long? I once asked her. As long as you like, hours even, she said. You can't oversoak. These are simple enough steps, and I do believe they result in better, fluffier rice, so I guess I better stop being lazy.


  3. Well, I think that's a beautiful piece of writing and a beautiful story. No, not about getting to the roots of authentic Italian cuisine, but about getting to roots of who and where the author came from. An American story of how those of us who have come from third-generation families have evolved into who we are, of how we cling to tastes from our childhoods that link us, in a way that nothing else in our mobile society can, to our pasts and to our origins, however distant they may seem.

    The story may centre on the quest for the origins of an Italian recipe, but it's subject could have been related to any number of other cultures within the 'melting pot' that is our country - that great, delicious, complex, sweet, sour or bitter bubbling cauldron of sauce that no matter what's in it, somehow comes out tinged (however vivid or faintly) with tones of red, white and blue.

    As third generation Korean (on my mother's side), third generation French (on my father's), I've gone on similar food quests (in fact I wrote a book about my maternal grandmother that includes her recipes for classics as she taught them to me, my mothers' for the same dishes, and my own, all of which are different, all of which, I maintain, are authentic by the very fact that they have evolved as such and they are what we eat, they define who we are, as well as where we'e come from).

    No recipe is ever writ in stone or exists as the canonic, the definitive. The fascination often lies in the evolution of food, its journey down the decades and generations and across the continents.

    I say bravissima to Kim Severson.


  4. I recently had the pleasure to meet a charming and sprightly septugenarian who is well-known for her roast chicken (amongst other things), cooked in her farmhouse AGA in North Devon. The secret? She spreads the breasts of the chicken thickly with Marmite then layers slabs of bacon over. I've tried it myself. The Marmite flavour cooks into the chicken and is not really noticeable, though it seems to add a certain je ne sais quoi, perhaps a slighter richer, deeper flavour as well as richness to the pan gravy. Worth trying!

    As for Marmite straight out of the jar, I'm afraid I'm strictly in the 'hate it' camp.


  5. We visited Patzcuaro a few years back to research the elusive (and fast disappearing) pescado blanco for an article for Slow Magazine (the magazine of the Slow Food movement). Though I was born in Mexico, I had never been to Michoacan before and we loved it. Patzcuaro is a fine, lively little town and I enjoyed the street food and especially trying local dishes like sopa tarasca and corundas, not to mention the subject of our quest. Here's a link to the article in Slow.


  6. Shows how things go full circle. In times past, wouldn't have ever dreamed of eating in motorway services unless totally desperate. But now we even go there to buy food occasionally - out of choice, not necessity. And we do this - true confession - when we're not even on a journey! Yes, the M & S outlet at the Exeter M5 Services sometimes quite ably fills the role of ye olde corner shoppe: it's open at hours when others are shut, and sells a limited but basic selection of real food to cook, not just scoff on the premises - steaks, fish, salad and veg, fruit plus some good puds. It's quicker and more salubrious than popping into the detested Tescos superstore. Prices aren't that ridiculous, either. Weird, eh?

    As for Little Chef, I certainly won't miss its passing. LC has been to the UK what Howard Johnsons is to the US - plastic foods served rarely with a smile. Me, I always preferred the now defunct but aptly Grumpy Eater roadside chain. At least you knew what you were getting there.

    As for greasy spoon transport caffs, I'm a great fan. Nothing beats our nearby "Grill on the Hill".



  7. This is a little like true confessions, for the wines we loved, way back when, may reveal far too much about who we were, where we thought we were, who we've become. Brillat-Savarin surely had it almost right: tell me what you drink and I'll tell you who you are. So here goes, a tale of three bottles.

    Way back in the mid- to late-70s when my wife and I were in the intoxicating throes of romance (we still are, actually!) and first discovering wine here in England, we thought we were ever so sophisticated, having moved on from the cheap Spanish Corrida we'd drunk in uni to the enjoyment of German wines, particularly from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. No, never Liebfraumilch, danke, for Blue Nun and wines of that ilk (Black Tower?) were even then considered horribly sweet, nasty and uncool. Yet the wines from the Mosel were - still are, I'm sure - definitely more restrained and classy, produced from the aristocratic Riesling and with a delicate balance of residual sugar and steely, firm acidity. OK OK, we weren't drinking estate wines from JJ Prum, just everyday bottles - our favourites were either the Wine Society own label Mosel (available in litre bottles), or Deinhard 'Green Label' - but believe me, these wines were just so damn easy to glug, so utterly delicious and enjoyable, if only mildly intoxicating. I readily confess that in those days we drank 'Green Label' by the bucket amd I never remember a bad bottle. Once we even lugged a bottle up Scafell (the highest 'mountain' in England), chilled it in a stream somewhere near the summit, and enjoyed it out of plastic mugs with our ham-and-cheese sarnies - in those circumstances, at that moment, it was possibly the best bottle of wine, the best lunch even?, I've ever enjoyed in my life...or so I still remember it.

    Well, life moves, and so does one's appreciation of wines. The next wine I recall falling in love with - and hence drinking in extraordinary quantity (the topic of this thread) - is Rioja, and in particular a crianza from Bodegas Domecq Domaine, a winery located in the Rioja Alavesa. Domecq of course produce a range of great sherries in Andalusia and I think at the time, the move to Rioja had been a relatively recent one. Rioja was yet to start its boom but the region and its wines were most definitely on the up, at least here in England. What was so exciting about Rioja in those days - seems silly now, doesn't it - was the smooth, silky, voluptuous taste and mouthfeel of new oak, and in particular, sweet, vanilla-scented American oak. That Domecq Rioja we used to so enjoy was so fruity, round, velvety and smooth yet also rich and satisfying - and, best of all, we could afford it! Can't remember prices, but it couldn't have been at all expensive because we drank it so regularly. How I loved that wine!

    In fact, when we set out to research and photograph our first book, 'The Wine and Food of Europe', published in 1982, we sought out and visited both producers, Deinhard in Germany (I recall climbing the steep Mosel vineyards above Bernkastel to visit their patch of the famous Doktor vineyard), and Domecq Domaine, in I believe, Cenicero (I remember an amazing lunch in the bodega of pimientos asados - roasted red peppers stewed in garlic - and chuletas - tiny lamb chops - cooked over vines). Both these wines may have come from largescale producers with mass distribution, but they were not by any means manufactured industrially. They were quality products made from grapes grown in a particular terroir, produced with care, integrity and pride, and wholly characteristic and representative of their region and country. Wine experts and snobs may well sneer at at those old favourite wines, but I say today that I am unashamedly proud to have known and enjoyed them!

    What they'd taste like today, if I were to encounter them, is anybody's guess, but that is probably as much a reflection on me as on the wines themselves. My hunch, though, is that they'd still be pretty good.

    My final wine is one that I have most definitely drank more in my life than any other, Cascina Fontana Barbera d'Alba, from a small wine producer in the Barolo hills named Mario Fontana, who has over the years become a very close personal friend. I have been drinking Mario's Barbera regularly - very regularly - for the last fifteen years or more. I have visited the property many times - I even cycled there once from England! - and have seen Mario and his family grow, as our own family has grown. Mario's wine has cheered us in happy times and celebrations; and it has consoled us in some very sad moments in life that we shared together.

    Mario makes the classic wines of Le Langhe - Dolcetto, Nebbiolo and Barolo in addition to his Barbera. I love them all. But the Barbera is and always will be the most special for me, the wine I immediately turn to when I want something familar that I just know, deep down, will satisfy more than any other wine. The funny thing is, not everyone loves it, or even likes it as much as I do. Barbera grapes grown in the Barolo wine hills, vinified the traditional way, and aged in botti not barrique, produce wine that has structure and tannin that clasically overlays a backbone of rich acidity - that is why good Barbera is such a great wine to enjoy with food. Yet for a generation of wine drinkers raised on sickly sweet fruity reds from the New World, such a wine can seem initially harsh and hard and unyielding. Sometimes in tastings, I am frustrated when I see people just not getting it, not enjoying this very special wine that is so uncompromisingly Italian, so Piemontese in character. For though the initial attack may seem a touch harsh, I know that with a bit of patience, and above all with food, the wine will open out and reveal itself as richly textured and smooth.

    Steven said:

    > For me, that love is enhanced by repeated encounters with the same wine over a

    > period of years -- different vintages, different bottlings, paired with

    > different foods, on different special occasions

    I agree entirely, Steven. That is the beauty, the joy of drinking the same wine year in and year out. You get to know its nuances, its individuality, for all the vintages may be bear similar family resemblances yet are all individual and unique, sometimes even profoundly different. For Mario's Barbera, in recent years, the rainy 2002 vintage resulted in expectedly perfumed, if lighter, wines; the heatwave summer of 2003 produced a blockbuster Barbera that is massive in every way; and the 2004 that we are now drinking is elegant, balanced and defnitely a wine that will improve with some years cellaring. I must try and put some away before I drink it all!

    Wines that I have known and loved: yes, they are like old friends, and even if I haven't seen or tasted them for a while, I still always feel affectionate about them, as much for the memories of time and place, as for the wines themselves.

    Yes, I agree: we are, it seems, truly what we drink.



  8. Changjorim - Korean hot meat

    After the excesses of the holidays - far too much eating and drinking - I awake this New Year's day with a hangover not just from the considerable consumption of Prosecco, Rioja, Champagne and grappa di Barolo enjoyed last night, but also, I sense, from simply too much food, rich food, fatty food, delicious food, just too damn much of it.

    I crave something simple and comforting today. After a bracing walk on Dartmoor (and a china mug of lapsang souchong with a dash of rum, a slab of homemade fruitcake enjoyed standing up outside from the best tea van in the world - the aptly named "Hound of the Basket Meals"), we return home, make a fire and begin taking down the Christmas decorations...

    And I start the preparation for one of my all time favourite foods: changjorim - soy braised beef - or what we always called in my house simply 'Korean hot meat'.

    Supremely simple, supremely satisfying, supremely comforting: right now the smells of bubbling soy sauce, chillies and beef are wafting from the kitchen and filling our Devon cottage with the faraway smell of home (even though I live half a world and half a century from where I grew up).

    Here's the way I make Korean hot meat:

    Take a couple of kilograms of shin of beef (no other cut is quite as good - for the connective tissue in shin is essential so that the savoury liquid, once cooled, turns to a firm gelatine). Place the meat in a large pot. Add 6-8 tablespoons of soy sauce (Kikkoman, of course), about 4 tablespoons sesame oil, a bunch of spring onions, cut into 2-3 inch pieces, a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, and about 20 fresh whole chillies (depending on how hot you like your 'hot meat' - in my opinion, 'hot meat' should be just that: bloody hot!). Top up with water just to cover. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a bare simmer for 3-4 hours or until the meat is falling apart.

    Korean hot meat can be enjoyed just so, with no more than a huge pot of steamed white rice. However, it's even better the next day. Allow to cool, then fork shred the meat into the savoury, chilli-hot liquid. Place in the fridge overnight so that the meat sets in the jelly. Eat this delicious fridge-cold meat on a mound of steaming hot rice - a bite of one, then a bite of the other: the contrast of the chilli-hot meat to the bland white rice, the fridge-cold to the steaming-hot, is simply sensational, the spice of life!

    Happy New Year!


  9. Fleur de sel is traditionally harvested by skimming off from the top of the salt pans the flaky, friable, crumbly layer of salt as it crystalises by evaporation but before it forms heavier, larger crystals that precipitate and fall to the bottom of the salt pan (these are raked out separately). The most famous French fleur de sel comes from the ancient salt pans of Guérande in Brittany.

    Maldon sea salt, from Essex, England, is made by a different process (the salt pans are heated rather than evaporated naturally by wind and sun), though the result is similar, flaky and friable. It's also one of my favourite salts.

    Fleur de sel is quite different from any old garden variety sea salt - Baleine I think comes from the Camargue and neither the gros nor fine versions are true fleur de sel.

    Flor de sal from the Algarve has the great virtue of being stunningly white, unlike the French sel gris from Guérande. It is an outstanding naturally harvested sea salt that is also considerably cheaper than the highly touted French equivalent that has become such a favourite with chefs and connoisseurs.

    Here's a story about flor de sal that I researched and wrote a few years ago (first published in Slow - the journal of Slow Food).


  10. My winemaker friend Mario Fontana's mother Elda made these for us on a recent visit to Barolo - . . . I'll ask Mario if his mother will share the recipe - and, most importantly, the method.

    Please ask her for the recipes.

    At long last I've got Mario's mother's recipe and method. This is the real deal, the cucina casalinga way, as made by generations of mothers and grandmothers in Le Langhe. I haven't yet managed to upload pics etc to eG but the full and detailed process is illustrated here.

  11. I knew that there had been changes of ownership at the Orestone but not that the chef Darren Bunn (who won the Michelin star) had left. Is this definitely the case? If so, that's a real shame as he was very good. The Elephant was under the same ownership but hopefully all is well there - can Ginger Chef confirm what's been going on?

    Two good recommendations that are easily do-able from the Torbay area.

    Agaric is an outstanding small restaurant in Ashburton, a small town on the southern flank of Dartmoor. The chef Nick Coiley used to be the head chef under Joyce Molyneux at the Carved Angel. He makes absolutely everything himself (including breads baked in a wood-fired oven he constructed himself) and has a passion for mushrooms (hence the name). Well worth a visit for lunch or dinner.

    If you are after the freshest orangic produce literally picked from the fields, then the Riverford Field Kitchen is absolutely not to be missed. You have to book in advance and take a tour of the organic farm (fascinating) or else a self-guided tour (this is required due to restrictions on the license granted), and then you can enjoy Jane Baxter's outstanding homecooked foods, eaten at trestle tables in the company of other likeminded 'food tourists'. Yes, it's a little bit evangelistic, preaching the Riverford gospel, but no worse at all for that. Riverford is a fine organisation bringing organic vegetables through its box scheme to homes through southern England. And Jane is quite simply one of the best chefs in Devon, especially for the preparation of deceptively 'simple' foods that have real intensity and purity of flavour. It's a real bargain, too - two-course lunch £13 two course dinner with appetizers £15 - and there is a good selection of organic and local wines as well as ciders and organic local juices.

    In Totnes, Effings is a small but quite wonderful deli that is also a coffee shop cum restaurant serving remarkably good homecooked meals. Also well worth a visit.


  12. is kuksu the same as gook su? ...

    I wish I had a digital camera so bad, because I would make my version of gook su.  It's alot different than marco polo's, because I use different noodles and use chicken or turkey stock instead of beef.

    Hi Sheena, yeah, it's the same thing just a different transliteration. Would love to know how you make it. I sometimes use chicken broth. The anchovy sounds great, too!


  13. Titan's Temptation...

    Beautiful to look at and tastes great! The sweetness of the sambuca goes well with the bitter Campari and tart lemon juice. Very refreshing and actually a good drink with spicy foods.

    Sounds delicious, Kathy, thanks! And interesting that it's a cocktail to go with spicy food. Look forward to trying it.


  14. Here are two I like. . .

    Thanks, Samuel, these both sound good! As for Chinotto, I'm fond of the drink and will play around with it for some non-alcoholic alternatives for non-drinking guests, perhaps mixed with aranciata, some soda water, garnished with a twist of orange peel and a twist of lime.

  15. I'm doing some research for 'Italian' cocktails that would be suitable for celebrating New Year. Prosecco cocktails - variations on the bellini but with fruit in season at this time of year - blood oranges, perhaps for a mimosa - might fit the bill.

    Or course there are Italian classics - the negroni, Campari soda, etc. Or could be cocktails simply utilising Italian liqueurs or vermouths, or cocktails that originated in Italy, perhaps at famous bars.

    Any limoncello based cocktails spring to mind?

    Would appreciate any thoughts or ideas.



  16. Lots of options for crostini and bruschetta...

    The classic Tuscan crostini is a dead easy-to-make spread made from chicken liver, anchovies, a little onion, some capers, a glass of red wine, a slosh of extra virgin olive oil, cooked down then coarsely processed to a grainy paste. I love to put this on crostini to pop in the oven and serve hot with a nice tumbler of simple Chianti. There was a farmhouse restaurant we used to go to in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone that served 'crostini in 16 modi' - any number of different toppings, a slice tomato and mozzarella; some chopped radicchio mixed with Tuscan oil; perhaps some fried salsicce with pecorino cheese; a slice of finocchiona; a salted anchovy or two; some peppery rocket; a smear of olive paste; some grilled peppers stewed in garlic and olive oil; or a dollop of stewed cavolo nero with olive oil and lemon juice. Anything at all, really, whatever is available and in season.

    GG, bagna caôda is a classic antipasto of Piedmont's Le Langhe, served not only as a bubbling hot pot to dip into with vegetables but spooned over grilled or roasted red peppers and served on a platter. Staying with the wonderful antipasti of Le Langhe, I also love carne cruda all'albesa - with shaving of tartufi bianchi d'Alba of course!


  17. Vinopolis is a fun tourist attraction centred on wine, no more, no less. It's really an interactive museum or exhibition. You can attend a basic introduction to tasting at the start of the visit. Each country or region's exhibits are sponsored individually by Comité Interprofessional, Consorzio, region or country, and so each is quite different in theme and approach. Virtually the entire wine world is represented, more or less. Along the way, there are tasting areas where you can sample a number of wines, depending, I think from recollection, on how many tickets you buy with your entry fee. My favourite area was the Italian section where you sit on a real Vespa and watch a movie on the Vespa windscreen that takes you on a hairpin journey through the wine country of Tuscany, Piedmont etc. Really fun - well, I enjoyed it anyway. I ate something simple in the restaurant - maybe a cassoulet type dish? - but accompanied with a really good bottle of wine. I can't remember much more. Stumbled out quite happily some hours later and would thoroughly recommend a visit - if you like wine, that is (it would be pretty boring if you didn't). Yes, Borough Market just around the corner. Also the Globe Theatre.


  18. Once it was:

    Breakfast, dinner, supper.

    It still is way down here in Devon, Adam. For this North American, when I came over to these shores many many years ago (around 30 to be precise) such finer distinctions did lead to misunderstandings.

    A builder was doing some work for me and I had to meet him to give him some money.

    "I'll see you at dinner time," he said. So I turned up at 6pm. The site was empty.

    "Where were you yesterday?" he asked me accusingly the next day, as if I had stood him up and was trying to get out of paying him.

    "I came at dinner time, like you said," I replied in utter innocence.

    "What time was that?"

    "Oh, around 6-ish."

    "Hmmmnph, that's not dinner, that's tea." Turns out, I should have been there at midday, so I missed it by a country mile.

    Now, still living in the same small town, which is anything but posh, we do sometimes get asked by friends to "come for supper". Supper means informal, probably no starter, no fancy cutlery, no multiple wine glasses or multiple puddings. Also might just be a foursome, six, a family evening or even, my god, an Odd Number, none of which would be possible with that other curious British institution, The Dinner Party (always seems to be an eight, always seems there must be three puds).

    After living here for all these years, do I understand any of this? Not at all.

    My daughter just wanders in.

    "What's for tea, Dad?" she asks.

  19. I've got the Rancilio S26, plumbed-in and with an in-line filter. Best damn thing I've ever bought (except for my bicycles). It's a beast, makes espresso and cappucino as good as in the best Italian bar. Yes, it's a pro machine and rather hunky on the countertop, but we love it and couldn't live without it. I have a guy who comes and services it every 18 months or so. The copper boiler did calcify pretty badly, even with the in-line filter (think we didn't change that often enough), but he put in some frighteningly powerful acid that cleaned it out good as new. Cost for a service was about fifty quid (plus a couple of bottles of wine - he was working evenings in his spare time). Go for it. Thoroughly recommended. As for grinders, I'm still using a toy, a Gaggia that we had to match our old, now defunct Baby Gaggia machine. However, it is effective and if it ain't broke, don't change it.

  20. Bonked on yesterday's cycle, a hilly 55. Wed afternoon is my day for cycling, but I was working hard to make a deadline and had time for only a very quick and insubstantial lunch before meeting the usual wolf pack for our regular ride. This was a massive mistake, as it proved. I was OK for the first section of the ride, but I overcooked it on a steep 2 mile climb (as one does): uh oh, heart rate way too high, should have cut back. But I didn't take note and paid the awful price. And this was only at mile 20! Used up all my glycogen stores on that climb, and soon afterwards legs went to jelly, powerless, awful. From that point on I knew I was in deep trouble and set for an afternoon of pain and suffering as the wolf pack (my mates!) revelled in my discomfort - cycling is nothing if not a wolf eat wolf activity and I would have done the same. I wasn't carrying any food, no not even a banana, not a flapjack, not a Nutrigrain bar. I also ran out of drink and dehydrated badly. Made it to seaside town, glugged down two water bottles full of water from the public toilets (no, not the toilet itself but from the basin). Didn't have any money for provisions and in any case the wolves wanted to keep going, relentlessly yapping and howling and piling on the pain. Limped up final hill at record sloth pace, finally made it home, and set about devouring the house. Straight to the cupboards, straight to fridge, cramming flapjackets, biscuits, nuts, anything I could get my hands on, into my mouth as fast I could - would have eaten a table leg let alone a leg of mutton - meanwhile glugging water as if I'd been lost in a desert for weeks or months.

    This, I know from sad experience, is the classic and genuine full-monty bonk: I had conveniently forgotten quite how horrid it is, and I fervently hope not to repeat the experience again soon, if ever (though I know I will). Of course I should have followed my own advice above, carried grub, eaten on the hour, had two water bottles, etc etc. But there we are, these things happen. And when they do, the wolves are always circling around, and, at the first sniff of blood, ready to go for the jugular, snaffle up the scraps and afterwards howl to the moon in pleasure and ecstasy.

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