Charles Campion, food writer and critic, takes on today’s fine food issues

“Cooking up trouble”

Connoisseurs of the inappropriate one liner will be sad that Prince Phillip has withdrawn from his endless round of engagements. He recycled jokes mercilessly and showed little patience with the dignitaries he met. The Duke has an abrasive and inspiring legacy. His comment on the cooking at Buckingham Palace in the 1960s: “I never see any home cooking – all I get is the fancy stuff”. Or at a dinner party when the predinner drinks ran on: “Bugger the table plan, give me my dinner”. In 2002 he breakfasted on bacon, eggs, smoked salmon and kedgeree, croissants and pain au chocolat before exclaiming: “The French don’t know how to cook breakfast” - at last, a good reason to Brexit

Every cook has a drawer of shame, where all those unwanted kitchen gadgets live out their lives in the dark. There’s a pair of 'herb scissors' that snips several leaves at a time. There’s a pair of duck shears. There’s a whole family of patent peelers. And in a great many trendy kitchens there is a spiraliser. Reports are coming in that this device (which apparently turns out long bootlaces of courgette) is so successful that it is putting a crimp in the pasta market. The research gurus at Mintel have noted a fall in pasta sales of 60,000 tons over the last eight years. How can this be? Should gadget manufacturers be allowed to frighten cooks by banging on about healthy living? What’s unhealthy about pasta? The Italians seem to do pretty well on it.

Trying to keep up with trends is a fool’s errand. There’s a property magnate in Australia who says that if prospective home-owners stopped wasting their money on smashed avocado breakfasts they could spring up the property ladder. His remarks have ripples in Mexico where a good many of the world’s avocados are grown. The Mexicans are very happy to see an avocado sales boom and the price go up to £22 for a 10kg box, especially as the Australian avo crop has taken a big hit from cyclone Debbie.

And it’s hearty congratulations to the Welsh grower who grew some plants for display at the Chelsea Flower Show and ended up with a pretty, one metre tall, plant whose fruits broke the chilli heat record and have been assessed at 2.48 million Scoville units.

Meanwhile, another improbable danger on the home front has come to light. It has been reported that fiendish cyber-attack bakers have successfully hacked into the Aga app and taken control of other people’s ovens presumably to scupper a competitor’s delicate sponge cake on the day of the Village Show.

Robert Benson sells bottles of wine for £6.50 from his market stall in the North West, but before you put your name down for a case you should know that it is non-alcoholic and formulated for dogs and cats. Benson gets his stock from a pet winery in Florida where it has been developed in conjunction with veterinarians. Products like this give newspaper sub-editors amazing scope for bad puns… Dog Perignon for the pooch? Or perhaps puss would prefer red “purr-gundy”?


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