The Knickerbocker Glory Years: The Great British Guide of How NOT to eat
The Knickerbocker Glory Years: The Great British Book of How NOT to eat
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The Knickerbocker Glory Years: the Great British Book of How Not to Eat

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'Exclusive' Extracts

From The Knickerbocker Glory Years by Martin Lampen


Made from tomatoes, peppers and vegetables, Salsa is ideal as a dip. Serve it with spicy tortilla chips on a Thursday night while watching Aston Villa play second-string European opposition on Channel 5.

Salsa is also the name of the Latin dance with first gained popularity among the Spanish-speaking population of New York in the 1950s.

Recently I went to a Salsa night in South London in the hope of meeting a leggy Brazilian woman who'd dance the cha-cha-cha, cook food that sizzled, curse me sexily in Portuguese, then make the sign of the cross after a brief-but-stormy tiff, and walk round the flat in a yellow bikini even thought it was November.

She wouldn't even stamp her foot and demand that I send three hundred a month to her Mother, Grandparents and six brothers in Porto Alegre. What a sweetheart.

Unfortunately, the only women there were excessively hair-moussed, Tweed by Lentheric-wearing, hot-flushing divorcees in cerise silk shirts with diamante cameo brooches covering to their top buttons; every one of them a dead ringer for Elaine Paige or Barbara Dickson in the video for 'I Know Him So Well'.

Chinese Takeaway

I love MSG.

That's monosodium glutamate and not Madison Square Garden or even eighties German heavy metal 'mammoths' the Michael Schenker Group (heavy metal acts are generally referred to as 'behemoths', but MSG, featuring ex-Scorpions and UFO guitarist Michael Schenker - never made that grade, stalling, as they did, at the 'mammoth' stage of hard rock evolution.

For the record, there is a heavy metal band Mastodon, though I think they're taking the whole concept a little too literally.

Yes, I love the gunky, sticky, artificially coloured and flavoured, MSG-loaded British interpretation of Chinese cooking.

I'd eaten Chinese before - pre-prepared packs from Marks and Spencer and frozen scampi Won Tons, but my first taste of genuine Chinese takeaway came in 1982 - or maybe it was 1983? - The year of the dog, or was it the pig?

Every time my Dad took myself and my sister, Sarah, to the cinema, we'd stop for fish 'n' chips on the way home. On one particular occasion, after Superman II - or was it Superman III? - Our regular chippie was closed so we decided on a takeaway from the newly-opened Golden Dragon on the same street. Or was it the Jade Fountain?

It was a culinary cultural revolution. It was Mao Tse-yummy in my tummy. I basked in the golden glow of the battered chicken strips prepared al la mock Mandarin; adored the deep-fried prawn balls with pineapple chunks in that gooey yellow cod-Cantonese sauce (the same shade of yellow as those luminous novelty socks I was thrown out of Friday assembly for wearing the week before). I chowed-down cheerfully on the re-fried white rice with frozen peas (this rice was sticky waaaay before legitimately sticky Thai rice); the spring rolls filled with grimy, Ming-era ground beef and brown, stringy shoots made my mouth water; I merrily murmured "Mmmm", slurped shredded beef and dribbled mud-brown noodles while vocally aping Benny Hill's distinctly pre-PC 'Chinaman' and making junior kung-fu hand movements.

The Golden Dragon - or the Jade Fountain - isn't there anymore: it's an Internet café, supplier of camping equipment made from hemp and an organic muffin bakery. Plymouth's stately Drake Odeon cinema, along with the scale replica model of Sir Francis Drake's Ship, the Golden Hind, that hung over its entrance for more than fifty years, closed some time ago (it's now a seedy casino frequented by low-rollers and off-duty taxi drivers with 6 days of stubble) and big-screen entertainment in Devon's largest city is now only available at a soulless suburban multi-screen multiplex.

My parents moved to a spacious new three-bedroom detached house with a double garage in 1999 - the same year the Drake Odeon closed its doors and Michael Schenker and his group released their new studio album 'The Unforgiven.' They (that's my parents and not the Michael Schenker Group) moved opposite a Chinese family and the Father of the clan ran a local Chinese takeaway.

"Where do you usually get your Chinese?" Mr. Chen asked my Dad on their first, polite, across-the-street conversation. My Dad paused and answered, "Marks and Spencer."

Superman Takeaway

Sausages on sticks

1. Convenient method for serving chipolatas.
2. Alan Bennett fishing for cheap laughs

Rick Astley - the summer of '87. It was 20 years ago today...
Music in Restaurants

I love the unpredictable nature of restaurant music; the bizarre songs that clang over tinny sound systems and provide muffled accompaniment to the clatter of cutlery and the breaking of defrosted bread rolls.

One minute you're waiting for your starter while listening to the type of authentic ethnic folk music used to invoke spirits during ancient tribal ceremonies. Five minutes later you're dipping your fingers in the lemon-scented finger bowl while baby-faced, power-suited Hi-NRG crooner Rick Astley pledges to "never give you up".


Margarine is an artificial butter made from oils and used by slimmers, baking fans, and single men called Ray who spend Saturday afternoons in betting shops and keep brown, tortoiseshell-textured combs in the back pocket of their grey slacks.


You're just no fun anymore. You've changed. It just isn't working. Give me one good reason why can't I borrow your make-up. I hate your guts and I wish you were dead.

All statements I've uttered recently before 9 AM. The first three were used in reference to the so-called most important meal of the day.

These days, my breakfast is all flakes, nuts, grains and cleansing micro-granules; pro-biotic, antioxidant dishes that aid digestion, provide relief from the pain of trapped wind and help support the body's natural defenses.

Just look at me: sprinkling dried cranberries and organic sesame seeds on my Hokitika Spring Blend Muesli and listening to the latest cancer statistics on the Today Programme. I'm just not the happy-go-lucky thrill-seeker I used to be. When was the last time I got hopped-up on Frosties and just went completely crazy?

From now on for breakfast I want three hundred grams of crystalised, chocolate-banana-and-strawberry-flavoured refined sugar chunks. I want a bowl full of pink synthetic marshmallows as promoted by a grinning anthropomorphic Squirrel called Smacky with big buck teeth and a red baseball cap with a large 'S' on the front. I want Smacky to star in a series of seizure-inducing thirty second commercials on Saturday mornings with neon strobing effects and animation that references the work of both Tex Avery and Dr. Timothy Leary. I want to stare at his toothy face on the cereal box every morning as I dribble pink milk over my fluffy pyjamas and listen to the DJ on the radio exchange chauvinistic banter with the girl from AA Roadwatch as he clumsily segues into Joyride by Roxette, kick-starting my dizzy, day-long sugar high.

And I want decent free gifts. I don't want a twenty-page booklet on prostate health. I want a Smacky Squirrel ninja secret agent wind-up whistle. I want seven different kinds of day-glo choking hazard - collect ‘em all.

And I want edible Octopussy Shrinky Dinks.
Squirrel Smacks
Knickerbocker Glory

The Knickerbocker Glory, a layered dessert served in a tall glass and made with ice cream, tinned peaches, chocolate or fruit sauce and strawberry puree, it was the first post-war Dessert to be served in Britain that didn't contain suet. As a young male aged between eight and fourteen in the 1980s, the Knickerbocker Glory was the greatest sensual experience one could imagine - greater even, than being interfered-with by Bananarama.

Meringue Nests

I always keep a box of meringue nests at the back of my cupboard in case of emergencies. They're right at the back, next to that Michael Caine movie on dvd that was free with the Sunday Times, the half bottle of Rose's Lime Cordial and that box of over-optimistic condoms I bought in 1997. Meringue nests are made from egg white, sugar and always remind me of the Artex ceiling on my parents' first bungalow. Fill them with whipped cream, fresh raspberries, tinned peach halves, deep-fried brie wedges. Whatever you like - It's a free country.



I'm not too keen on them. I found a little twig in one once.

The Decline of the English Sunday Roast

I love the traditional Sunday roast. I love the sage and onion stuffing, the chipped gravy boat, the steamed-up kitchen windows, the smell of boiling cabbage when it's time to call Father in from the garden. I love the unfathomable little rituals and the curious, class-less etiquette: Why, for instance, is it forbidden to serve apple sauce with anything else apart from pork; bread sauce with anything except game; mint sauce with lamb; Yorkshire puddings and horseradish with anything other than topside of beef? Does the home-cooked roast dinner still live on as a ritual in the age of sea bass, fusion food and all-day Sunday retailing?

Yes, I know that every urban gastro pub and ring-road carvery offers a Sunday menu, but does anyone actually cook a Sunday lunch at home anymore? I haven't had one in years and even my parents, who, during my childhood, were stalwart practitioners of the art of the meat, two veg, gravy and gooey sponge 'n' syrup duff, don't bother these days. They're too busy taking my niece and nephew to the Little Ducklings swimming club or popping into "town" to check whether anything has been "reduced" in TK Maxx.

Does anyone still mop up their gravy with a slice of white bread? Can you still buy those feeble 5 volt electric carving knifes? My Dad had one. It would take him fifteen minutes to cut through the greasy string on the beef brisket and it seemed to generate less friction than that wind-up toy mouse I bought in the National Trust gift-shop. At the end of the meal, while Mum washes and Dad dries (by far the hardest job, as any man will tell you), is it still acceptable to disappear to the living room with a cup of mahogany-brown tea, catch the beginning of 'Paint Your Wagon' and read that Sunday newspaper article about the struck-off Gynecologist with the beady eyes and unorthodox examination technique?

Twenty years ago twenty-five million grimy plastic extractor fans would spend the Sabbath expelling sprout smells from Britain's kitchens -urban and suburban - and there was nothing for me to do apart from recover from a huge Sunday dinner, read the papers and count the hours until a cold cut salad and Lovejoy in the evening.

Today, I can watch Paint Your Wagon any day of the week on my multi-disc special edition DVD (with restored scenes featuring a computer-generated Lee Marvin) and I've completely lost interest in the Sunday tabloids. They're full of over-sexed soap "stars", philandering sportsmen who speak in monotone and faceless politicians on the fiddle (naturally, it'll be a dull kind of fiddle; a dull fiddle relating to a proxy mortgage or a interest-free home loan rather than to a high-class, ex-convent school call girl, an Eastern-Bloc Attaché and a shadowy, syphilitic intermediary called Dieter).

Whatever happened to the English Sunday rituals? The meat, the veg, the gravy, the suet pudding, the Great Expectations on BBC2 and the Technicolour musical western with the Clint Eastwood singing 'I Talk To the Trees' interlude? Whatever happened to the right honorable Member of Parliament's pied a terre ménage a trois with Diana Dors?

Whatever happened to the groping Vicar of English tabloid lore?

Squirrel Smacks
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All text, illustration & site design by Martin Lampen
© Martin Lampen 2007-2008