Thursday, 1 October 2009

Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson

A most glorious farce, James Hamilton-Paterson’s Cooking With Fernet Branca introduces Gerald Samper, (one of the Shropshire Sampers), biographer to the stars, dreadful singer, poisonous cook and all round ninny.

The dialogue is shared between Gerry and his ghastly neighbour Marta, an East European film composer. They have both opted for the seclusion of a mountain top in Italy and are none too impressed to find themselves living next door to each other. A minor war erupts in the Tuscan countryside, generously lubricated by Fernet Branca, of which Gerry says:

...a drink whose charm is discreeter even than that of the bourgeoisie, being black and bitter. I’d always thought people only drank it for hangovers.

That said, his initial antipathy soon dissolves and is replaced by references to the Branca brothers’ nectar. Marta is more cautious and refers to it as a rather insipid version of that galisya our hunters drink.

Fernet aside, I am grateful to Hamilton-Paterson for enlightening me as to the truth behind the champagne wasted on the podium at sporting fixtures:

Had you ever wondered why one of those famous houses like Möet et Chandon would permit what looks like a jeroboam of its Premier Cru Brut des Bruts to be shaken up and squirted to waste from a podium by spotty boys who clearly prefer Coke? Well I have... My great discovery was that nowadays there is a small concrete bunker by the entrance, an annexe labelled Dernier Cru Grands Prix Réserves containing specially large bottles kept exclusively for sporting events. Carefully guarded to ensure that none gets out onto the open market and into the hands of serious champagne drinkers, they contain very sweet Asti spumante imported from Peidmont with further addition of carbon dioxide and chemicals to produce the right explosive gush of bubbles for the cameras.

I’m rather glad that’s cleared up...

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