Dabbler Diary: Man Love, Mackerel and Middle East Peace – Gangnam Style!

Has anyone else been watching the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast? For those who aren’t familiar with him, Yotam is one half of the excellent Ottolenghi deli/cafés that have popped up in recent years in smarter parts of London. Yotam is Israeli and his business partner, Sami Tamimi, is Palestinian and most of their dishes are inspired by the food of the Middle East and Mediterranean. If you don’t like garlic and lemons you’re going to feel a bit excluded, but I do and found his TV travels to Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia (next week it’s Israel) mouth wateringly inspirational.

But maybe the Ottolenghi enterprise offers more than a recipe for dinner. It seems to be one of the few instances of successful Israeli-Palestinian collaboration and, I humbly suggest, should act as a blueprint for peace in the region. If the Israelis and Palestinians are really serious about making peace, they need to cook more and be more gay (as both Sami and Yotam are). Simple.


While we’re on the subject of food, I live about a mile from the Cornish fishing port of Newlyn, the biggest fishing port in England. It supplies a huge variety of fresh fish to destinations across the UK and continental Europe. Next door Penzance has two large out of town supermarkets – Tesco and Morrisons. Last week I visited the fish counters of both. There was not one fish from Newlyn to be found. Not one. The mackerel and crab (landed in abundance just down the road) came from the Outer Hebrides. I kid you not – they sourced it more than 600 miles away.

This is just disgraceful and a blatant two fingers to the local community the supermarkets robotically claim to be a part of. I’m not having a general bleat against the supermarkets – they have revolutionised food supply in this country, bringing extraordinary choice to the consumer. But – unlike France, where supermarkets are often compelled to source locally – I detest their scant interest in genuinely integrating into the communities they serve. I’m sure there is some very complicated supply chain argument as to why mackerel has to be trucked 600 miles to be sold in the largest fishing port in the country, but I’m afraid it just doesn’t wash. It’s quite simple – you empower the store’s fishmonger to go off to Newlyn market and source some of the wonderful fresh fish that is landed and sold there every morning.


Who says newspapers are dead? Every Thursday I buy The Cornishman, which seems to be thriving, bucking the national trend. It doesn’t cover the whole county, just the far western tip, but it somehow manages to fill about 50 pages with news and unsubstantiated gossip. My favourite section is ‘Around the Courts’ which details all the crimes and misdemeanours locals have been convicted of in the past seven days. I find it oddly comforting because most of the crimes are petty, non-violent and usually quite pathetic, often along the lines of: ‘In his defence, his solicitor said it was a particularly chilly afternoon and his client was worried that he might become unwell if he remained cold, so in desperation he entered Sports World and stole a sweat shirt, an action that with the benefit of hindsight he sees as wrong and one that he now bitterly regrets’.

However, while most upstanding citizens would hang their head in shame after featuring in the column, I fear its existence might actually be encouraging crime. A couple of weeks back there was an angry letter from a petty felon complaining that his recent conviction for theft at Truro Crown Court had not been mentioned. He then gave an account of his crime – nicking a telly – and details of his fine and community service. You can’t help but laugh. The criminal justice system is just so obviously incapable of deterring these people from constantly reoffending. What will, I wonder.


Has anybody else noticed that according to politicians from all parties, we are no longer a country of individuals, citizens or even just people? No, we are country of “families”, usually “hard working families”, so they repeatedly tell us. Being part of a family I don’t know why this irritates me so much, but it does. Every time I hear it spill out of their focus group controlled mouths I just want to scream. It’s just such a transparently pathetic, meaningless and patronising attempt to pluck the heart strings of the electorate.


Hearty congratulations to Park Jae-sang (better known as Psy) for his hit song “Gangnam Style” which has become the most watched video on You Tube. God, how I love the internet. Fifteen years ago it would have been unthinkable that a musical skit about a district of Seoul, sung in Korean by a portly man in his 30s, would become a global phenomenon. But here we are. We may live in a world divided by language, race and religion, but at least we can all come together to dance “Gangnam Style”. Go on, you know you want to…


Brits abroad – don’t you just luv ‘em. When did we start believing that if we speak in English with a French accent, the French would magically understand us? The latest exponent of this curious affectation is violent footballer Joey Barton, currently on loan to Marseille. Barton defended himself on Twitter, claiming that it was difficult to conduct a press conference to French journalists in Scouse (he’s from Merseyside) so he opted to speak like a character from the 1980s sitcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo!

Ahh, ‘Allo ‘Allo! How can we forget Officer Crabtree, the British spy posing as a French police officer and his terrible grasp of the local lingo…”I was pissing by the door when I heard two shats. You are holding in your hind a smoking goon. You are clearly the guilty potty!” Is there any other people on earth that takes such joy in their collective ineptitude at speaking foreign languages?

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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About Author Profile: Toby Ash

A former journalist, Toby now works a consultant in the private and humanitarian sectors. When not in deepest Cornwall or darkest London, he trots the globe taking stunning photos which you can see on his Instagram account - @toby_ash

8 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary: Man Love, Mackerel and Middle East Peace – Gangnam Style!

  1. Gaw
    November 30, 2012 at 13:03

    I watched Yotam O’s programme on Jerusalem a while ago and it was very good – such a rich mix of different culinary traditions, old and new, with plenty of mongrel mixing and matching. If only the people could be more like the food. As well as gay, of course.

    The best French impersonation was surely that of Peter Sellers. The minkey scene:


  2. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    November 30, 2012 at 13:20

    Barton’s comedy accent was mild compared to Steve McLaren’s ‘shuper-gay” Dutch one a few years ago. These are very, very funny attempts to ingratiate oneself with one’s hosts, I suppose.

    The Gangnam Style man is universally and irresistibly hilarious. It’s to do with being very silly but with full-blooded earnestness.

  3. Worm
    November 30, 2012 at 13:21

    I am of the opinion that Yottam is a devious new creation of Sacha Baron Cohen, following on from his Bruno character…

    Regarding cornish newspapers, my best friend is inordinately proud of the newspaper cutting he has from page 2 of the Cornish Guardian, where he is immortalised with the large headline “Local Man Admits Act of Extreme Stupidity”

    • andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
      November 30, 2012 at 13:22

      You have to expand on that one, Worm…

      • Worm
        November 30, 2012 at 13:51

        When we were 16 he and I went to see a mate’s local band playing at the town hall. For some drunken reason we decided that it would be a fantastic idea to collect said band from the town hall front steps after the gig in another friend’s open topped cadillac, who’s keys we were looking after. As neither of us could drive my mate bunny-hopped the cadillac across the nearby carpark, a distance of approximately 10 metres, before a passing cop car pulled over and arrested him for drink driving without a license…

        • tobyash@hotmail.com'
          December 3, 2012 at 20:38

          An open topped Cadillac. Nice. Very nice.

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