Jul 042014

Suzanne Kelly aka Old Susannah gets to grips with the news dominating the headlines this week; she’s having her cake and eating it too.

Another quiet week passes in the Granite City; a baton came to UTG amid light security measures, Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney premiered their new film, and a former resident’s run off to fight a jihad.

Of the top stories rocking Scotland this week, some seem to be food related: a chef lost his prestigious Trump job because of an offensive shortbread, and a legal ruling has decreed that a snowball is a cake, not a cookie.

The Portsoy Boat Festival was a great weekend out for the hundreds who came; I was serving as a roving interviewer, which was good fun.

The festival gets larger every year – more boats, more races, more music and more visitors.  See you next time.

Anthony Baxter’s A Dangerous Game featured at the Edinburgh film festival. This new documentary features Trump at Menie, and other golf developments going on around the world; the Hollywood Reporter rightly says:-

“The film features heavyweight interviewees including Trump himself, making a comically clumsy attempt at damage limitation”

– I’ve no idea what they mean by that; Trump was every bit as shrewd, honest and on-the-ball as you’d expect.

Some Menie residents went to a screening on the 24th, and by all accounts it was an electric, emotional night. I went on the Saturday; the film again played to a full house. Baxter answered questions afterwards, and after that, a few pints were had. The movie should be in Aberdeen in early September.

Sue Edwards, who tirelessly documents the changing face of the Menie area, rightfully got a photo credit. I was humbled to see that I got a mention in the credits as well.  After the screening I met a nice man who won an award for his documentary; a film about some chap called Tony Benn. Get to see this when you can; it’s called Will and Testament.

Edinburgh is going to have to buck up its ideas about events – hundreds and hundreds of tourists flocking to the city for the festivals, and there’s hardly any uniformed security or crowd barriers in evidence. They can learn a lot about event hosting from us, but more on that later.

Here are some timely definitions for the week’s news

Shortbread: (Scottish noun) a traditional biscuit made of flour, butter and sugar, traditionally shaped into fingers, fans or rounds. Not to be shaped into willies.

Dough! Chef Scot McMillan was fired this past week; his crimes against humanity take the biscuit. Apparently his misdeeds include allowing a willy-shaped shortbread to be baked in his absence, and having photographic evidence of this crime posted on his Facebook page.

What would poor Sarah have done if faced with such a giant willy in the flesh as it were?

This offensive shortbread gave Donald the rise when it popped up on the chef’s Facebook page (note to TUT, and anyone else, teams of Trump minions just may be poring over social media now, looking for offensive biscuit posts; I think this is what people mean by food porn).

Donald didn’t sugar-coat it, the man was fired.

There is no word yet how our own Flour of Scotland/Face of Aberdeen / Mrs Damian Bates/ Sarah Malone is taking this latest news story.

I’m not laughing, and I’m sure you aren’t either. Imagine the delicate sensibilities of The Donald and poor Sarah Malone Bates when their minions, digging around the facebook pages of Trump’s 6,000 local employees (well, that’s the number we were promised) and coming face to face with a funny looking biscuit.

I can picture the scene now; a shrieking Malone-Bates, a ranting Trump, the Spanish Inquisition and teams of paid Trump internet snoops, all horrified. It would be enough to make Trump’s hair stand on end.

What would poor Sarah have done if faced with such a giant willy in the flesh as it were? Would she have eaten it? What would the poor woman have said about the size of it? The trauma of thinking about the possible permutations is too much for Old Susannah.

Alas! As proven by television chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, a chef must be polite, avoid crudeness, and be above all scandal at all times.

If Trump had kept the chef, then all those hordes of limos and arriving private jets taking golfers to Trump would slow down, destroying our economy. I’m sure there is nothing more to this story than what the papers said. At least they didn’t find photographs of any staff enjoying fish suppers.

Perhaps Trump hires Malone-Bates (who is married to dashing P&J Editor Damian Bates, lest we forget), a handful of cleaners, cooks, chefs and waiting staff, and greens people – and then hires twice as many to spy on the web pages of employees. That would account for the prosperity we’re experiencing, witnessed by Stewart Spence flogging his Marcliffe hotel off for housing.

Yes, Spence did say that business was booming because of ‘The Trump Effect’. Perhaps he’s now made so much from American golfers that he can retire to a private island, but you’d have thought such a gold mine here in golf heaven would have remained a hotel. After all, Spence said his business ‘had increased 93%’ because of Trump.

So friends – keep the city and shire safe for millionaire golfers, and report any suspicious looking food seen on Facebook at once. Old Susannah remembers seeing some photos on Facebook of a famous family; they were holding severed elephant tails, dead big cats, and other big game the family in question had destroyed for pleasure.

Let’s hope we can keep seeing more photos like those, and less photos of misshapen shortbread. It’s all a matter of priorities; let’s hope this blows over before it is blown out of all proportions.

Cake: (Modern Scottish legal term) – something that you eat that’s not a biscuit or a pasty, which the taxman can’t charge VAT on.

Wars rage; people harm others, Vodaphone evades tax, we need foodbanks. But celebratory bells will ring, children will dance in the street, and the lion will lie down with the lamb: Snowballs are cakes.

In a decision taking a mere 20 years to reach, the establishment has declared that bakeries including Tunnocks can call their snowball cakes, er, cakes. I’m as relieved about this as you are; it’s been hard to sleep at night knowing this was going on. According to the Daily Mail:

“In the end, the verdict went in favour of the two bakeries’ claim that their snowballs should be classed as cakes – and so are not subject to VAT.

“It will cost HMRC – who had classed it as a sweet and so VAT-rated – more than £2.8million to refund the taxes paid by the two firms.

“The judgment means Lees can claim back £2,057,497 in VAT from HMRC, while Tunnocks can claim back £805,956.  It also means the taxman has lost out on future VAT from snowballs to the tune of millions of pounds.

“It was also revealed in the judgement released yesterday that an informal poll of tax office staff in Dundee found a majority had disagreed with their bosses and thought the teacake was a cake.”

There is no word yet on the classification of spotted dick.

Alas! there is no time to comment on the discrete, cost-effective security measures that accompanied the baton’s arrival in Union Terrace Gardens, but more on this, and Trump’s reaction to A Dangerous Game next week.

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Jan 022014

A dollop of determination
A spoon full of courage
A bucket load of The Dee
… And one red velvet cupcake.

The only recipe for a Great British Row Off. With thanks to Jennifer Kelly.

(L-R) Lauren Cammaert and RGUBC president, Gillian Paterson

(L-R) Lauren Cammaert and RGUBC president, Gillian Paterson

Bellowing orders at her cowering crew as they power down the River Dee, Lauren Cammaert isn’t your average 5ft 3 cox; as behind the façade of ruthless competitor, the Aberdeen Universities’ Boat Club president swaps her one-piece for her pinny at every available opportunity.

And she’s not alone.

It would appear that for this year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Universities’ Boat Race, Lauren has an army of keen bakers behind her, all inspired by the nations on-screen fascination; The Great British Bake Off (GBBO).

This new generation of university students spend their evenings adding their own touches to the latest Delia Smith recipe, baking artisan bread and designing wedding cakes. And this pastime isn’t gender specific, even 6ft 3 Alexander Hutchinson takes pride in his homemade bread.

It’s just as well they all have such a stringent exercise regime, and youth on their side.

However, 23 year old Lauren went one step further than other adoring GBBO fans and applied to be a part of the 2013 Great British Bake Off. Diligently, she pulled her application together, consisting of 12 original recipes and a 35 question-long interrogation form. After submitting, she awaited a response eagerly.

Weeks came, and passed, and the realisation that she was not successful became reality.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, as it took me weeks to put my application together, but I was not going to be disheartened. I can dedicate my baking skills to other causes- like bribing my crew out of their warm beds at 6am on very cold mornings!” says Lauren.

The Canadian born competitor first discovered her passion for cooking during the winter months of her childhood. Inspired by her mother and sister, Lauren followed suit and baked her way through the chilly festive months. She explains how it all began,

“Where we stayed in Canada, the winter months were perilous and there were often days that we were barricaded inside by snow. To relieve our boredom, my mom taught my older sister and I to bake. I was instantly fascinated and spent the rest of my junior years with sticky fingers, covered in flour and icing sugar.

“My baking was pretty mediocre to start, but, like anything, it improved with time. I like adding my own little twists onto recipes just to see what happens. Sometimes it’s disastrous but that’s part of the fun.

“My signature bake is a batch of red velvet cupcakes where I take elements from Nigella Lawson’s recipe and add my own cream cheese icing recipe. When I’m not too busy, I take orders for wedding cakes which have definitely proven to be my biggest, but most rewarding, challenge yet.”

For 2014, Lauren will be swapping spatula for oar in the Aberdeen Asset Management Universities’ Boat Race on Saturday  March 1st. Lauren moved to Aberdeen when she was eight years old and started at Robert Gordon’s College. From there, she progressed to Aberdeen University to study medicine where she hopes to graduate as a doctor next year.

She describes her early rowing career,

“I started off rowing for a couple of years, inspired by the stellar reputation of Aberdeen University Boat Club, but decided that my petite frame was better suited to coxing. My mom rowed during high school, my dad at college in Cambridge so it definitely runs in the family … and my boyfriend also coaches. 

“The Aberdeen Asset Management Universities’ Boat Race is a fantastic student event but don’t be fooled, the competitive atmosphere is so electric it could pass for a professional competition. I am always touched by how many local supporters turn up on the day to cheer us on. Hopefully this year will achieve results that Aberdeen University can really scream about.”

Although she was involved in last year’s race, Lauren views her recent presidency as a chance to step up to the plate and bring Aberdeen University to victory once more. She jokes:-

“If I have to bribe them all with fresh red velvet cupcakes to train all winter then that’s what I’ll do!”

Lauren had hoped to re-apply for the 2014 GBBO but the filming falls at the same time as the race, and there is no competition as to which she is determined to see through. Her last year at university will hopefully one filled with delicious cakes and rowing triumphs.

Keep an eye out as Lauren on 1st March 2014 as swaps her pinny for one-piece, spatula for oar and coxes her crew to victory for Aberdeen University.

Follow the 2014 Aberdeen Asset Universities’ Boat Race and show your true colours at www.facebook.com/AAMBoatRace and at https://twitter.com/2014BoatRace.

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