The Hub was reading online when he mentioned raspberry pie.
I whipped my head around. “What? You hate raspberries.”
That’s been true ever since we met. He’ll even reject chocolate cake with raspberry sauce, a combination which I believe was created by flights of pastry chef angels.
However, he was speaking from another world, one where the term does not refer to a tart, delicious dessert, but to a little computer the size of a deck of cards. He started to explain more, but I’ll spare you. It made me want to turn on the kitchen exhaust fan.
The correct name for the gizmo is Raspberry Pi, by the way, but since I’m no computer boffin, how was I supposed to know? And “boffin,” in the world he was reading about, means a person with expert scientific knowledge, not a relative of a small, orange-beaked bird.
Hub was reading The Register, a British online publication aimed at information technology people who enjoy their nerd news with large scoops of snark. I think it’s snark, anyway. Hub laughs at things that to me might as well be written in Mandarin, like “Hey, can’t believe they got a 404 on that.”
Me: “What, honey? Can’t hear you with the fan on, sorry.”
Spousal communication was restored when he showed me a recurring feature called Post-Pub Nosh Neckfiller. These were recipes intended to be restorative after a lively evening of pub crawling. Bacon was frequently involved, as was a deep fryer.
The writer’s idea that someone would even try to prepare their own food after rolling in from a night of revelry intrigued me.
Some of the recipes were appalling, such as Scotch eggs: boiled eggs encased in black pudding, which is British blood sausage. They looked like deep-tried Styrofoam balls. Cut open, the eggs resembled weird eyes staring vacantly at the unwary eater. Not what I’d want to see when already in an altered mental state.
Answering the precise question in my mind, the author wrote: “Scotch eggs are, of course, served cold. We found that a night in the fridge, or at least four hours, improves the flavour and texture. Operating a fridge door is, furthermore, a much safer post-pub option than attempting to manipulate a cooker.”
The writer didn’t always just deep fry things. There were recipes for Slovakian potato dumplings with sheep cheese, bacon and egg sushi, and a Spanish chickpea stew.
One column pitted huevos rancheros against an unholy thing called a haggis pakora, in which I discovered a fact more terrifying than finding year-old guacamole in the back of the fridge: canned haggis exists.
The taste-off took place at a bar. Huevos rancheros won, renewing my faith in the palate of pub patrons.
The week that a recipe for Southern biscuits and gravy appeared, I sat up – I know a little bit about that. The process looked like a ton of fun, showing his friend’s young daughters making the “savory scones” too enthusiastically. The results were a bit tough: “Experts among you are invited to share your top tips for scone perfection or, better still, to come round next time and see if you can get a trio of excited wannabe bakers to pay attention to instructions.”
But Parmesan cheese in the gravy? Oh, it was on.
For several months, I tried to contact the author, a Brit who was said to live in Spain. After having no luck, I assumed he was too busy making Spam sushi and such to communicate.
New Post-Pub Nosh Neckfillers stopped showing up on The Register site.
Then I found an obituary.
The author, Lester Haines, had died at age 55 of a heart attack. Before shouting “no kidding,” consider the obit.
It said that he studied languages voraciously (starting with Etruscan at age 13), was a self-taught electrician, played in a punk band, photographed Sandinistas and started a London theater group. He worked on a project to launch a paper airplane into space and building a rocket-powered balloon-assisted space plane.
From the obit: “He was sacked at least twice from The Register and resigned or threatened to quit even more frequently. He was hopeless with money. He had a series of fallings-out with people from which he would never back down and difficult relationships with women. In the last few years he took a willful disregard for his health to absurd lengths and refused to acknowledge the damage he was doing. But on his day he was fantastic and hilarious company with a width and depth of knowledge and enthusiasms that continued to surprise. He was kind, generous and funny with an unerring ear and eye for pomposity.”
And, I suspect, a pretty good cook. The column showed instincts in common with everyone who urges people to cook at home. Because for all that Post-Pub Nosh Neckfiller was couched in feeding what Haines called the “wobbly diner,” he was telling people to make their own meals and feed others, and showing that it’s not that hard to do – even after a pint or two. That cooking is even darn fun. It’s the same message that hundreds of us food writers have used reams of paper and pixels to convey.
But, hey, that “Southern” biscuit gravy? I would have loved to have sat down with him and discussed that over a pint.
Moose is a Raleigh cookbook author and former News & Observer food editor. Reach her at debbiemoose.com.