Hello! I’m Doctor Bob Lewis and welcome to my Oral Surgery – a virtual eating and drinking environment that delivers electro-convulsive therapy to your taste buds, without you having to do much more than unscrew a jar, take the top off a bottle or turn a knob on the hob of your common or garden cooking appliance.
The simple ethos of this blog is that the right combination of food and beer will give you sensory experiences that you will find yourself returning to time and time again. The idea here is not to think of your endeavours as being akin to those of a match-making agency, where food and beer might chat politely on the kitchen work surface, or exchange knowing glances across the dining room table. Rather, you should think of your kitchen as, dare I say it, some kind of new-fangled dating app, or instant fertility clinic, where two separate entities immediately come together to procreate something far greater than the sum of their individual parts.
If you’re new to the art of beer and food matching then I confidently predict that this book will radically alter the way you eat, drink and generally put things into your mouth. If you’re already a convert, then I hope this book will offer new surprises and that you will return to the theme with a fresh and edifying perspective.
My research into food and beer pairings has been a forensic labour of love undertaken over nearly two decades spent circumnavigating the globe, teaching the English language to citizens of the world. The moment of my culinary epiphany was inspired by no more than a cursory piece of advice barked at me by waiter in a tapas bar in Madrid – and you’ll find that fascinating encounter featured within. From that moment, I never looked back and after exploring the many wonderful ways in which beer and food can go together I was inspired to commit these musings to paper.
Many of the pieces in this blog have already appeared in respected English language magazines and publications around the world and it is here that I am happy to extend warm thanks to the publishers of Forza Linguini Magazine, the only dedicated trade journal available to producers of that particular variety of pasta; and former colleague, Alan Day, editor and founder of Calabria Life, a magazine dedicated to the particularly crime-infested and frankly dangerous region situated at the toe of Italy, which sadly only ran to the three issues. Alan sadly went missing just after that final issue was ‘put to bed’ so I’d just like to say here that, Alan, if you’re looking down on us – and some might say you always were – then don’t say we didn’t warn you! However, if you are still with us somewhere, perhaps eking out a living as a teacher in Northern Finland or South America, then it was just a joke about you looking down on people, and it would be great to hook up sometime. (If you could see your way to paying for the columns I submitted, all the better.)
I should also here warn all readers with a creative bent to be wary of responding to any approach made to you by Homeland Publishing of Exmouth, Devon (vanity, vanity!). As for Jez Miller at El Toro Press in Seville, Jez, if you’re out there, mate, it helps if you date the cheque with the current year in the top right hand corner. (Another of the Alan Days of this world).
But putting aside all grievances, as one must if one is to move on and make a success of one’s life, it gives me great pleasure to announce that now, for the first time, a selection of my articles and private musings have been collated, along with my novella / autobiography, presenting a unique opportunity for all would-be beer and food enthusiasts.
I will add here that the processes of food preparation and heating described within these pages are so simple that they can hardly be described as cooking at all, just as many of the dishes shouldn’t really be thought of as meals. In many cases, what we’re looking at are the ultimate quick lunches and bar / dinner snacks that can be prepared easily and enjoyed either at leisure or in haste. The oral satisfaction you would already experience from the food is multiplied and magnified incalculably by the beer that comes with it. In fact, as more and more of us are now embracing the grazing approach to eating, as exemplified by tapas and meze cultures, you are about to find yourself ahead of the game when entertaining friends and acquaintances. That’s not to say we won’t be looking at some more complex creations as well, of course.
Although many of the food and beer pairings described in this blog were discovered in Spain, Italy, Belgium and Germany, there are also ideas collected from my travels across the length and breadth of Europe, North Africa, the Americas and the Far East.
Of course, Britain being a nation of brewers, it would be wrong not to celebrate this tradition and draw upon the vast riches to be found in our own lands and I will return, at sporadic intervals, to home-produced examples throughout the book. Perhaps it’s a national trait to neglect the things that really make our country great (ale, pies, cockles) whilst harking on about the things that other countries supposedly envy about our sceptred isle (torture, waxworks, nose-rings, flags, tattoos, WAGS etc etc). However, this being a nation of loyal citizens and obsessives, our ale culture, under threat of virtual extinction just a few short decades ago, is enjoying a massive renaissance and boom, thanks, originally, to the lobbying of a hardy band of drinkers and brewers labouring in response to the threat of an homogenised, bland-lager / smoothflow culture that still looms, vulture-like over the British brewing industry.
All of the food products I describe are now readily available in supermarkets and delicatessens across the UK so there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t enjoy the collaborations that I am more than pleased to impart to you. As for the beer, well that’s even easier.
TEFL: An explanation.
Teach, Eat, F***, Leave. The End of the French Language. Temporary Employment for Losers.
Anyone who’s ever flirted with the idea of moving to another country, or indeed with a person from another country, will have been tempted by the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of opportunities across the world to Teach English as a Foreign Language. And this, my friends, is how I’ve managed to spend the last 25 years exploring different parts of the planet without having to resort to using a shop doorway or an Etap hotel for shelter.
To obtain a recognised TEFL qualification you still need to be a graduate, and in my day, once you’d got a degree, it really couldn’t have been easier. Nowadays I hear that once you’ve got into university, well, it really couldn’t be easier.
I decided to leave the UK when, a year after graduating, it became clear that Thatcher’s Britain, with its boom and bust economy and relentless propagation of Yuppie culture, was not the place for an honest John with a 2:2 in Combined Arts. It seems strange now to think that my friends ever wondered why I should choose to leave the country of my birth and I became weary of the silly acronyms they’d invent to describe my new vocation (see above).
More ridiculous, however, was the insinuation that I was leaving because of a liaison with a well-known local football hooligan’s girlfriend, and that when the misdemeanour was discovered, the fallout would be of such colossal proportions that it would be better for the perpetrator to be as far away as possible. What nonsense! I mean, even if some kind of incident had taken place, which it hadn’t, I can’t believe a rational person would ever think like that; blaming someone who would have been ignorant of the fact that the woman was attached, anyway! And as for any senseless act of revenge, well, the police would know exactly whose door to knock on first, wouldn’t they? Even if this atrocity were carried out years – even decades later.
Yes, these suggestions became very tiresome, particularly when uttered aloud in certain city centre pubs, and they only served to increase my agitation to get away from a country that was losing its sense of soul and perspective. After a one-week intensive crash course run by the Lingua-Mundo Language Academy, I was posted off to a new life in Madrid. I have to say it’s a decision I’ve never regretted and it is to the people, and particularly the bar staff of that frenetic 24-hour party city that I dedicate this blog.
As a postscript, I see our country, having raised its head out of the murky waters of recession, has seemingly risked plunging itself headfirst into another one, with its rejection of free movement and the single market. Noting also the rise in arrests of football hooligans, I can only say that I hope this once proud nation will one day be be fit enough for me to pay more than just the odd, fleeting visit.
Bob Lewis October 2016
Beginners Start Here: Bocadillo de Chorizo y Cerveza – Chorizo Roll and Beer:
Chorizo: Spicy Spanish sausage: Pronunciation:. Cho-ree-tho. (Spain), Cho-ree-so (South America, USA). Cho-rits-oh (Error).
If you’re wondering just how impactful the right combination of food and beer can be, then this is as good a place to start as any. As I’ve mentioned in the intro, my own epiphany came via the humble marinated anchovy: as they’re a little trickier to track down than chorizo, though, this provides a great starting point.
Chorizo is the spicy Spanish sausage which is enjoyed not only the length and breadth of the Iberian peninsular, but now across much of the western world, too. Ten years ago, hardly anyone in the UK had heard of it; these days, if some Come Dine With Me contestant hasn’t included it chopped up with their scallops or their Mediterranean chicken thighs, then something’s gone badly wrong. Now available in all supermarkets and delis across the nation, the stuff’s great on its own but pair it off with a glass of icy-cold lager and you’ll understand what the Spaniard meant when he told me that chorizo and beer was the reason God invented bread. You can cook chorizo in cider or red wine and it’s a perfect bedfellow for a whole range of foodstuffs ranging from rocket to mussels so don’t be too surprised to see it cropping up at regular intervals throughout this blog.
To enjoy chorizo, bread and beer, simply do the following.
- Go to your supermarket and head for the deli counter or cooked hams section. There amongst the Bavarian smoked, Prosciuto and Salamis you’ll find what you’re looking for. Don’t go for the flat-pack / thinly sliced variety – we’ll save that for later: we want the long, red sausage bent in two and often contained in a plastic wrapping. Alternatively, your deli should sell small versions of this, hanging by string behind the counter.
- Now the bread! Choose any one of the following: A baguette, French stick or a loaf of sliced white bread. I like to recreate the crunch factor enjoyed in Spain so I usually toast the bread or sliced baguette/stick.
- Beer: Euro Pils (as opposed to Czecn pils) / Lager though San Miguel, Cruzcampo and Alhambra are Spanish and designed with culinary gems like chorizo in mind.
- Home: Turn on the grill to medium high or turn the hob on to the same. Put 2 pieces of white bread in toaster (if you want it crunchy, put in a few minutes before cooking and let it stand). If using a French loaf, cut in half and slice down middle, or cut into rounds of around 2 – 3cm thick. Slice the chorizo into 12 – 14 pieces of around 1 – 1 ½ cm thick and put under grill, in frying pan or griddle – you don’t need oil! Soon the scarlet paprika coloured juices will start to run. After a minute or two, flip a piece over. You want to catch it just before it starts to blacken, though I’m certainly not averse to a bit of the black stuff. When the chorizo starts to crisp, turn all the pieces over and leave until the same effect is achieved. Arrange the chorizo evenly on both slices of toast, on top of your toasted rounds or, if using sliced French loaf arrange between pieces or place on top of one piece.
- Take a bite and a slug of cold beer. The smoky, sweet amalgamation of the paprika, cured pork and
When I first wrote this entry for my original book proposal, I mentioned that Estrella from Catalunia was now available on our supermarket shelves and that if you chanced upon it, it was certainly worth giving it a go. They’ve since made a fist of promoting their product as a perfect food partner, with a sophisticated online advertising campaign featuring a clutch of award-winning chefs bearing dishes they have specially created for the purposes of matching the Catalunian macro-pilsner. It’s all rather nice, though you’d if more than a little predictable: as the chefs’ creations are tasted, alongside the beer, can you guess what the outcome is? It makes When I first wrote this entry for my original book proposal, I mentioned that Estrella from Catalunia was now available on our supermarket shelves and that if you chanced upon it, it was certainly worth giving it a go. They’ve since made a fist of promoting their product as a perfect food partner, with a sophisticated online advertising campaign featuring a clutch of award-winning chefs creating dishes that. It’s all rather nice, if more than a little predictable: as the chefs’ creations are tasted, alongside the beer, can you guess what the outcome is? The only problem (apart from the fact there was more tension in one of John Noakes’ Blue Peter tastings) is that apart from a flat, ‘Yes, that tortilla really goes with this Estrella,’ we’re not really given any insight into why or how the pairing works. Oh well, keep at it guys; anything that makes me look good is fine by me.