Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wheeltappers and shunters

Firstly, a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a tin of heavily processed meat.  And contained herein, dear reader, lies a confession.

Now I know that you’ll all have been thinking that as a purveyor of fine chilli foodstuffs my kitchen must be well stocked with all manner of food loveliness.  Well it might come as a shock, but no.  Open my kitchen cabinets and you’re more likely to hit with an errant Pot Noodle than foie gras.  I am, if nothing else, a typical single bloke in the eating stakes, and that generally means one of two types of food – either a takeaway or ‘how fast can I cook it so I don’t miss the football/cricket/cycling on the telly’.  And one of those things often found Chez Hobbit is that wartime favourite – Spam.  I tend to have a tin or two knocking around for those occasions when I need something in my sandwiches and have been too busy, tired or just plain lazy to get to the shops.

spamSo why am I telling you all of this?  Well, it came to my attention last week as I opened a tin of the Python’s favourite foodstuff (with it’s attendant inadvertent self-mutiliation possibilities) that Spam has its own website.  And Facebook page.  And Twitter feed.  And Pinterest page.  And Instagram account.  Seriously dudes, WTF?  Now I know that in  this day and age everybody, everything, has to have an outlet – I am proof of that.  But Spam?  A quick perusal shows that the manufacturers are cashing in mightily on the current slew of Monty Python dates, even offering up a recipe for Spam Popcorn, which just defies comprehension.  I guess kitsch has many guises.

WFMAOn to more mundane matters, and I thought I’d tell you of a role I’ve picked up lately as a direct consequence of working with the chilli farm.  As I (or the Pink Chilli Hobbit) attend a number of markets in Wiltshire it sort of made sense to take an active role in the Wiltshire Farmers Market Association (WFMA), so I am now a full-blown committee member.  It gives me an insight into the way the association runs, and a voice in the way the markets are organised.  I’ve attended a couple of meetings so far and whilst sometimes it’s tricky doing the schizophrenic thing of representing the market community as a whole – as opposed to what’s best for the Wiltshire Chilli Farm – it’s fair to say that most of the time they go hand in hand.  One task I took on last week was to represent the WFMA at a Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council meeting.  Now I’ve never attended a council meeting before, and several things struck me:

  • it was very old fashioned in it’s language
  • it was woefully poor on timings
  • when you’re just there as an observer, waiting for your slot, it is soul-destroyingly dull
  • it’s even more dull when you can’t even play Candy Crush Saga (on silent, I’m not that much of a berk) ‘cos you’re low on battery

W&SNow to be fair, of course, the subjects being discussed were of great importance to local residents, of which I am not one.  But I couldn’t shake off the feeling that it was all a bit…well…1930’s in approach.  I got a real blast of nostalgia when some comment or another suddenly brought to mind ’70s variety show The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, which if you’ve not seen it is worth a look on YouTube just to remind you that however tedious Celebrity Masterchef and Strictly Come Dancing are, at least they don’t feature Bernard Manning.  It was a show definitely of its era, with the host prone to cries of ‘It’s been brought to the attention of t’committee…’, hence  why it sprang to mind last week.  But nevertheless I survived the RWB Town Council experience, tired but triumphant, but only in the knowledge that it probably won’t be the last time I have to do it 😦

chilliThe other major event for yours truly was a feature in Friday’s Swindon Advertiser.  You may recall that we’d had a visit from them the week before to take some photos and listen to our random thoughts, but I was pleasantly surprised by the article when I read it.  Thankfully my age didn’t get a mention (the fact that I can remember the Wheeltappers & Shunters is a bit of a giveaway), the photos did sterling service in chin limitation duty, and it had the desired effect of getting a few punters along to the Swindon Chilli Festival the next day.  I bought a copy to show my Mum, of course.

The Festival itself was a bit underwhelming, but I’m pretty sure that our old nemesis – the weather – had the largest part to play in that.  It was, as I’m sure you will have noticed, a stormy old few days, and the rain – whilst not constant – was absolutely torrential when it did arrive. 20140719_141849 The BBC’s weather droids did their level best as always by frightening people, advising them not to leave their homes in case of Biblical floods, typhoons, krakens and other things they needed to use up their graphics quota on.  It was also the first festival of this type in Swindon, and these things need a bit of history before the crowds flood in.

The local samba group tried to liven things up, though all they really managed to do was deafen the audience (customers and traders alike) which left us flailing around in a very poor attempt at sign language, trying to describe the incendiary properties of Red Septenary among others.  And really guys, samba is meant to be a joyous thing…

 

Prior to that I’d tried Gloucester (or Gloooooooooooucester, as it’s spelt at Kingsholm) Farmers Market.  It was on Friday (weekdays are never fantastic), the last day of school (everyone rushing off on holiday), and it was our first time there (no loyal audience), so it was no surprise that takings were lower than Vladimir Putin’s popularity ratings.  Will I try it again?  Maybe, as long as it’s en route to somewhere else – it’s a long old trip for an experiment.

One other thing that has been cemented in my consciousness this week is just how abused our glorious English language is.  I’m not talking about the grocer’s apostrophe, or the seemingly inevitable invasion of Americanisms such as nite, donut and  pants when you mean trousers (pants are undercrackers, people!).  It’s the abuse it gets when well-meaning organisers label their event as being ‘awesome’, as has happened for the chilli festivals I’ve been at over the last couple of weekends.  Fun, enjoyable, good-natured yes…but awesome?  I have extensive knowledge of Swindon and nothing – nothing– has never been awesome in the town.  Not Diana Dors.  Certainly not Mark Lamarr.  Not even the football club’s promotion to the top tier of English football some 20 years ago, and I was there so I should know.  awesomeIt was remarkable, exciting, heart-stopping and nerve-wracking – but it was not AWESOME, especially in caps lock.  So I say to these people – just don’t.  You’re not fooling anyone.  Not in Swindon, especially.

+++ RANT OVER +++

20140720_124503Sunday was spent trading for the day at a delightful village event in Sutton Veny, down in the south of the county.  The event was a village fair at a lovely nursing home, and it was thankfully not billed as awesome, or any other irrelevant adjectives.  It was a proper village event – run by volunteers, all profits going to charity, and with no pretensions.  Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and even if you didn’t you felt like you did by the end 20140720_124406of the day.  There were proper stalls like a coconut shy where you got to win a coconut, not a fluffy toy made in a Chinese sweat shop.  There was a bouncy castle that the adults ended up playing on.  There was ice cream and candy floss.  There was a raffle, where of course one person kept winning all of the prizes.  And above all, there was a feeling that everyone there was having a good time, including the stall holders.  I went expecting to make a few quid and no more, and that’s what happened.  But you know what?  I don’t care, I really enjoyed it.  The sun was out, there was live music being played by a variety of people that could actually play in tune, and when it wasn’t busy on the stall I just sat on my stool and read a book.  I could almost certainly have made more money going further afield to a bigger event, but it did me the power of good just doing a quiet one for a change.

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I shall stop burbling on now, for I fear I have overstayed my gibbering welcome once again.  I’ll just give you a quick update on this weekend’s events.  I will be in Lechlade Garden Centre on Friday, en route to the Cosford Food Festival for the weekend.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit is in Royal Wootton Bassett and Bradford-on-Avon.  We’re also out and about at the RNAS Yeovilton Air Day, Brindley Place in Birmingham, Hylands House Game Show, Glasgow Food Festival, Lincoln Food Festival and our regular haunts in Swindon, Bath and Oxford.

Another hectic weekend then, but that’s just how we roll.

Hope the weather stays nice for you, try not to work too hard, and ladies – now that I’m famous – if you really want me to autograph any body parts, just form an orderly queue…

richard-kruspe-bNo-one claimed their free lollipop by providing me with an answer to last weeks quiz.  The answer was Richard Z. Kruspe, lead guitarist with that jolly German boy band Rammstein.  Be ashamed that you do not know these things.

 


 

+++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++


 

A funny thing happened on the way to the market

denver-zooI hate the internal combustion engine and all its attached gubbins.

Basically, it goes like this.  I was due to work a market in Reading last Friday on my way to Sussex for a chilli festival.  A large part of Thursday was spent packing the van, rearranging things, loading up camping gear, working out which stock I needed just for Friday so as not to need to unload everything in Reading.  Got up at sparrow-fart in order to trundle off to Berkshire in good time to set up (I hate being rushed), fed the cats, set up the automatic pet feeder for the weekend,  smug_motivation_by_urchie1991-d4khzj7checked the lights, locked up, all the stuff you usually do before going away for a couple of days.  Jumped in the van, rather chuffed that I was getting away dead on time.  Put the keys in the ignition, put my foot on the clutch pedal…and realised that there was no clutch pedal.  Or rather…there was, but it was irreversibly sucked into the footwell of the van, resisting all entreaties to lift up it’s little French head and be used to enable me to change gear.  Now there are a number of ways in which I could have reacted, but it’s a testament to the rather more stable mental space I now inhabit that I didn’t go all Basil Fawlty on the Silver Machine.  I suspect that it was largely because – frankly – I’d seen this coming and knew Monsieur Clutch was rather unwell and not long for this carthrashworld.  Also, if you’re going to break down it’s best to do it at home where you can just go back indoors and put the kettle on…so much better than catching fire on a roundabout.  Which has happened to me.  That’s a story for another day.

Of course, much faffing ensued.  The good people of Enterprise (alas not the starship variety) were more than happy to rent me a behemoth of a van for the weekend, and to be fair it was rather pleasant to blat down to Shoreham in a ’14 reg Ford Transit with lots of toys, and more to the point toys that worked.  And being frankly enormous it was much easier to load up, though of course the fact that I had to completely unload the van that I had only loaded up the day before was a tad irritating.  I need the exercise, I kept telling myself.

With all of this larking about I actually headed off to Sussex a bit earlier than anticipated, and beat the worst of the M25’s Friday afternoon mayhem, so there was definitely a silver lining to it all.  Not that I can afford a silver lining this week after the hire costs and the impending clutch replacement!

So how did the weekend go, I hear you not ask?  Another one of those events that frankly left me bemused…a multi-day chilli festival that was definitely a game of two halves.  Saturday was busy enough and reasonable numbers were shifted, but Sunday had the tourists in – lost and lots of people mooching in to a free event, eating samples , and then buggering off without so much of a sniff of 20140713_074120interest in shaking the moths out of their wallets.  I know, we all do it, but by gum it’s irritating.  I don’t have it as bad as some of course, my samples being tasters on sticks, but those giving out samples on crackers were going…well…crackers.  It was if the people of Shoreham had taken their cue from the seagulls that plagued the event by coming in for a free feed.

As is usual from this kind of event I came back with several pots of other vendors stuff – we may be in competition with each other, but there’s some damned good stuff out there that we don’t make…we don’t have a monopoly on great recipes.

Still, I made enough to pay for the van hire, had a lovely stay at a nice camp site, managed a visit to the in-laws and jump-started my enthusiasm for reading thanks to there being no phone signal to distract me at the camp site.  I was even far enough from any decent pubs to keep me out of mischief, the downside to that being that I had no idea that Germany had won the World Cup until I asked my mother-in-law on Monday morning 🙂

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Jamie had a much busier event at the Cardiff International Food Festival, selling more than everyone else combined.  Thankfully he’s not smug, mainly because it costs a lot more to get into these things than the events the rest of us were doing.  Everyone else’s events were pretty steady, though the Pink Chilli Hobbit had a good day in Chippenham on Sunday.  The Food Festival (essentially an expanded monthly Farmers Markets with knobs on) seems to have been well attended so that bodes well for the future.  PCH is currently on missionary work in the far north (OK, Harrogate) for her own business PinkBox Boutique.   She’ll come back talking all incomprehensible and northern after a few days up there.  Makes a change from incomprehensible and southern that we’re all guilty of!

The chilli plants are getting big…it won’t be much longer before I’m able to lose myself amongst them.  I realise that’s not much of an ask, but even so it shows they’re on the way up an a hell of a rate.

Greenhouse

We had a nice visit from the Swindon Advertiser who wanted to interview us for the Swindon Chilli Festival, which happens this Saturday.  If things go to plan there should be a piece in this Friday’s Adver and – assuming the camera didn’t break – some piccies of yours truly trying not to look to self-concious whilst posing in front of the tunnels.  I’m just just hoping the camera angle keeps the chins down into single figures.

In other news…Jamie cuts a sinister figure in his Naga Salt making outfit…digging the marigolds….

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Miss Bristol and the Mayor of Bristol appear mightily unimpressed by being asked to ‘taste’ some of our chillies for a photo shoot.  Mayor & Miss BristolI don’t think they were keen.  If this is what Bristolians think of their chillies no wonder I’m having trouble at Temple Quay!  (And before I get a sackful of abuse from Brizzle – yes I know you love our stuff really 🙂 )

So what next for this intrepid chilli adventurer?  Well, the aforementioned Swindon Chilli Fest (in the centre of town, Canal Walk to be precise) is Saturdays gig.  Before that on Friday I will be trying out Gloucester signpost-blankFarmers Market to see what that’s like.  Sunday is a mystery right now.  I have the possibility of four events spread across Wiltshire. Oxfordshire and  Dorset.  There is also the possibility of none of them happening…but we’ll just have to wait and see.  I’m not one, as a rule, to enjoy being unsure of where the heck I’m meant to be this close to the weekend, but all of them are an easy drive away so I’m less fazed than usual.  Something will happen.  It may be good.  It may not.  It may rain.  It may not.  Whatever.

We’ll be in our usual haunts, as well as more exotic surroundings such as the Bristol Harbour Festival, Tatton Park Foodies Festival and the Gower Chilli Festival.  That’s the Welsh place, not a festival held by the former England cricketer.  Really, really can’t imagine him enjoying a slug of Ghost 3.2.

And that folks, is that for this week!  Keep the faith!

SignIf you can name the gentleman in the ‘Smugness’ poster above I’ll give you a free lollipop if you see me this weekend – regardless of your age or marital status 🙂

No cheating!!!

 

 

 

It’s been a year

A year since what, I hear you ask?

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Well, it was early in July 2013 when I took my last salary from the corporate world.  After a 26 year career in IT I took the plunge into – well, initially – jobseeking.  It didn’t take me long to realise that the decision I’d taken some years earlier – to take a step away from the deeply technical side of IT and into management – had DSCF7972made things tricky.  There has been a trend amongst the big corporates to promote technical consultants into management roles and expect them to carry on their technical roles, whilst doing the management bit as well.  Now I could sit and pontificate about the rights and wrongs of that ethos for hours, but that’s just the way it is (bet you just sang that in your head).  And so, in a tactical error of the size not seen since King Herod launched his creche business, I’d become practically unemployable – at least if I wanted to earn anything like the sort of money I’d been on.

So I thought – if I’m not going to earn the same money – I may as well do something I enjoy.  And that, dear readers, leads me – via a rather tortuous and confused route – to where I am now.  Standing in fields, sunburnt/windswept/soaked/cold (delete where applicable), imploring people to buy chilli products.

And you know what?  I’ve never had more fun in a professional capacity.  I say to everyone that asks that it just doesn’t feel like a real job.  It’s hard work, tiring, unpredictable, irritating, all-consuming, confusing and badly paid…but what other career gives you the ability to tell grown men that they’re a wuss and to ask them to check their Man Licence, to inflict pain on people with Ghost 3.2, to hand out sweeties to small children and not get a visit from Operation Yew Tree, to advertise for single ladies in a brazen display of desperation, and above all to have a bloody good laugh and say that it’s imperative to the job?

DSCF7961So do I regret leaving the corporate world?  Well, it was better paid and less time-consuming, but I am immeasurably happier, and measurably healthier, doing what I do now.  And what I’ve been doing over the last week is more of the same, but in the best location ever.  I was lucky enough to wangle a spot at the Corfe Castle Food Festival in Dorset.  I say lucky because it was an event ostensibly for local businesses, but I am always on the lookout for new locations and would love to find some customers in Daaaarzet, as it should be pronounced.  Why?  Well, it’s where my Mum & Dad come from, and I spent many, many happy days in the county as a child, it feels like a second home.  My Uncle still lives there, and was happy enough to put me up for the weekend in his lovely thatched cottage with it’s rescued clay-mining paraphernalia in the garden..

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So the relentlessly cheerful Zoe at the National Trust  let me in, and I’m glad she did – what a spectacular setting for a festival.  Apologies for making this post look a bit like a photo album, but you don’t get market locations like this every weekend!

The Lollipop of Shame.  Hab Gold did this.  Wuss.

The Lollipop of Shame

But did Dorset like it’s chillies?  Well, yes it did – but this is where it gets a little confusing, as it often does.  Because you see, dear reader, I try to predict what the audience will want, and stock up accordingly.  So for for somewhere genteel and polite like Corfe I took loads and loads of jams, which I thought would fly off the table (and not just because of the inevitable breeziness that the location brings).  But no, Corfe is not a jam town.  The chutney stall next to me concurred – they didn’t do a roaring trade.  Luckily for me I have the Chipotle Chilli Salt solution to all meal questions, and quite a few of them shifted, so it was a decent weekend overall.

DSCF7978The only fly in the ointment was my second encounter with petty larceny.  I left my gazebo up overnight, sidewalls zipped shut, taking all my stock with me ‘just in case’.  What I didn’t take with me this time were my samples, which I left on the table in the gazebo.  Well, someone obviously came careening out of The Greyhound pub that night and desperately needed some Sweet Chilli Sauce for his post-binge chips, ‘cos there was no sign of it on Sunday morning.  I have checked repeatedly in all my crates to make sure it’s not me being a doofus, but no – someone’s swiped it.  Not the end of the world of course, but it’s amazing how that affected the psychology of customers…I had no sample on Sunday, so no-one bought any – whereas it had been one of my best sellers on Saturday.

Overall though, a lovely, lovely event – can’t wait to do it again next year.

King Gazebo amongst the ruins

King Gazebo amongst the ruins

A ruin within King Gazebo

A ruin amongst King Gazebo

On the flip side, I tried out Temple Quay in Bristol on Thursday and I just can’t seem to get it to work.  Now I’m not a believer in astrology – I don’t believe it matters if you were born a Libra, Scorpio, Humpback Whale, Great A’Tuin or under the sign of the Prancing Pony – but as Taurean I am of course a stereotypically stubborn cove who will plod along trying to extract a result out of a lost cause.  So I’ve been trying Temple Quay fortnightly, and whilst it’s good fun going to say hello to my former colleagues in the office, it’s not lucrative.  So I’ve made the decision to keep plodding away bullishly, but only once a month from now on – the first Thursday of the month.  So I’ll still be there, just less often…and I’m already looking at alternatives for the third Thursday of the month!

Tidworth was steady on Friday, unspectacular but it’s building slowly.  I’m not sure where everyone was on Saturday, but they weren’t in Devizes – the Pink Chilli Hobbit had a quiet morning there, though it was better in Marlborough on Sunday.

No reports back from Sheffield or the North East, will be interesting how many Ghost 3.2-powered cyclists were on the roads of Yorkshire for the Tour de France’s Grande Départ 🙂

pTerryOn  totally non-chilli note, it’s sad to hear that Sir Terry Pratchett isn’t able to attend the Discworld Convention this year.  It seems that his Alzheimer’s condition is taking its toll and that he’s not up to the task any more.  Hopefully he has a few more books in him yet, but it’s tragic to see such a brilliantly inventive mind struggle with the things that come so easily to most of us.  I’ve seen the effect that Alzheimer’s has, not just on the individual but on the family as well, and it’s heartbreaking.  You expect your loved ones to age and for body parts to fail, seize up or drop off, but the mind is the most precious organ and to see it get mired in the impenetrable pea-souper of incoherence that is Alzheimer’s is just horrible.  When it gets to the point that parents no longer recognise their children, no words can convey the empty feeling that engenders.  If you are dealing with the disease in any way shape or form, you have my utmost sympathy.

20140706_111724So shall we be a bit more cheerful for a minute?  Why, let’s do that.  Some  comments from the weekend:

  • ‘That tastes like fire’ (inspired by Ghost 3.2)
  • ‘Ooh that’s hot’ (inspired by Smoked Chipotle Sauce.  Much abuse followed)
  • ‘Eeeeeeeuw’ (inspired by Fruity Chilli Sauce, tasted by an 8-year-old.  No free lollipop for her)
  • ‘I know where you shop!’ (yours truly, spotting a customer wearing an identical shirt.  We’re not disclosing which top designer outlet we bought them from)

Looking ahead, I have an outbreak of chilli festivals coming up (if two can be called an outbreak).  I’m off to West Sussex this weekend for the Shoreham-by-Sea Chilli Festival.  I’m praying for decent weather as I’m camping it up for the weekend, just round the corner from Brighton & Hove (Actually) Albion’s Amex Stadium, which coincidentally I’m going to visit later this year for a Christmas Market.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit is at the Chippenham Food Festival on Sunday, this should be a good event so please pop along.  We’re also at Bristol’s Foodies Festival, Cardiff International Food Festival, Leicester Global Market and our usual haunts in Swindon, Bath and Oxford.

Lots going on in the background as well, looking at gift packs and clothing – I’ll keep you posted.

And on that it’s time to get back to the World Cup…don’t worry, it’ll be over soon.  At least another test series starts tomorrow, and we have another two-and-a-bit weeks of rouleurs, puncheurs, domestiques and soigneurs to talk about.  Say what now?

Your word for today is ‘apoop’  Use it wisely.

Contemplating Eindhoven

Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise

But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

(c) John Paul Young

OK, so I’m not sure if gazebos (even anthropomorphised ones) have eyes, but there was definitely a certain frisson in the ether when Princess Pinkbox and King Gazebo finally met on Sunday.  As befits gazebo royalty though it was an intensely formal affair, and decorum dictated that a respectable distance was kept at all times, although your guess is as good as mine as to what may have happened whilst our backs were turned.  If Pink Chilli Hobbit starts to hear the patter of tiny gazebo legs in a few months…well, I guess we should have kept the covers on.

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That was at the Swindon Dragon Boat Race, which looked like a real hoot for the competitors.  I never knew that Swindon was twinned with Hawaii (although the football teams are on a par), but the sight of sinewy, sun-blasted youths powering their way through the surf to stirring anthemic music theme is  something I will never forget.  OK, OK…in the interests of reporting accuracy it was more like the local accountancy company (complete with Beryl from HR) trying to beat a team with Rocking Robin (Swindon Town’s mascot, for the uninitiated) as the drummer, racing to the theme tune from Hawaii-Five-O…but you get the drift.  It was good fun, I have no idea who won as we were away from the action a bit, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

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Apart from that it was routine trading in Lechlade and Reading, nothing of real note apart from a most confused response from a customer at the event in Reading.  He’d already announced himself as someone that doesn’t like spicy food, but – and kudos to him for giving it a go – he said that if you don’t open yourself up to new experiences you don’t know what you might miss.  He tasted the Mango Hot Sauce, which as we know is sweet, fruity and yet packing of a surprising wallop…and then said ‘that tastes really nice, but I hate it’.  I’d rather deal with customers like that – willing to try it out even in the knowledge they probably won’t like it – than the sort that sneer at you and pull a face like you’ve just pooed in your hand and thrown it at them.

Now here’s an interesting article.  You’ll remember the grief I was having last week in making Naga Chilli Salt – well, seems my discomfort was well placed – check out the article at this link.  It doesn’t surprise me, the basic chemical in chillies is basically a poison (as so many things are).  Don’t let that put you off though 😉

So in a bit of a departure this post I’m not going to wobble on about the weather, England’s World Cup non-performance, or any of that sort of drivel.

Instead, t20140625_123058his week I shall give you a few behind-the-scenes snippets of life in the chilli kitchen, just so that you know what we mean when we go on about cooking, bottling and labelling.  Here’s one of our sauces in its pre-cooked state, in our big cooker.  Any ideas which one it is?  (No sneaky scrolling down to see the answer now…)

That’s right – it’s Mango Hot Sauce.  I know, I know…it looks nothing like it, but trust me.  The mangoes are at the bottom of the pan, waiting to be blitzed with our monster blender, as you can see below.

20140625_123250This is not the Masterchef school of cookery, it’s pretty industrial in it’s methodology – it has to be that way to produce the numbers of units we do, even with a smaller batch.

Even so it is done with a great deal of care and attention.  Ingredients are measured out accurately, temperatures are controlled carefully, and timings are of paramount importance.  True, there is an awful lot of verbal abuse flying around – it seems to aid the flow of the day – and keeps spirits up when there’s a heck of a lot to do.

So once everything’s been blitzed it’s left to cook, usually with the blender left in situ to continue to break up the chunks so that the sauce goes through the bottling machine.  Watching the sauce get sucked into the murky depths, only to go round the pan and appear again can be quite hypnotic.  It’s almost like a screensaver…

So once that’s all cooked it gets transferred to the bottling machine for…well…bottling.  Now it’s a bottling machine with a semi-automatic process, in that the sauce gets poured into a big hopper, the operator hits the foot pedal (pretending to be John Bonham or Neil Peart whilst doing so), desperately hoping that he’s remembered to put a bottle under the nozzle.  This is almost always the case, but in the mindless repetition that is the bottling process occasional mistakes occur.  We’ve all done it…

For a batch of Mango in the big cooker like this one you’re talking in the region of 750 bottles, so you can see how the occasional lapse in concentration occurs.  We are but flesh and blood, ladies and gentlemen, and the later in the day it gets, the stupider the flesh and blood becomes.

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The Leaning Tower of Mango

But by and large it goes without incident, and you end up with large numbers of crates stacked up like the picture to the right waiting for some helpful sort to load up the sack truck and wheel them over to the old kitchen for capping and labelling.

Capping involves slipping a heat-shrink cap onto each bottle and then holding it in a cunning device that is basically an electric coil with a v-shaped plate in front of it to rest the bottle.  The caps shrink in a second, and then on to the next stage – which I hate – sticking the ‘best before’ stickers on.  There is no easy way to do this with standard bottles, as we put the stickers on the bottom of the bottle to stop them rubbing off in transit.  Tedious isn’t the word.

Labelling is another semi-automatic process.  Another machine with a foot pedal, though for reasons I’m never quite worked out we have it at counter level and tap it with a hand.

And that’s what we do…time after time after time.  It’s pretty repetitive so we take it in turns to be on the bottling machine, or capping and labelling, or making salts, or whatever else it is we do to bring our products to you.  Last week though – thanks to Jamie trying to remove his own fingers in a van door and someone taking the stabilisers off Bonds bike, guess who got be Mr Bottle for 2 days?  Though it’s a bit repetitive it’s what gives me a real buzz when I sell something on the stall – I can quite often say ‘I made that!’ – and you don’t get that from a checkout operator in the supermarkets.

So, anything else of interest out there this week?  I have to admit to having lived in a bit of a chilli-shaped bubble over the last few days, so it’s entirely feasible that the Martians have landed, taken over the White House, been ousted from office (probably by Bruce Willis wearing a sweat-stained vest) and order restored.  I just wouldn’t have noticed.

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Greener by the day

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Banksy has nothing on us

20140629_064838On the left – this is why I’m late getting to work some days.

 

 

This weekend coming will see us in Bristol’s Temple Quay, Tidworth, Devizes, Corfe Castle, Sheffield, the North East Chilli Festival, Corsham, the Cotswold Show, Frome, Shaftesbury, Marlborough, Bath, Swindon, Oxford and – after all of that – the pub for an adult beverage.  But not Eindhoven…not yet, at least.

Back to the football, such as it is. Another turgid match where the favourite goes through.  Boring!

Sayonara peeps, catch you next time.