February 27, 2010

The Perfect Saturday

Let me preface this entry with the disclaimer that today was definitely not the perfect Saturday. Adverse weather and a persistent sinus headache have put paid to that. But two recent compliments have given me pause to think about what the perfect day would look like (and I am presupposing that the perfect day simply must be a Saturday). So, before indulging in the fantastic, I extend my thanks to the Modern Traditionalist and to Bow Tie Guy for their respective nods in my direction. In times of inclement weather, the perfect Saturday would undoubtedly see them included on my morning’s reading list, along with the Telegraph and the following eight:

The Sartorialist
Paper Flowers
Art of Manliness
Older Brother’s Advice
Modern Gentleman’s Blog
An Aesthete’s Lament
Rose C’est La Vie

Gongs dispensed, on with the idealising (with absolutely no mind to geographical impossibilities. Photographs invoke each place as I go, and I publish them with not a little nostalgia).

I have a love hate relationship with sleep. It gets in the way of action, but also provides the platform for action to take place. Presuming the perfect day to be free of guilt, I begin with a sound lie in, to be followed by the weekend papers, a full English breakfast (which I shall have to describe, because it has lost its way), and my favourite blend of imported tea. Mrs. VB suggests that this would be more congenial taken al fresco in the morning sunshine, against the backdrop of the Rockies in Vancouver. I concur.


Contrary to popular belief and low expectations, English breakfasts are not a festival of grease, but a thoroughly delicious and nutritious repast. None of the ingredients should ever be bought in a supermarket. Ever. Black pudding ought to be home made by the butcher who slaughtered the pig that produced the meaty sausages, home-cured bacon, and fried kidneys that adorn your plate. The sausage and bacon must be grilled, not fried. Eggs should be organic free range, not because I’m an eco warrior, but because that’s how hens are supposed to be. It is only to be expected that such things will taste better. Tomato, fresh from the vine, will be seasoned and grilled. Bread, dipped briefly in the bacon fat, should be fried in a hot pan. You’ll find it crispy, not dripping with lard. The finishing touch, for me, is a sliced and well-fried field mushroom. The umami original. This should be followed by wholegrain toast and some good English preserves. Black current will do nicely. Of course, I like it best when I cook it myself, but failing that, I’ll have Marc Cohen of Sparrow in Montreal do it. I’ve never had a finer brunch than there.


Eating over, time for a round of golf with a couple of chums, preferably on a course otherwise empty. So long as I’m fantasising, I might as well dispense will all the hackers! I haven’t played in a long while, but on this fair day in May (for this perfect day will be in that merry month) I will card a round in the 70s and be satisfied. The club house where I used to play, on the edge of the North York Moors, was actually a rather charming pub. After polishing off a couple of jars of real ale – nobody in North America knows what this is, I guarantee – I am homeward bound.

Ampleforth Golf Club

An essential ingredient of the perfect Saturday is the happiness of my wife. How else can one expect to maintain a joyful demeanour if the love of one’s life is not also blissfully at peace? At home I find her just arrived back from a successful outing to the shops with like-minded friends, heavily laden with fine fabrics at a fraction of the fare. She craves coffee and cakes, and we know just the place. Leysieffer is a German chocolatier of international repute, and their cafes are brilliantly indulgent places, but with a firm grip on civilised ideals. My favourite location was at the top of KaDeWe department store in Berlin, amidst the most sensuous and glorious food hall, and with views across the city.


Having gone home to change, we venture out to Les Deux Magots at Place Saint-Germain des Prés, Paris, for some light but deliciously complicated French cuisine, accompanied by fine wine and a literary buzz. Tourists will all have decided to go somewhere else for the evening, and the place will be occupied only by those Parisians exceptionally known for their politesse.

Paris, St. Germain

The Odyssey of Homer: Translated by T.E. LawrenceAn after-dinner stroll in the dusk along the banks of the Seine takes us home in time for Match of the Day, and an exceptional single malt from the Highlands called Tomatin, which I first tasted as an eleven year old. Not inappropriately for such a day, I nod off over the pages of T.E. Lawrence’s translation of The Odyssey.


  1. André Simon, who understood British food as well as any native, disagreed about grilling bacon. His method, which I commend, is to snip off the rinds from the bacon, fry them first, then add the rashers themselves, bought, naturally, from a butcher who can warrant that no extra fluids or chemicals were added in the cure. This gives just the right amount of fat to fry the egg(s)and bread at the end.
    His Encyclopaedia of Gastronomy is well worth reading, especially the recipes for wild and exotic animals, which I think must date back to the 1870-71 siege of Paris.

  2. I'm intrigued by the exotic animal recipies. Will look it up.
    Bacon rind is a true delight, which I've always enjoyed best as part of the whole mouth experience of eating a piece of bacon. My father would cut off the rinds after cooking, to be eaten separately, but I resisted even this. Grilling ensures a perfect crispy crunch, which I can't reliably replicate in the frying pan. This may simply reflect on my cooking abilities, however.


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