Friday 16 November 2018

Pass the pesto


The late Tom Petty. Getty Images
The late Tom Petty. Getty Images

Maurice Gueret

Britain may soon have a lot more to worry about than the amount of salt in its pesto, but our GP has some tasty alternatives from the Backyard.

Hey Pesto

With Brexit hurtling down the tracks, Prince Charles eyeballing the throne, and three political leaders among the worst in living memory, what could possibly go wrong for Britain? Well, its newspapers are worrying this month about pesto. The Daily Telegraph shouts that supermarket pesto for kids has more salt in a portion than a McDonald's hamburger. The Guardian warns that jars of the green stuff are saltier than seaweed or sea water. I'm not a frequent pesto muncher, but my signature dish is a pork chop smothered in pesto, then golden baked in a brown-bread crumble. The best pesto is the one you make yourself. Toast the nuts, crush the basil in a pestle and mortar, and choose your Italian cheese wisely. Do it correctly, and your guests will never need to add salt.

Crunchy Bites

Across the world now, foodies are extolling the benefits of putting pests in your pesto. There are almost 2,000 edible insect species available to discerning diners. They are cheap to rear, don't fart as much as cattle, and provide a cost efficient and crunchy form of protein. Asian snack food has come indoors with the unveiling of a new restaurant in Bangkok called 'Insects in the Backyard'. You can start with bamboo caterpillars on watermelon, followed by a fresh water-beetle ravioli. Room for dessert can be filled with a delicious silkworm tiramisu. Insect cuisine is a growing business. A leading bug extermination company has produced a recipe book that features mealworm muffins, cricket Caesar salad, locust fried rice and an insect smoothie. Alas, I'm too busy to attend tastings.

Wide-Angle Simon

Some things never change. The Health Minister has contacted the HSE boss to 'express displeasure' that he is not getting enough invitations to launch things. Every health office and hospital group in the country has been put on high alert to help compile weekly lists of photo opportunities for young Harris. I can think of a few hospitals that wouldn't mind inviting him to the launch of a new trolley. Or a new corridor full of them. So much of the health budget goes on salaries, that there are few capital developments that a minister could comb his locks for. It will be another four years minimum until the new kids' hospital opens its wards. Enabling works for the new baby suite at St Vincent's haven't even begun. Couldn't the minister organise a networking meeting, or a group birthday cake for the 700,000 folk languishing on waiting lists? It would be sure to keep the wide-angled lens busy among his legion of snappers.

Tom's Heartbreak

As a member of the Petty generation, I'll miss rock guitarist Tom, pictured above, and his Heartbreakers. His death caused a lot of confusion. There was an unmerciful rush to say that Petty had died in Malibu; then the media pushed into reverse gear to suggest that no, Tom was only kind of gravely ill up the coast in Santa Monica. Some said a massive heart attack. Others went with a sudden cardiac arrest. It's quite possible to have both together, but there is confusion among the public about the difference between them. Cardiac arrest means what it says: the heart stops. The electricity is cut off. There is no beating, no blood flow and you go unconscious. Heart attack implies that some blood circulation in the heart is blocked and the organ's muscle is starved of oxygen and sustains damage. It may cause chest pain and other symptoms, but will not always cut out the electrics. So that's why a heart attack is not a cardiac arrest, and vice versa. Lesson over.

Bleeding Porter

A Dublin doctor who emigrated to Canada many years ago has written a lovely book; part memoir, part dispelling of medical myths. He's a paediatrician by trade. In the early years of looking after premature babies, his team knew the blood groups of all the hospital porters and would call upon them to donate a syringe full of warm blood to extremely small 'prems' in dire need of rapid transfusion. Known as last-minute donors, these unsung heroes saved many tiny lives. Porters with O-negative blood, the universal donor type, were the most popular. All came to a crashing end when diseases like HIV and blood-borne hepatitis came to the fore. As he puts it, the "doctor's love affair with transfusions was all going to change in 1980".

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