Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Friday, 19 May 2017

Alternative Facts

I wasn't going to write about Washington as it feels there's more than enough of it to go around at the moment.  Alternative facts and all that.



However, here is a brief account,  with the help of the rest of the vowels.


E is for excellent free things to do.  There's a large number of museums and building tours available: art, currency, history, politics, civil rights, women's rights, war, space, flight, archaeology, and on and on, all generally free.  We barely scratch the surface and do not even try to cover what we'd like to see.  We have three and a half days people, and a half day was taken up with the Capitol (Saturday so no politicians around) and my favourite, the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress.  This may just be the most beautiful building I've ever seen.  

Inside the Jefferson building



I is for I can't walk any further.  Washington is made for walking: it's comparatively low rise so feels quite open especially with the wonderful Mall, bounded at one end by the Capitol and the other by the Lincoln Memorial.  We find one of Smokey the Bear's staff, a Park Ranger whose parents didn't think it through when they named him Kellen Allen, at said memorial and he gives us an excellent tour explaining the symbolism of the construction and decoration.  It's all about unity after the Civil War 



O is for the Orange One  (or if you are David Tua "I'll take an O for awesome")

Three things in one day

  1. We're stuck at a major police cordon.   - the orange one is on the move.  We get to see a Presidential cavalcade!  First a few high speed motorbikes, then the Presidential limousine - no wait, that's it. No, wait. It could be any one of the four or five that stream by. But wait! There's more. More bikes, at least a dozen black Suburban SUVs, which I thought only happened in thrillers, an ambulance, which we are informed has a couple of doctors, a supply of the President's blood (my guess is type O for orange).
  2. We arrive at Arlington cemetery in time for the changing of the guard at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  Rather more sobering than the same ceremony at, say, the Greek parliament (where clearly John Cleese was involved in the choreography).  As it was National Police Week we have some extra wreath laying and the most pure and haunting renditions of the Last Post. Shivers down the spine stuff.
    Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington
  3. Still at Arlington, we hike several thousand kilometres (this is a big cemetery and they have 30 burials a day) over to the Iwo Jima US Marines memorial.  Any concern I had that this would be an anticlimax were unfounded.  This is a great sculpture.  Made greater by another timing coincidence - there's a 21 gun salute.


21 gun salute


U is for you really need weeks to appreciate the beauty, the expanse, and the vast offerings of Washington.  It  really needs a nicer person to be in charge.


A nicer person n front of the White House


50 flags flying at Washington monument


Sunday, 14 May 2017

From the sublime to the ridiculous


Hands up if you knew President Eisenhower built a nuclear bunker two and a half hours out of Washington.  Well he did.  In 1958, amid fears of a Russian nuclear attack, Eisenhower commissioned a 112,544 square foot bunker to house Congress in the event they had to evacuate the city. 

The discrete Greenbrier




We'd been told to take a look at the Greenbrier, an historic resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.  Massive ballrooms, a small private casino for guests only, conference facilities, three golf courses, a nuclear bunker, and stunning landscaping: fun fact - New Zealander Danny Lee is the defending champion of the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament and we had to be told because our knowledge of golf extends only to the fact that it costs $1 million whenever Trump takes a golf trip - which is a lot.



We ended up staying the night - not in the bunker, in the hotel - and being florally overwhelmed. 


The hallway

The interior designer, Dorothy Draper, who worked on the restoration of the hotel after it had been used as a hospital in WW2 (just like Downton Abbey!), worked to the theme of rhododendrons (state flower of West Virginia), roses, and romance.  


The carpet in the foyer

The theme has lost none of its longevity, but much of its charm, through many redecorations.  They proudly announce the same company has been doing the interiors longer than Mick Jagger has been singing.  So that's now an official measure of time. 


More flowers


But back to the bunker.  There are 25 ton blast doors.  A decontamination unit.  A medical facility.  A 25,000 gallon water purification and storage unit.  Kept secret, but fully operational, completely stocked with supplies, and the technology regularly updated for 30 years.  This shit is hard to hide.


But they did.  It was built under a new wing of the resort; hiding in plain sight. And it was successful until 1992 when a Washington Post journalist wrote an expose. For the original story go to 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/daily/july/25/brier1.htm the 


In hindsight, the whole idea was a staggering combination of paranoia and naivety: 535 elected officials (and no family members), but each with one assistant sequestered for up to three months - who do you choose?  Accommodation is in 18 bunk dormitories (congressman/woman on the bottom bunk, assistant on top).  The cafeteria serves 400 at a time, and there are communal bathrooms.  Just stop a minute and think about your elected officials.  Is this going to work?  I don't think so.  I would be hiding the sharp objects.


As I write this we're in Washington DC.  There are police everywhere.  Not just because that's the way it is, but it's something called National Police Week which draws between 25,000 and 40,000 attendees from department throughout the US and from overseas.  Maybe I'd feel safer in the bunker.