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Lost Season Eight: The Isle Of Wight Is Dying
Sam Herlihy , December 27th, 2011 08:53

"Don't tell me I'm still on that feckin' island!?" Our food guru Sam Herlihy dishes out more culinary wisdom.

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Photograph by Barney Britton of Photo Insensitive

Author's note: This column is written as a season of Lost. Both move from place to place and through time itself. Lost series creator, JJ Abrams was either a genius or he simply couldn’t believe that anyone would renew his nonsense for long enough that he would have to explain himself. Likewise does this mean that I am a genius or employed by people who are extremely tolerant of baloney?

ON THE ISLAND

I quit smoking a few months ago. I kicked the family the hell out of the house, threw on some pajamas and buried myself on a sofa to weep and whine my way through withdrawal. My audio visual companion for this horrific two days of pain was the final season of Lost.

There are some spoilers here. If you really have the spare time in your life to wrap up Lost years after its denouement and you are NOT quitting smoking, that’s just stone cold odd. Life is too thin and mini to waste your time on it. The ending can be giftwrapped and neatly boxed with the following: No one regrets anything and the writers pretend that they never actually wrote about polar bears mooching around on an island somewhere in the Pacific ocean.

The polar bear aspect is the flatulence at your wedding altar/ in a lift with enthusiastic work colleagues/ in a car with middle class parents. Everyone knows the stench is there but no one is even considering drawing attention to it, lest the hand of gaseous suspicion should mistily spectre point it’s stinking finger upon you. Silence upon the topic followed by long drawn out “So”s or “Weeeelllll tttthhheeeennnn...”s is the only way to go. The finale of Lost is basically an hour of changing the subject.

The subject is changed to having no regrets about anything. Handsome doctor dude is dead. He has wasted his life on an island surrounded by lunatics spouting metaphysical bollocks, the morbidly obese and polar bears. He is dodo dead but he doesn’t regret a single moment of his ludicrous, special effects enhanced “life”. Now he’s dead, he can stand in a church smiling and hugging the loonies, discussing metaphysical bollocks with the fatty and doesn’t have to worry for a second about a polar bear shinning down a palm tree and chowing down on his skull.

FLASHFORWARD TO CONCLUSION

This lack of regret is a terrible plague upon civilization. I don’t state that in deference to some alky boorish macho twat Hemingway literary ideal. A life lived without hurting too many people or becoming a drug addict should be celebrated. However, no regrets? None whatsoever? You are the awful, poisonous lump human that is “British”. Grow up. Life isn’t fucking Lost. You don’t reach a specific point on the planet due to an infinite number of mystical butterfly wing flaps and being a nasty bastard to people. The current British obsession of regret denial i.e “I don’t regret being a complete fucking loser and pain in the arse because without all the terrible situations I caused to happen to myself and people I care about I wouldn’t possibly have ended up here, in this magical shangri-la-la land where I now reside” is a pox and a shameful gag. You still would have ended up here you stupid, butterfly obsessing, wheel of fortune believing defective. You just would have upset less people, and made less of a fool of yourself along the way. Life isn’t Scalextric and Zen Buddhism. It’s a “journey”, like “The X-Factor”.

I think a fifty fifty blend of shameful regret and smug pride maketh a fine human being.

OFF THE ISLAND, BACKSTORY

Do I regret the fact that I DON'T roll around Los Angeles listening to 'Ricky Don’t Lose That Number' by Steely Dan in a white leather seated sportscar in a lurid shade, wearing wicker espadrilles and a pricey linen suit? Damn right I regret that. I regret the fact that I have become that which I used to sneer at, a harassed stay at home Dad. I borrow my sister’s crappy Toyota to drive my girls (daughters, not saucy lovestruck supermodels) around Chichester whilst listening to Why? like some sort of lonely balding Pitchforkian hipster disaster loser father.

While I am a weeping bitter cheerleader for regrets, I don’t regret eating gross food. I’m not referring to munching bugs or GG Allin cuisine or tofu. Eating isn’t an extreme sport. It’s not weight-lifting for people with unsullied, undrugged pituitary glands. I’m referring to stuff that I try and decide I loathe or food which is just downright woeful. I cannot regret these terrible gastronomic carwrecks. The dross throws the perfection into stark relief like shadow puppets.

FILLING SOME TIME

I am not a fan of beef tongue. However and wherever I’ve had it, it is blood sponge. Beef tongue is WW2 era field dressings for grenade blown limbs. Lamb’s tongue however is the nicest tongue I’ve ever had in my mouth except for my wife’s. I rarely am blessed with the gift of my wife’s tongue anywhere near me so eating animal tongue is a flavourful if less erotic substitution. Also, on a side note, I don’t actually bite my wife’s tongue. Further to this I am in no way comparing my wife’s tongue to that of a dead sheep or cow. In conclusion, I am surely divorced now.

If I was a fussy, uptight man of no regrets, I would never have discovered the joy of tongue. I’ve spluttered a load in previous missives about fussy eaters. They trouble me greatly. There is a tiny, minuscule number of things I won’t eat or don’t like. If they made a horse-style food bag to fit my enormous head I would happily let people toss items in for me to try. I’ll give it all a go. Why not? The Happy Eater logo with the spherical head, gaping maw and finger pointing to the gullet is an exact anatomically perfect replica of my head. I seem to be turning more and more red as I age, so the colour matches too.

The Observer Food Monthly gives one of these idiots their own column to meep and moan about allergies and distaste as if their bowels are planted with delicate rare orchids instead of weird hairs which shift waste along a fleshy, rubbery gut tube. The Food Monthly supplement itself causes me problems. Nigel Slater is the major Don within it’s pages. He seems to be adored by millions. I’m sure he’s a lovely fellow but for me he gives of a too-heady whiff of Tom Brown’s Schooldays as written by a smutty schoolboy. He writes and presents in a fug of desks, masters, socks and wanking. He looks like he would smell of apple cores, classrooms and burning liniment slapped heartily on chilly thighs.

BACK ON THE ISLAND

The Isle Of Wight is dying. There are no polar bears on this island but it would be an equally unpleasant place to expire. Driving from the ferry port to our hotel is sad. There are literally hundreds of towns. It is an Escher conundrum of fiendish invention. How could this many settlements have possibly sprouted on an island the size of an Asda. In each there are only a few unboarded shops. In a few years time these towns will surely have to huddle together as a single burg to see off the encroaching economic darkness. The lights were off everywhere. We were informed by the receptionist in our hotel that it was vital we booked a table in their award winning restaurant. Without this precious booking, my girls would go to bed with empty bellies. We booked.

The other occupied table in the dining room was populated by a furious dad who looked like a news report mugshot about the “perfect father, who snapped!”, a wife who had given up caring and three children who scowled at one another and whined. Their whining was the only sound apart from a low level hum of Indian instrumental music. We weren’t in a curry house so it was disconcerting. We were shown to our table by an overly formal Frenchman. We settled uncomfortably into our seats. The Frenchman failed to bring over the high chair for the mini-kid I had requested. He glowered at me when I strolled over to get it myself. We all whispered uncomfortably to one another. Our waiter was a suave, Fifties matinee idol. He swept over, looked down his nose at my scruffy attire, my children’s very presence and at my cheapskate wine selection.

Despite the tumbleweed rolling slowly through the dining room, our food took an hour to appear. It was fucking horrible. I blew twenty one pounds on a crab linguine. It tasted of urine and shell. I actually called over Rock Hudson and asked him to take it away. I have probably never sent anything back in my life. I am way too middle class and uptight. He and the Frenchman sneered in my direction and whisked it away through a swing door. From the kitchen I heard an eruption of Isle Of Wight culinary students on work placement.

“What a snobby cunt!”
“He don’t ‘ave a fackin’ clue!”
“This crab is fackin perfect! I picked it meself!”
“To be fair geez, that crab has been in there for a week. It definitely hummed a bit.”
“Chuck some parsley on top, microwave it and send it out as new!”

A minute and an audible “ping” later I received a “replacement” crab linguine. I didn’t touch it.

The Isle Of Wight is dying because of this nonsense. Twenty one quid for some aged crustacean and flabby yeasty pasta served in an intimidating starchy room by a Spencer Tracey lookalike waiter who thinks he should be hand-carving filet steak on silver platters tableside for Marilyn Monroe whilst Count Basie plays live in the background is a sad joke. It was one of the worst meals of my life.

DREAM SEQUENCE... OR IS IT???

My pinnacle of bad meals, the cesspit yardstick, took place at EuroDisney. I did my research. I looked into dining options. I read up, compared, assessed and considered. The reviews all pointed toward The Blue Lagoon. We booked it with these tricked out money saving vouchers and looked forward to the one decent meal we were likely to have in the Mouse’s house.

The blurb online about supposedly EuroDisney’s finest dining destination reads: “Enjoy exotic fish specialities and Creole cooking under the tropical moonlight." An alopecia sufferer could not construct a more bald faced lie. There was no “tropical moonlight”. It was pitch dark. The restaurant was set amidst the animatronic parrots and gloomy port town sets of the Pirates Of The Caribbean ride. The only light was some fake flaming torches way off in the distance. It was too dark to read the menus and across our table I could only make out ghostly edges of my family’s faces. The Mini-Kid kept asking for her bottle as the lack of light had led her to believe it was bedtime.

For some reason the wait staff were all dressed like buxom Swiss milk maids despite the Creole and pirates theme. We pointed to random spots on the menu, ordered the girl’s food and settled back to watch the boats chugging along the ride.

The girl’s food arrived and was dangerously hurled down in front of them by the breasty fraulein. Such heat could surely have only been created during the birth or death of stars? The food was fucking molten! It was at such an insane temperature that a shimmering heat haze rose up from the plates. It was too dark to tell but if the booby Alpine cow milker had actually placed F16 jetfighter afterburners on the table like a sort of specced up fondue kit, I would have believed it. My wife swung into action and dragged the plates from our children’s reaching paws. We spritzed them with water, sliced the food into tiny, glowing pieces but it was no use. The food was coal, or isotopes. It was heat-boring its way through the plates. I was tempted to hurl the hellish nuclear fission experiment over the railings and into the lapping waters of the Pirates ride. This would have vaporized the water in seconds. I didn’t want to be responsible for steam burning hundreds of holidaymakers.

Then my food arrived. To this day I am still unsure what it was. Unlike the girls' meals, mine was lightly chilled. There was the definite kiss of microwave defrost giving a recently dead body lip feel. I tried to force my eyes to focus through the darkness but there was only an indistinct smear. I didn’t know what it was. There was rice involved and... coconut? Possibly some sort of curry? I could possibly taste chlorine and was certainly picking up some brackish salty pleghmy notes. I tried to stop eating it but I was somehow pulled towards the horror. It was eating as rubbernecking. It was grimacing and breathtaking, retching and confusion. There was a curious sensation of utter panic and serene focus. Nothing I would ever eat for the remainder of my days upon the planet could ever be this bad again. I just kept repeating: “What is it? I don’t know what it is?”

My foul reverie was shattered as a pendulous, milky bust appeared like an apparition in the dark. It placed a towering inferno of a dessert down in front of our youngest child and vanished back into the crepuscular shadows. The flames were wheeling upwards and reaching for my baby’s downy blond curls. I threw a glass of water over the fire and gathered my family. A smell of scorched ice cream and melting plastic eddied around my head. We linked hands like potholers in a never before explored Andean cave complex of unimaginable scale. We braved the lightless walk back to freedom. I stopped to hand over the payment vouchers.

“Was everything just perfect with your meals today sir?” The maitre’d Heidi asked cheerfully.

“All great thanks.” I replied. I tipped. I am middle class and uptight.

“Thank you for visiting The Blue Lagoon. Come back soon!”

SLOW MOTION AND A SWELLING SCORE

I followed my wife and children out towards the light. A pair of animatronic parrots on a perch called out as I passed them.

“Who’s a pretty boy then? Caw! Caw!”
“Filled his belly like a greedy pirate! Haw! Haw! Haw!”
“Fuck off bird!” I shot them the finger and caught up with my family.

Editor's note: We think it likely that Sam is blessed with some kind of genius

@obiswan67
Dec 27, 2011 6:57pm

haha, always look forward to this column. and yes he is a genius haha.

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Dec 27, 2011 9:09pm

Genius indeed. Best food writing in the country and here no less. Well done The Quietus (and Sam!)

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Dec 28, 2011 12:40am

Slater is a food pervert and must be stopped.

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Wook
Dec 28, 2011 4:41am

Brilliant!

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Piano
Dec 28, 2011 1:14pm

Great stuff, why wasn't Sam in your Reader's Digest?

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badgerfodder
Dec 29, 2011 10:46am

Very good. You do use too many words though.

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