Fellow kid-novelista MG’s been torturing me all week with beachside Blackberry-blogging from Brazil, so when my Brazilian buddy Be pined loudly for the Bossa Nostra bistro in Brighton, I said ‘brilliant’ and booked a B&B. When the alphabet is that freakishly persistent, I say roll with it.
I’ll concede that Maracajau probably had the edge on the weather, but even in an April weathermunge (blue sky, sunshine, high winds, bloody freezing) I love Brighton: tacky seaside town reeking of chips, hipster bohemia, party town, shady underworld where Pinky might pop up with a knife and do you in down some Art Deco alleyway. Where else could you find a retro arcade on the prom, complete with genuine 1920s end-of-the-pier peepshow viewers, hand-cranked and run on George IV pennies? But the highlight was undeniably the food. I’d no idea what to expect of Brazilian cuisine – and being a somewhat gigantic country, there’s plenty of regional variation. But the national dish is Feijoada, and if you know anyone who can make it, equip your kitchen with manacles and kidnap them immediately. Black bean stew with beef and pork might not sound all that thrilling, but I would gladly make it my last meal on death row. Yep, even above bacon sandwiches.
Feijoada: traditionally served with rice, farofa (ground manioc – a bit like maize), couve (fried greens), and a slice of orange (said to counteract the fat content: I do not entirely believe this bit). I’ll be trying to recreate it: anyone likely to come for dinner, be warned, you may be experimented upon…
* ‘Fish fingers a la Portuguese’ was what my Dad always threatened to cook us for tea if my Mum was otherwise engaged. I still have no idea what they might be. He does a good sprat, though.
Brighton’s North Laine has some nifty secondhand shops (not least Snoopers’ Paradise, which I very nearly left with a Man from UNCLE annual, several dozen plastic Lando Calrissians, and a top hat). Instead I wound up with some well-thumbed Dick Francis, and Knights of the Cardboard Castle by Elizabeth Beresford (of Womble-creating fame) which I remember loving. I don’t remember it being filled with people called Dickie, Ginger, and Mr Trumpet, though. It makes me wonder growing up in a second Golden Age of kidlit is depriving this generation of certain skills: I read so much Blyton, C.S.Lewis and Ransome that I developed an automatic socio-historical context filter, and contemporary characters who weren’t hopelessly gender-stereotyped and prone to adventuring parentless with gypsies and ginger beer were the aberrations. But Blyton still sells a million books a year worldwide, albeit under painfully misleading chicklit covers. I’m guessing the filter just comes naturally, the same way you know after a sentence or two whether something is literature, or just ‘pleasantly readable’.
As well as Brazilian food, Brighton also possesses a bakery in the Lanes that produces cupcakes to die for. These were necessary for important book research. Expect multiple loving descriptions in Biscuits & Lies (though, you know, I might have to go back just to clarify). In other news, there’s a rather spiffy micro-site accompanying a competition to win signed Big Woos over at MyKindaPlace. They’re giving away chocolate with the books: think I might have to enter myself…
Eating my words about Catherine Tate on Doctor Who (where do I sign up to the Donna Noble fanclub?); missing the old Skins cast already, even though they’re dead right to reshuffle; rediscovering the route to the gym at long last (feijoada, cupcakes: not exactly diet food); playing ancient PJ Harvey very very loudly indeed.