Wild Boar Belly


I fired up the smoker on Monday to hot-smoke all the trout I supposed to have caught on Sunday, but didn’t. Instead I experimented with a piece of Wild Boar Belly and a sort of American Barbecue rub containing brown sugar, salt, pimenton, cumin and love.


Pancetta or bust

Months, literally months after attending a curing and smoking course at River Cottage I got around to making some of my own pancetta. It was easy: the hard bit was worrying that I had made something that would make people sick, but this didn’t happen. These are the pics I took during the process.


Charcuterie frenzy

When I was a teenager I had phases. There was the cars phase, then computers, followed by tropical fish and logically enough, girls. With middle age it appears that phases are coming back and this year’s seems to be charcuterie: eating, producing and consuming it. When you buy a new car, you suddenly notice how many other wise people have also bought the same model as you. Well, in a similar vein, since becoming interested in charcuterie, I’ve noticed how surprisingly available locally-made cured and smoked goods are in and around Monmouth. So pleased was I by this that did a vaguely arty Instagram photo of some pancetta, smoked pork belly and salami that I bought within ten miles of Monmouth.

My kingdom for a Choucroute Garnie

Sometimes serendipity or perhaps Providence plays a role in the delivery of a meal. One such is a Choucroute Garnie I cooked today. Chance encounters with ingredients that, on their own, don’t promise much, bubble away in my subconscious until I have an “Aha!” moment in which I realise what they could become together.

So it was with the piece of smoked belly pork and kielbasa suasages on special offer at Lidl this week. Buy some then think about about what to do with them. Being a semi-German household there’s always a bit of sauerkraut available. It must be Choucroute Garnie. Of course. Google some recipes. It’s obvious that there is no definitive recipe: it’s probably one of those dishes that exists as a meme, a set of principles. In this case, it’s essentially smoked pork cuts and sausages slowly simmered in sauerkraut, then served on a monstrous platter in its steaming Rabelaisian glory.

But do we have the ingredients? Riesling? Juniper berries, spare ribs, bay leaves, duck fat? Yes to some and no to others. Belt down to Waitrose to get the missing bits and cure the spare ribs overnight. In the morning, I am reminded that Keith Floyd (hallowed be His name) had a recipe for a Choucroute Garnie in his Second Epistle to the Gastronauts, Floyd on France. No spare ribs there. But wait! He adds liver dumplings. I’m about to leap into the car to go and buy some liver when I am reminded by my wife that we have leberknoedeln in the freezer. As one does.

In Our Time for Masons

Suppose you have joined freemasonry recently and are working through the three ceremonies of initiation, passing and raising. You enjoy their uplifting admonitions to personal improvement and want further reading, as it were, to broaden your understanding of the ideas presented in the degrees as well as the intellectual currents that informed them.

Reading, though, is so twentieth-century. You want to listen to easily digestible podcasts that deliver the thinking of top-drawer academics in no more time than it takes walk to commute to work. What you need is BBC Radio 4’s programme on the history of ideas, In Our Time.

What follows then is an entirely unofficial, biased(!) and personal list of IOT episodes you could listen to in the days immediately following each of the three degree ceremonies, with a general category to give a flavour of some of the ideas that inform masonic culture.

1st degree

Initiation of an apprentice Freemason around 1...
Initiation of an apprentice Freemason around 1800. This engraving is based on that of Gabanon on the same subject dated 1745. The costumes of the participants are changed to the English fashion at the start of the 19th C and the engraving is coloured, but otherwise is that of 1745. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Altruism – 23 Nov 06

Friendship – 2 Mar 06

The Oath – 5 Jan 06

Freedom – 4 Jul 2002

Progress – 18 Nov 1999

2nd Degree

The Seven Liberal Arts by Marten de Vos, 1590
The Seven Liberal Arts by Marten de Vos, 1590 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rudolph II – 31 Jan 2008

Alchemy – 24 Feb 2005

Baconian Science – 2 Apr 2009

Human Nature – 7 Nov 2002

Mathematics – 6 May 1999

Nature – 10 Jul 2003

Renaissance Magic – 17 Jun 2004

Science’s Revelations – 29 Oct 1998

The Royal Society – 23 Mar 2006

Pythagoras – 10Dec 2009

Virtue – 28 Feb 2002

Renaissance Maths – 02 June 2005

3rd Degree

English: Depiction of a soul being carried to ...
Depiction of a soul being carried to heaven by two angels. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Death – 4 May 2000

The Soul – 6 Jun 2002

Masonic Culture

Politeness – 30 Sep 2004

The Encyclopédie – 26 Oct 2006

King Solomon – 7 Jun 2012

Paganism in the Renaissance – 16 Jun 2005

Empiricism – 10 Jun 2004

Toleration – 20 May 2004

The Archers gets it right

As a parent of a child with Down’s Syndrome (we prefer that term to “Down’s Syndrome child/person”) and occasional Archers listener I was impressed how sensitively the writers handled last week’s storyline involving a couple who are told that the child they are expecting will have Down’s Syndrome.

In particular the way the consultant revealed the results of the tests showing the baby had Down’s was almost a textbook example of how it should be done. Too often, doctors in these situations have out of date attitudes and information and end up traumatising the parents. “You can get rid of it, you know” is not as uncommon a phrase as we’d hope.

Almost, because the consultant could have been a bit warmer and reassuring and because her speeches sounded like she was reading from the Down’s Syndrome Association literature! The latter is hardly a complaint though.

Food, mostly.

Massimo Pigliucci

Art of Living & Good Reasoning

Religion, Philosophy & Ethics

The RPE course at the University of Gloucestershire.

How to Be a Stoic

an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century


Musings on biblical studies, politics, religion, ethics, human nature, tidbits from science

History of Philosophy

summarized & visualized

Donald J. Robertson

Cognitive-behavioural psychotherapist and author of Verissimus


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Dave Webster

Professor of Philosophy & Pedagogy