Fearless, truth-seeking dyspeptic. Real-world food and wine matcher. Eater and ligger in chief.
It’s time to meet The Botulist…
If you’ve ever noticed a woman dining alone in a restaurant, ferociously writing on a notepad, while sipping Leoville-Las Cases with a straw, you may already know who I am.
I am the Botulist. A fearless matcher of food and wine in the real world, with a maxed-out Amex card in one hand, and a bottle of Gaviscon in the other.
My quest for transcendent wine and food matches has taken me to far flung countries, Michelin-starred restaurants, and in recent years, adjacent emergency rooms wherein the transcendent experience would be duly pumped from my stomach.
Twenty-four hours later I’m swaggering towards the hospital exit, with only a disdainful look from the clinical staff, a pamphlet in a foreign language about the dangers of alcoholism, and a vague memory of being escorted out of a restaurant by an Indonesian sommelier saying Madam, you’re being a nuisance.
Why do you do it? I am constantly asked. The answer is simple.
And here’s why.
As a wine-guzzling nation, we are sick to death of boring wine and food recommendations. Of sommeliers that tell us that you should have Burgundy with lamb and Gewurztraminer with curry and whose barely concealed contempt almost spills over onto your side plate when you order artichokes, because they know nothing goes with them, but they’re going to fleece you anyway by recommending the Pouilly-Fumé.
This is where the Botulist comes in. No one is paying me for my reviews. Many restauranteurs have offered payment in the form of offering to wrap up my leftovers in Bacofoil if I will just leave without causing a disturbance, but I always refuse.
This career isn’t about monetary, or Bacofoil-enveloped rewards. I consider my work to be a public service, nothing more, nothing less.
Additionally, I recognise that our tastes are evolving as a nation, and as a planet. Thanks to the joyous train-wreck that is Brexit, here in the UK we will soon be able to sample such culinary temptations as chlorinated chicken from the US, and a whole host of fish, mushrooms and vegetables from Fukushima, Japan.
These are probably not all that radioactive, although undoubtedly quite a bit more radioactive than the bland food we’ve been subjected to since the shelves of our supermarkets mysteriously emptied in 2021.
And that’s when I had an idea…
Madam, you’re being a nuisance will become my mantra, I decided. It captures so perfectly the spirit of being a thorn in the side of those elitists who question the validity of finding the perfect bottle to accompany Turkey Twizzlers, reticulum tripe, or Cheesestrings.
Well, while the elitists have been sitting there with their fancy tablecloths banging on about the synergy of foie gras and Sauternes, the Botulist has been out there in the real world eating real food with real people, and frankly getting spannered.
Triumphant pairing #1
If you remain unconvinced, dear reader, then allow me to share with you a recent triumph, which proves that transcendent food and wine matching need not be reserved for fine dining establishments.
In fact, you can create a remarkable experience in your own kitchen, as I proved last week, when I reached further into my larder than I have ever dared before. Past the unopened quinoa and that mammoth jar of expired whey protein from my bodybuilding days, until I uncovered the king of all tinned pies: the Fray Bentos ‘All Day Breakfast’ pie.
Initially I was torn. Should I respect its South American roots and pair it with a Uruguayan Tannat? Or draw inspiration from the Britishness of the brand and pop the cork on some English Sparkling? These are the questions the Botulist dares to ask.
Unfortunately, since I forgot to switch the oven on, I inadvertently drank both while I was waiting for the pie to cook, so I never did get the opportunity to find out. Instead I paired it with a cheeky little Pays d’Oc Mourvedre that balanced well with the baked beans, while allowing the black pudding to sing, the bacon to dance, and the sausage to wait solemnly on the plate muttering ‘avenge my death’ until I was good and ready for it.
Welcome to the age of gonzo wine and food writing. I hope you’ve come to party.
Bring your own fork. I usually dine alone, so I’ve just got the one.
If you enjoyed this first searing column from the Botulist, why not check out the warped genius of Hector Lannible’s incomprehensible management-speak musings on NOB wines?