Something most worrying has occurred, with potentially serious implications for my waistline, my arteries, and my self-esteem in general.
Regular readers will know that I am an enthusiastic champion of Salford's Mark Addy pub and its glorious Gourmet Evenings. These take place on the last Wednesday of every month, offering six courses of whatever takes Robert Owen Brown's fancy for just thirty of your English pounds, and are a joy in every way.
For on Wednesday, I ate everything that was brought. Everything. Usually I am able to leave a little something here and there in order to (falsely) claim the status of just having picked like a little bird - a cracker perhaps, or a potato that lacks glamour. I can then say, in all truth, that I have not consumed six full courses; just imagine the greed of someone who could possibly do that!
Well, imagine no more. Here is the whole sorry truth:
1. Braised squirrel legs with squirrel consomme. This one was always going to divide public opinion, and indeed prompted reactions ranging from jealousy to out-and-out horror when I reported the menu on Twitter later the same evening. The same menu discussed at work the next day brought responses including "oh, I've always wanted to try that"; "well, it's up to you if you want to eat a rat with a tail"; and - my favourite of all - "but! but....!" accompanied by a truly flabbergasted face. All I can say is, it was delicious - tender and tasty, Mr Squirrel Nutkin had better watch his step next time he ventures into my garden.
2. Chilli Spiked Crispy Eel with Elderflower. This was essentially a big, fat, McEel-Nugget; fishy goodness encased in spicy breadcrumbs and fried to a golden crisp. Although posh, obviously.
3. Pan Fried Wild Sea Trout with Asparagus. I have eaten very many nice things at The Addy, but this is my favourite dish so far. Only 200 of these imperious fish can be caught every year, and ROB had snaffled three of them; I will be spending the rest of the year tracking down the remaining 197. It is also the only time I have ever willingly eaten fish skin - it appears that done properly crispy, with a coating of a good pound of salt, the skin is utterly divine; who knew? I fear the cat will not dine so well from now on.
4. Roast Pork Fillet with Wild Mushrooms. A little safe, perhaps, and could have done with a little more gravy to moisten the pork, but the potato rosti just melted in the mouth and prevented me from my normal easy get-out clause - leave a potato; keep full dignity.
5. Baked Berry Cake, Double Cream & Berry Pearls. This dish summed up what ROB is all about - lovely, fancy-dan fruity globules (a little like berry caviar - he has clearly been practising his gastronomy), served atop a great sturdy hunk of superior school-days sponge.
6. Cropwell Bishop Stilton Cheese & Biscuits. This is what really caused the worry - obviously I normally polish off every scrap of whatever stink-cheese is provided, but leave a token biscuit so that I may regretfully push my plate away with a resigned "sorry - just couldn't manage it all." Not this time; all of them gone.
There appears to be two possible explanations for all this: either my stomach has adjusted to such regular gluttony and obligingly stretched itself in order to fully accommodate whatever might come its way, or ROB has scaled down the portion sizes. In no doubt whatsoever that it must be the latter, I have already booked for next month - purely to test my theory further, you understand....