FUNNY FOOD What do you call a fake noodle? An impasta! This is just the crust of corny jokes that relate to food, often used with great success as a means to make us laugh.
Who was the first person to figure out that a well-timed lemon meringue pie in the face was hilarious? This gag, known to some as “pieing”, is said to have been first executed on screen by Mabel Normand, otherwise known as The Female Chaplin, when she threw a pie at Fatty Arbuckle in the 1913 silent movie A Noise From the Deep (1913).
Among the most iconic food and humour pairings is also one of the most disgusting; I refer to the Mr Creosote sketch in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. The horrifyingly obese Mr Creosote simultaneously stuffs himself while making space for more. To this day, when someone says “bucket” it’s this, and wafer thin mints, that I think of, and I am deeply repulsed.
One of my favourite RTÉ TV shows was Maeve Higgins’s Fancy Vittles (2009), an off-centre take on the traditional cookery programme, featuring Maeve and her sister Lilly. While Lilly cooked in the background, Maeve would chop and chat in the forefront, offering her special brand of silly yet sharp commentary on life.
The effect was a funny stream of consciousness, in the form of the kind of chats that cooks often have alone together in the kitchen, while the rest of the family wait to be fed. Why this show wasn’t commissioned for a second season, I shall never understand. You can watch a number of the episodes on YouTube.
“I’m going to talk to some food about this,” is how Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s character in the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, often deals with the problems that come with producing a late night comedy sketch show. Lemon has a funny
US comedian Aziz Ansari
relationship with food. A boyfriend leaves her a note, saying “I know this might be emotional for you, so there’s a meatball sub in the fridge.”
On Lemon’s office wall, a solemn photographic portrait of a half-eaten plate of fish and chips hangs in pride of place. Lemon’s catchphrase “I want to go to there” is often used in relation to foodstuffs that she lusts after. Once, she threw over the desk in the writers’ room in a fit of extreme hanger, screaming “Where is my mac ’n’ cheese?” I applaud you, Liz Lemon.
Portlandia’s first ever episode features one of my favourite jokes, about a couple who ask after the provenance of the chicken on the menu at a local bistro. The waitress brings back a file on the chicken, complete with a photograph of the lovely chook. She informs them that the chicken was called Alex and it was raised on a diet of organic grain. The couple are pretty happy with that, but when they find out the farm where Alex was raised is only an hour’s drive away, they decide to visit before ordering, to see for themselves that Alex was ethically raised. The waitress agrees to hold their table for them. It’s funny because it’s true; I am that person who asks, earnestly, “is this free-range?” in restaurants.
It’s American comedian Aziz Ansari’s love of food that has me thinking recently about funnies and food, thanks to his current Netflix show Master of None. Ever since his days on Amy Poehler’s show Parks & Recreation, as the well-intentioned funtrepreneur Tom Haverford, Ansari’s love of food has shone through in his characters, and Dev, the main character in Master of None, is no different. His character delves into the depths of Yelp research to find The Best Taco in the city, and he bonds with fellow actors over the crew food on shoots.
Perhaps the most evocative of his food references is the pasta machine, given to Dev by his girlfriend Rachel when they first move in together. Naturally, he’s excited by the gift at first, but it remains unopened and unused throughout the first year of their relationship. It’s only when they go through a lull and have a fight that, in a romantic gesture, Dev unwraps it and makes pasta from scratch, serving it to Rachel as a peace offering. Watch the whole show on Netflix and count the food references for yourself.
Mespil Road, Dublin 2 keshk.ie € The Yotam Ottolenghi and Sabrina Ghaynour trend of Middle Eastern food has excited our tastebuds, and is celebrated by Irish cafés and restaurants such as Brother Hubbard in Dublin and Ard Bia in Galway. That’s where you’ll find the rose-water-infused baked yogurts and the dukkah sprinkled beetroot hummus championed by Ottolenghi and Ghaynour.
Keshk on Dublin’s Mespil Road is much more traditional and old-fashioned, in that its menu is a straightforward take on classics such as baba ghanouj, kafta and moussaka. Usually, a menu that claims to offer the food of three nations makes me nervous but here it makes sense. The culinary traditions of Greece, Turkey and Egypt have been swapped and shared throughout the ages, and it’s these that Keshk’s menu focuses on.
The hummus (¤6.50) has a grainy, homemade texture, rather than suspiciously smooth, and pleasantly bitter with tahini. The accompanying pitta breads are soft, round and fluffy, served warm. The feta fritters (¤6.75) are large chunks of feta covered in a coat of batter and deep-fried, as opposed to crumbled feta in a batter with mixed vegetables. The feta is intense served this way, but the grilled courgette that accompany them go some way to temper them.
A kafta in garlic butter (¤16.95) is more like a meatball in a creamy curry sauce. The meat is flavoured well and cooked on a charcoal grill. The sauce itself has redeeming qualities but as a dish, with the accompanying rice, it doesn’t excite. The falafel (¤15.95 for six pieces with a side salad and more fluffy pitta bread) are good, if a little dry. The desserts are the usual suspects of chocolate fudge cake and ice cream, the baklava (¤5.50) being the top choice for dessert.
The service is friendly and efficient. The décor includes paintings of kashbahs and medinas on the walls, and instead of going for the full on Middle Eastern plush palace, the look is instead clean and comfy, if a little outdated and bland. Keshk is often noted for its bring your own beer or wine policy, and the fact that it has no corkage fee or extra charge for this.
They’re open for lunch, too, and serve most of the dinner menu at lunchtime prices. They also do takeaway and are on Deliveroo, so you can indulge in their hummus in the comfort of your own home.
Hansel & Gretel Bakery & Patisserie
20 Clare Street, Dublin 2 facebook.com/Hanseland GretelBakeryPatisserie ¤ The story of Hansel & Gretel is, like all the Grimm Brothers’ tales, a pretty scary one involving a child-eating witch. The only lightness about the story is the children’s hope that is embodied by the trail of bread the leave behind them. They innocently believe that they will be able to make their way home again.
The Hansel & Gretel Bakery on Dublin’s Clare Street,