Interview: Simon Majumdar On Cocktails and Food History


Our very first guest is the always entertaining Food Network star, Author and host of the "Eat My Globe" podcast, Simon Majumdar.

Simon taught Walter two cocktails, a proper Martini (which should never be shaken) and a Manhattan. The two then discussed Simon's love of digging into the history of food and some of the ways we can help each other in today's world.


Walter met Simon and his lovely wife Sybil on their "Fed, White and Blue" book tour back in 2015 where they got the opportunity to break bread and cook together. They've stayed connected over the years and we're truly honored that Simon took some time out of his day to chat with us. This is the first in what we hope will be many casual chats with folks from all across the WebSphere!

Full Transcript, apologies for typos.


Walter 0:00 Hey folks, welcome back to Where's Walter? I'm Walter. Simon 0:03 I'm Simon. Hello. Walter 0:04 And today we're gonna be talking cocktails and food history. Walter 0:16 Hey folks, welcome back. And this is so exciting I've got, from the Food Network and big time author Simon Majumdar. Hi Simon. Simon 0:26 Hello mate, how are you? Walter 0:27 So am I saying that right? Is it Majumder or Majumdar? Simon 0:31 The J's a little soft, so it should be a little Majumdar. Walter 0:34 Majumdar. Simon 0:36 Think of it in three syllables, mah jum dar. Walter 0:40 Majumdar. Simon 0:41 That's how I usually try it. Majumdar, but you could you could say any way. Trust me. I've heard every single pronunciation possible. So whichever way you say is just fine by me. Walter 0:51 With an Italian name like Biscardi, I pretty much heard it all myself. Simon 0:54 Yeah, for sure. Yeah. Walter 0:56 Well, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to join us today. I know, tell us a little bit about what you've been doing. I mean, you've started this podcast, you've been an author. What all's going on with you? Simon 1:07 It's been until, obviously until, right now, where we're obviously all day in lockdown in our various locations. We're in Los Angeles. It's been really busy. So we've been doing a lot o,f I've been doing a lot of speaking. I go and do cooking demos. I go do talks. I was about to go moderate a history festival or do some work at that. Walter 1:30 Wow. Simon 1:30 Obviously, I'm doing a lot of TV shows. We just finished airing Guy's Tournament of Champions, where I was one of the kitchen reporters, reporting back to Guy on this big competition, kind of March Madness East West which was a, it was a big hit. Walter 1:46 Really nice hat that you were wearing. Simon 1:47 I wore hats all the time. I've taken them off today because I want people to see that I can occasionally have hair, even if it's not terribly, if, even if it's not terribly kind of firm on top. It'll go soon. I'm not sure about this. Walter 2:02 Man. Simon 2:03 In the picture, I'm kind of, it's it's pretty, pretty full on. Walter 2:07 It is pretty thick. I mean, you're, you're entering Santa Claus territory, I think. Simon 2:12 I might keep this for a while. And it's been, so it's been about a month. So I've been doing that. And obviously, while we've been kind of locked in, apart from going out for my early morning walks, which is quite interesting. Walter 2:24 Yeah. Simon 2:26 You go out to like five in the morning around LA. That's it, because there's no one around. Walter 2:30 Right, right, right. Simon 2:31 But anyway, I come home and then I've been writing the food history podcast, but you've caught me now is the perfect time to catch me because this time of day when we're recording, I've developed my own kind of cocktail hour usually on my own, and then, then we actually have some later so you literally just caught me as I have my shaker full of ice. Walter 2:51 Oh, oh, oh. Simon 2:53 And I was about to make myself. Walter 2:54 I happen to have a pitcher of it sitting over here. Simon 2:58 I think, I think anyone, I think anyone who is smart should never be more than about two feet away from a pitcher full of ice. Walter 3:05 Yes. Simon 3:05 So my, my favorite cocktail, as you know, because I know we've shared a couple of cocktail evenings. My favorite cocktail is just a proper Martini. I don't like, I don't like cocktails where people throw too much in. I like, it's like I would say a good bartender is a bit like a good chef, like you test them with an omelet, which is the simplest thing to make, but the hardest thing to make well, and a martini is the hardest to make well. So I thought, if you don't mind, what we're talking, Walter 3:34 Please. I would love this. Simon 3:35 I'm going to mix up my martinis so you can if you don't mind, just so I've got my shaker full of ice. Walter 3:41 Okay. Simon 3:43 And then what I'm going to do, is I'm going to add in my gin. Now this is actually, I'm not always the biggest fan of craft gins. Walter 3:52 Okay. Simon 3:52 Because I think a lot of them try and be too clever to show too much. So if I'm making, if I'm making a gin Martini, I usually use something straightforward. I love Beefeater's, it's a terrific gin Walter 4:04 Yeah. Simon 4:04 It's gin that's been made for 200 something years, I've actually been to the distillery in London, they're still making it in the same place. But I thought I'd try it with this. So what I'm gonna do.. Walter 4:13 Okay. Simon 4:15 I don't know if you can see my shaker, but I've got my little measure. Simon 4:18 So one, one ounce at the top, half an ounce at the bottom. So I'm just going to put in, he says, allowing for a little, see what I've got left at the bottom of this bottle. So that's, so we've got one and what I usually look for Yeah, I'll be about there. One and a half ounces of gin for me. At this time of day, it's an afternoon cocktail. Walter 4:18 Yeah, yeah. Walter 4:38 All right. Simon 4:39 I've got a tiny bit more. I might as well finish this, so... Walter 4:41 Might as well finish it off. I mean, why leave it in the bottle? Seriously? Simon 4:45 Well, you know, it's, it'll only, it'll only evaporate. So then I've got I've got my gin. Walter 4:51 Uh huh. Simon 4:51 And then what I'm going to do, I've got these, so the original Martini what people often don't know, it had a splash of orange bitters in it. Walter 4:59 Oh. Okay. Simon 5:00 So if you've got orange bitters, this one is made by a gentleman he just passed last year. A guy called Gary Reagan. He was from Yorkshire in England but lived in America for a long time. Walter 5:11 Okay. Simon 5:11 So I'm just going to put in three drops of that, you can put in as much as you'd like, to be honest, you don't have to put it in. Now while I'm doing that, I've got my cold glass. Slightly less cold because we were chatting before, but a chilled glass. Got my little ones here, I've got my, so I've got this one. And then what I'm going to do is, traditionally a martini was 50-50 vermouth and gin. Walter 5:37 Okay. Simon 5:38 And by definition, a martini is gin. People can, will put vodka in it, but that, it isn't a martini then, it's actually, so by definition, it's a drink with gin. Walter 5:49 Okay. Simon 5:50 So what I'm, so what I'm going to do is I'm just going to put a tiny bit into the bottom of, you can't see me there. Walter 5:57 That's fine. Oh, look at that. Simon 5:59 Put a tiny bit. Walter 6:00 Okay, just a splash there. Simon 6:03 What we're going to do is just roll that around. I want to coat the inside. Walter 6:09 Now what is that doing for you? Simon 6:11 So what you're gonna do is you're gonna get all the flavor of the vermouth. Walter 6:15 Uh huh. Simon 6:16 But you don't want too much of it in your drink. Walter 6:18 Oh. Simon 6:19 Okay. So then we've got our washed glass. Now here's the other key thing. We all know our, we all know our James Bond, shaken or stirred? Walter 6:28 Sure. Simon 6:30 Now, again, by definition a martini should be stirred because here's the science behind it. This is where we need Alton Brown. Yes, the science is if you're making a cocktail that is all alcohol, which this is, so this is vermouth, which is alcohol bitters, which are alcohol and gin obviously have different levels of alcohol. There's nothing to be emulsified, so you don't want to shake it. If I was gonna do say like a gimlet, where I was putting fruit in this or a fruit..., then I would shake it because the alcohol and sugars and the in the fruit need to emulsify. This one, all I'm trying to do is to dilute and chill. Walter 7:12 Okay. Simon 7:13 I'm gonna put it down so I don't spill it. Walter 7:14 Sure. Simon 7:15 So you can see me doing it. So it's about 20 turns. Walter 7:20 20 turns. Simon 7:20 And the 20, 20 turns, it's going to allow about half an ounce to, of water to go into the dilution of your gin and your bitters. Simon 7:33 What I tend to do is I hold the outside. I've got a metal glass here, you've got a glass one. Walter 7:38 I do. Simon 7:39 If you've got, if you've got the glass one, the moment you see the outside of that glass beginning to chill up. Simon 7:46 That's when you've probably released about enough. Yeah. What I do, is I'm holding it at the bottom. I've got a little napkin here, but when I hold it, if it gets to the point where it's almost too cold to touch, that's when I've got enough in there. Usually I say to people about 20 turns. Now here's the other thing that people might not know, that if you do 20, I've probably done more than 20 there. Now you've got, so what people don't know is there is actually a drink with a martini that is shaken but it's, it's has a different name. Walter 8:24 Okay. Simon 8:24 It's actually, it's actually called a Bradford. That's it. So a martini style that's shaken actually has a different name. So now what I tend to do, just because some ice may release even though you're stirring, I double stir. So I have my strainer. Walter 8:41 Okay. Simon 8:41 You can see my standard strainer. Walter 8:43 Yeah. Simon 8:43 And then I have a little strainer there. Walter 8:45 Ah. Walter 8:49 Getting fancy over there. Although, I will say I have a little strainer too. It's hiding in the... Simon 8:57 And then your garnish. Now again, for a lot of people, they like olives. I am not an olive person. So what I tend to do is to get, I get my lemon. So this is a nice aromatic lemon. Sometimes people use a nice Amalfi lemon or myer lemon, but you're just going to use your peeler, and we're just going to pull back, and what we're trying to do, if you can see this Walter, there's no pith. Walter 9:30 Okay. Simon 9:32 You don't want, you don't want the white. Walter 9:34 Just the very top, all right. Simon 9:36 Now what we're going to do is squeeze this over the glass and again it's hard for me to do this with one hand. Walter 9:36 That's fine. Simon 9:43 We're going to squeeze this, so you can see. Walter 9:48 Squeeze it right in. Simon 9:49 And that, and that allows the lemon oil, because really what you're drinking is a is a martini, is gin in a vermouth washed glass through a slick of oil. Now sometimes that could be olive oil, olive. The oil from olives from a brined olives, which is like like a Dirty Martini. That's the brine from the olives. Walter 10:10 Sure. Simon 10:11 Or it could be from onions, which would be a Gibson. And in this case, it's from a lemon. Then you put your lemon in. And there's your, I've taken out my earphones, but there's my... Simon 10:24 managed to knock out my earphone, which is, I haven't even had a drink yet. Simon 10:30 And I managed to knock, I'm not, so and there's my Martini. Walter 10:32 Look at that. That's beautiful. I love that. You know, I'm looking at my screen. I see I have this beautiful glow going on behind me from the sun. That's kind of nice. It's almost like Easter. Simon 10:44 It is the halo of the martini. Walter 10:46 Wow. I've never seen that trick with the vermouth wash. It's very interesting, so you just kind of get a little flavor. Simon 10:53 Sometimes people will put it in the stirrer. But if you just want a small amount and a martini is, it's a kick. Walter 11:02 Mm huh. Simon 11:02 Yeah, it's a kick of a drink. Yeah, it's, it's all alcohols. So, what you don't want to do is just overpower it. If you, you can put, if you want more vermouth, what you could do is wash the glass and then just leave the rest in the bottom. And then it'll mix in and that'll give you a slightly wetter Martini. So, dry martini is what I just basically made. Walter 11:26 Okay. Simon 11:27 And the dry basically refers to the amount of vermouth that's in the martini. So if someone asked you how dry you like it, if you ever order a martini, just just say to them, you know, tell them how much vermouth you like in it. Simon 11:42 I think I thought someone was calling me, but it's very weird. It's all... Walter 11:48 So, so.. Simon 11:48 So, what are you going to make? Walter 11:49 I don't know, so before we started, I think we were talking about a Manhattan? Is that we were talking about, little bourbon, little vermouth and some lemon. Simon 11:58 Yep, well, you can garnish it. sometimes I have here, I don't, I have my, if I make myself a Manhattan or I make a Rob Roy, which is another of my favorites. I'll have some cherries. Walter 12:08 See, I'm not big on the cherries. So I'm gonna go with the lemon. Simon 12:11 So, you don't need, you don't, yeah, so you can put a lemon twist. Here's the thing, it's a garnish. So, Walter 12:17 Right. Simon 12:17 Start off with, so get your ice. Walter 12:20 I've got my ice. Simon 12:24 You want to put two, two ounces or an ounce and a half depending on how you're feeling right now of, of your bourbon in there. Walter 12:31 All right. Simon 12:32 So so. So.. Walter 12:35 There's one ounce. I'll do, I'll do, about one and a half-ish. All right, there's one and a half. Simon 12:43 Then you want to put in, about, about for me about, depending on your tastes, about half an ounce of sweet vermouth. Walter 12:52 Half an ounce of sweet vermouth. So this is what I'm going to be using there. Right. Simon 12:57 Again, you could vary that, sometimes you'll put in a quarter of an ounce of sweet and a quarter of dry, and that's a perfect Manhattan. Walter 13:04 That's a perfect Manhattan. Simon 13:06 But what you're making is a sweet Manhattan, so it's a little more sweet. Walter 13:09 There's a half an ounce right there. Okay. Simon 13:12 And then if you have, you have your Angostura bitters or your orange bitters. Walter 13:17 I have my Fee Brother's orange bitters. Simon 13:20 So I tend to put in just a splash of that. It's not obligatory, but I like that in there. Walter 13:26 All right, I put two, two quick dashes in there. Simon 13:30 Now you want to do the stirring that I just showed you. Walter 13:32 The stirring. So, am I going for 20 here? That what I'm doing? Walter 13:35 I'll hold that up for you. I've already lost count. So I'm gonna say 12, 13, 14, 15, 16. Yeah, I'm gonna say that about 20 right there. All right. Simon 13:35 Yep. Simon 13:49 Okay. Now you want your glass. Now, you could serve this up, like me in a martini glass. Yep, Walter 13:55 I went ahead. Simon 13:56 So strain that into your glass. Walter 13:58 I will. I don't have the, don't have the little guy, but I've got you know, my straight strainer. Simon 14:05 You should be fine. Walter 14:11 There we go. Simon 14:12 And then a twist of lemon. Walter 14:14 Twist of lemon. Let's see if I can do this, I usually end up digging in a little deep. I'm gonna try and.. Simon 14:19 Do it, do it from the end. From the tip towards you. Walter 14:22 From the tip towards me. Simon 14:24 Yeah, and then you'll get, your, you've cut off a bit of the thing there but you should have enough to give you a good twist. Simon 14:31 There you go. Walter 14:33 Look at that. No, no pith. I actually... Simon 14:35 Perfect. Walter 14:36 I got it. So now I just want to twist it, fold it over. Simon 14:40 Twist, twist it over the glass. So the oils float into the glass and then rub the rim with it. Walter 14:47 Rub the rim with it. Simon 14:48 You'll slip it into your drink. And that's your marti..., that's your Manhattan. So cheers my friend. Walter 14:54 Cheers, my friend, and cheers everybody out there too. Very nice. Let's see what this is. Simon 14:59 Cheers. Walter 15:02 Oh, that's nice. So, I'm an old fashioned guy. Simon 15:06 Yeah, me too. Walter 15:07 And I have really gotten into Aztec chocolate bitters. Simon 15:11 Okay. Walter 15:13 And so I will do two ounces of rum, three to five dashes of the Aztec chocolate and then three dashes of the orange bitters. And that is my old fashioned now. I call it an Aztec old fashion. Simon 15:25 That's lovely. Walter 15:26 Yes, it is. Thank you, man. That's actually really good. I like that. Simon 15:30 Excellent. Walter 15:31 Yeah. Simon 15:31 Excellent. Walter 15:32 Very nice. Simon 15:33 I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna sip mine slowly, because that will definitely have an effect on me. Walter 15:38 Yeah, you, you have about an extra ounce in that thing. When I was in Barbados, we visited the Mount Gay rum distillery, over 317 years making rum. Simon 15:51 Wow. Walter 15:52 It was amazing. They made me an old fashion with about five ounces of rum in it. Simon 15:57 Wow, that, yeah, you'll feel that. Walter 15:59 Man, that's about all I remember. I remember drinking it. And then we were back at the ship and I was like, wait, weren't we on a tour for two hours? So thank you, Simon. Thank you for the cocktail lesson. That was fantastic. Simon 16:14 My pleasure. Walter 16:15 So you are really all about, I mean, your, your Eat My Globe podcast has really been all about food history. How did, I mean I know you've been writing about food for quite some time. But how did you really start getting into this whole food history kick? Simon 16:33 Well, I mean, food history has always been a passion. It's always been an obsession of mine. And so I've always been reading about it and kind of boring people with facts that I know and telling them stories. And one of the things I realized as much as I love doing the shows I do, which I you know, I'm very fortunate that I get to do you know, Guy's Grocery Games or Beat Bobby Flay or working with Alton on, you know I appeared on an episode of Good Eats last year, one of his new episodes of Good Eats. Walter 17:01 Awesome Simon 17:02 I, which was fantastic. We did an episode on chicken tikka, well, he was doing an episode on turkey. And I did an episode on making chicken tikka masala for him, which was really fun. So I've always, you know, I love doing those shows, but one of the things that, the nature of the TV shows right now, is there weren't many opportunities for me to share my stories, my history stories, the things that I find out, you know, find out about people in history and find out about what they contributed. They're often quite funny, and they're, you know, they're strange and, you know, odd little stories. So, I just got to the point where I said, well, and the thing is, as well the book trade that I've written books, obviously a lot of books and I was in publishing, here's, the book trade's tough right now. Unless you're a big, big name. You're selling a cookbook, the selling is very tough. Walter 17:53 Yeah. Simon 17:53 Like any business unless you've got a huge profile. So, one of the areas that I think is growing is podcasts. I think a lot of people want to watch podcasts. I listen to them all the time when I go out for my morning walk, and they can be anything. I'll listen to sports, I'll listen to politics, I'll listen to history, I'll listen to..., film reviews, you, whatever. So I was actually talking with a friend who is a producer, who we know and mutual friend, April, and I said, well, maybe we should, we should do something together. And we've done videos before. And she said, well, I'll produce it. So I started, I started writing. So we've just launched season four, which is amazing., that were on, and I'm still writing them. So now we're locked down. I'm writing a lot of them. Walter 18:41 Okay. Simon 18:41 So while, so we've, so far we've done the history of fish and chips, the history of, of gin. Walter 18:48 Nice. Simon 18:48 We've done the history of.... Yeah, we've done the history of chocolate, the history of beer. We've done the history of, we did two episodes on the last meal served on the Titanic. Walter 18:58 Oh, wow. Simon 18:59 We did, yeah, we did... Oh, yeah that's in season one, that was, that was a really interesting one and particularly as today's, I think is the anniversary of when the Titanic sank. So... Walter 19:01 Okay. Simon 19:09 So, so there you go and the meals are served on the Titanic have a really fascinating history because they inform about the class structure. So it was very much set up by the British class structure with the very upper class, and then the lower class who were being shipped across to America as immigrants. So that's really fascinating. We've done episodes on, I'm trying to think what we did more recently, we did a great one on a, an interview with a, we do some interviews with them. So we interviewed Ken Burns. Walter 19:43 That was amazing. Simon 19:45 Well, for me, you know, Ken Burns is one of the greats and I connected with him on Twitter. I think I was just been complimentary about one of his shows and he came back and said, Oh, you know, I'll be happy to be on your podcast. So we actually flew out, I was like, This is Ken Burns, I'm going to go sit down. To be honest, I didn't know whether he'd have any great interest in food or food history. I knew he's a historian, so I hoped he would. Walter 20:13 Right. Simon 20:14 But it turned out that Ken Burns actually owns a restaurant. Walter 20:18 That was a surprise to me when I heard that on the podcast. Wow. Simon 20:22 So we sat and had a meal in his restaurant, which was really terrific. And then we came back the next morning, and I interviewed him and he's, apart from the fact he's just a complete gentleman, he's, he's just a very, very, you know, good person to interview and in the end, it's one of those people who you sit opposite and you go, you're Ken Burns. And I, there aren't many people I have that kind of thought process with, because I'm not usually overawed by people's... Walter 20:55 Right Simon 20:55 ...fable personality. You know, they're either good people or not. So, but he just turned out to be a very nice person. So we, yeah, we did a lot of really fun ones then we did ones on truffle and lobster. We've just the first episode of season four was on the history of champagne. Walter 21:13 Yes. Simon 21:13 Which again... Walter 21:14 We need to listen to that. Simon 21:16 ...has a great history because, particularly what I like to do is pull out certain threads that people don't know. So the role of women in the history of champagne, so if you drink Verve Clicquot, verve means widow. And it was named after the widow Clicquot's husband was the winemaker who died. And she persuaded her father-in-law that she would run this business and created Verve Clicquot, the widow Clicquot, which has become one of the great champagnes. One of the great champagne. So, again, the you go, and that's why I call it Eat My Globe, things you didn't know you didn't know because you don't need to know that. Walter 21:56 Right. Simon 21:56 It's kind of fun if you do. Walter 21:58 Right, right. Is that, is that, well, what else? You know what else? You know, I've heard all the stories now what? And you're finding all these neat little things. Simon 22:06 Well, things like the, the wall of Wall Street and one of the kind of theories about it or, was built around a Dutch settlement, the original Dutch settlement. But it was built to keep pigs out of the city because the pigs were coming in to destroy the city. So the wall of Wall Street actually is you know, which is very good given that we talk about pork and Wall Street. The wall of Wall Street was built to keep pigs out of the city or the fact that nutmeg is the classic one, is that the British and the Dutch went to war in the 1700s, 1750s, maybe I can't remember exactly. Nutmeg, which was one of the most expensive things in the world. British, English, British and Dutch went to war. And then they had this treaty at the place called Britta. And as part of the deal, the British got this island, they've given this island because of nutmeg. And they said, well, we don't want it particularly, but we'll, we'll keep it and so, they sent some aristocrat there to run it for them, you know, as the lieutenant governor or whatever. Walter 23:14 Yeah. Simon 23:14 And he changed the name when he arrived from New Amsterdam to New York. So New York again exists because of nutmeg. So when you start telling these stories, is I think you can realize that history informs what we do, you know, it's very much, I've just been writing the history of curry, which all stems obviously from the British Raj, because curry is actually a British invention. Indian food and curry are two very separate things. So when you, so when you look at them and you go curry, people think of that as Indian food, particularly in the US. If you go to an Indian restaurant here, it tends to be more of a British curry house than an Indian authentic for want better word Indian restraunt. Gotta have ... Walter 23:58 There's no such thing as curry in India, right, that's just a, just an invention. Simon 24:03 Well, there's, there's a word curry. Well, there's a word called kari, which was, the Portuguese kind of heard, which is a Goan word for kind of grinding things and spices and anything with these spices and grinds in it. And then you go the other way, that the British took curry or the idea of curry from India and brought it to England, and the first curry house opened in the 1800s, in Britain, early 1800s, called the, the Hindustani Coffee House. And it was opened by this guy who was remarkable, who was also the person who introduced shampoo to Britain. I mean, again, it's just a great story. So, what I really am saying is that when you look at any of these stories, you realize, A) we're not that different from these people who we think a thousands of years ago, sometimes we have, if you look at some of the workers complaints, the the people who built the pyramids, they actually, they weren't slaves, that a lot of people think they were slaves, they weren't. But people write about them. They actually wrote complaints, and one of their biggest complaints, was they weren't getting enough beer. Well, yeah, there you go, how many, how many people today workers are that they're not getting enough beer, you know. So, we're not that different. And I think it puts, particularly in this kind of crazy political time, I think it's good to put everything in context. To go that, yeah, we've probably got a bit more technology. Hence, we're doing this interview this way during this lockdown. But actually, we're probably not that much different. I've been reading about the plagues. Walter 25:31 Hmm. Simon 25:31 Yeah, the bubonic plague in Europe that wiped out. But if you listen to the, if you listen to the aristocrats and the ordinary people who wrote diaries, like Samuel Peeps, the things they're complaining about is that they closed all the taverns, so he couldn't go to the taverns every night. Well, that's 1500, 500 years ago. Walter 25:52 Sure. Simon 25:53 And he's complaining, he's going, you know, I, and that's why I'm sitting here having my cocktail here. Whereas I'd probably go out to the bar... Walter 26:01 Sure. Simon 26:01 ...and have it. Walter 26:02 Sure. Simon 26:02 So, so that's really what I'm trying to kind of share with people. And I hope people will go, yeah, we've got very good figures. So far, we're getting a very good response. Lots of five star reviews, which is good. So if anyone does listen to it, go, please give us a five star review. Walter 26:18 Awesome. Simon 26:20 And the other thing is that we're not making money out of it. We didn't set it up to be a financial operation, because I don't, I'm fortunate enough that I do other things where I can pay the bills. Walter 26:30 Right. Simon 26:30 So it means, it what it means is, it's a genuine labor of love. Walter 26:34 Wow, that's awesome. Simon. So what are you doing these days to keep yourself occupied, while we're all, I mean, I know we're drinking cocktails, but what else are you doing to keep yourself occupied during these times? Simon 26:44 I'm trying, yeah, I'm trying not to drink too many of those, otherwise, I'll have to, they'll have to carry me out of here. And I'm trying to be, I'm trying to be quite disciplined. Walter 26:53 I'm enjoying this a lot. Simon 26:55 Oh, I'm glad you are. I, yeah, I think if you, if you're not careful, you could enjoy your cocktails too much and every day. So I try and take a few days off a week where I'd be. One of the things I would love to mention is this nonprofit I'm working with, particular at this difficult time. So there's great nonprofit called Convoy of Hope, who I work with a lot. Walter 27:17 Great people, great people. Simon 27:19 Absolutely love them. They do a lot of programs overseas, so they do child hunger. They feed 300,000 kids every day around the world, which is extraordinary. They do women's empowerment programs, where they really help women who are, you know, in, insecure situations and have children and they protect them and teach them entrepreneurial programs so they can create businesses, incredible stuff, and they do a lot of agricultural development. But one of the things people often don't know about them as well, is they do a lot of work in the United States as well, when there are disasters here, so they're often the first people on the site when there's a flood in Houston or a hurricane in where, you know, wherever, and right now they're doing this big program called 10 million meals. And what they're trying to do is find meals for people who, just right now, don't have any work. You know, we've all been locked down, a lot of people in restaurants, the business that I love, and there's actually a couple of nonprofits that I work with who really support people in the restaurant industry. There's one called Golden Rule charity, go and look at them. You know, people apply to them for grants, just to pay for their, their meals. But Convoy of Hope, and you can look them up, convoyofhope.org. They're doing this 10 million meals and what they're trying to do is to raise enough capital which they have to provide 10 million meals to, to people out there in any business... Walter 28:50 Wow. Simon 28:51 ...who are struggling to feed themselves. And I think that's one of the things you know, I'm fortunate, we're, we're by no means wealthy, but we're comfortable enough that we have savings. And you know, I can still afford to sit here with you and have a martini. But you know, most people in this country, the average person, and I heard about this the other day, is only $400 away from having no money at all. That's the kind of average, which is scary. And again, that's not a political thing. Let's just talk about getting food in front of people and their kids right now. So, if anyone's interested, go and have a look at convoy.org. They're a wonderful organization, the people there have become like family to me, go check them out. If you kind of feel moved to support them, that would be really, really meaningful to me and every penny they're, they're very highly rated by Charity Navigator. They're like at the top top 1%. A huge amount of what, like, a huge percentage of, they're one of the highest in terms of how much of what you donate goes to the people who deserve it. It's not going into overheads. It's not going into anything like that. They're just good people. So... Walter 30:01 That's cool. Simon 30:02 If you do care about those people out there as kind of fellow Americans and I'm an American citizen now. Then, just yeah, cheers. God bless us all. Walter 30:12 Yeah. Simon 30:13 But do go, do go and check it out, check them out and see what you do. And if you can't, you know, if you don't have access to them, then, then do something, you know, make sure your neighbors are okay, text people who you know, you know, we've got some elderly friends who are in their apartments, and they're fine, but we're texting them regularly or emailing them going, Yeah, what's going on? Walter 30:36 Yeah. Simon 30:37 And because apart from anything else, I think, you know, it's a lonely business. If you're not with someone. Walter 30:43 It is, it very much is. Simon 30:44 So I just think, right? Yeah, I think right now. You know, if nothing else, yeah, we can all have fun. We can have drinks, have cocktails, to have our happy hours on Zoom and all of that, which is really fun. Walter 30:45 Right. Simon 30:56 But, let's just remember there's a lot of people out there really struggling, and they're the ones who are going to be first back getting the restaurants open. Walter 31:04 Sure. Simon 31:05 Or getting this, and the people in the supermarkets, not highly paid people. Walter 31:09 Right. Simon 31:10 Get it, getting this country, this amazing country of ours ready for us to get back out there and enjoy ourselves. Walter 31:17 Well said. Simon 31:18 Yeah so let's, let's, why don't we I think we should both drink to that. Walter 31:22 I think we should and you know I think you said it right, you know if you don't have anything to give right now, fully understandable. Check, you know, we have a, we have a lovely woman across the street that we check in with every time we go grocery shopping or go to Costco, we give a call, what do you need? Can we help you? So, you know, you don't have to give money, just, just you know, give yourself. Just be available. Simon 31:22 Do what, make sure people are there. And the other thing is if you, if you are fortunate enough to have a, you know, a few dollars that you can spend, all the great restaurants, all the restaurants that we love, and we've had meals together. Yeah, there's nothing better than breaking bread with people. Walter 32:00 No, there's not. Simon 32:01 Then, order in, and restaurants, one of the things I really love right now, is restaurants are having to be, but are being super creative. So they're doing, I saw yesterday, a restaurant that's doing a complete meal for two with wine so you can buy bottles of wine, I don't know whether you can do that in every state, but here in California... Walter 32:21 Okay. Simon 32:22 ...you, they'll, they'll set a cup, will you pay for a couple of bottles of wine and your meal for two. But then, if you want to, you then set up a Zoom time for when you're going to eat this meal. And the sommelier will come and talk you through the wine pairing, a chef, the chef will talk you through the meal. Walter 32:39 Oh. Simon 32:40 So, for five or 10 minutes and then they leave you to, you know, to yourself, they go off and you get that, so, what they're trying to do is to recreate different kind of aspects that we all love about this business that, you know I'm in. Walter 32:57 Right. Simon 32:57 And, and to try and keep us, and to be honest, things like this, sitting with you having a cocktail, the things that will keep us sane for another month or however. Walter 33:07 However long it is. Simon 33:07 I think, and here's the thing, it's not, I've heard some people talk about it as if it's a light switch that you just suddenly switch back on. This is going to be with us for, not in this severity, but it's going to be with us for a year until we get vaccines and all of those things. Walter 33:23 Yeah. Simon 33:24 So let's take advantage of the new normal. One of the things I'm going to do tonight, which is why I'm just sipping on this cocktail, is I actually have some friends and there's three, three couples, and they join me and I'm going to give them a cocktail class. Walter 33:38 Oh, that's lovely. I love that. Simon 33:41 So tonight, I think I have to remember, I'm making a Sazerac, which is the, the first cocktail I think ever under the term cocktail, the oldest cocktail I think in the United States, which is made with, well originally with brandy, but now with rye whiskey. We're going to make a Rob Roy, which almost is like the scotch version of a Manhattan. And then and then we're going to make a gimlet, which is, a it's like a gin drink with lime, and a drink that was made for the Royal Navy. It was actually made for the Royal Navy officers to get them to drink limes, so they didn't get scurvy, back in the 1800s. Walter 34:22 You know... Simon 34:23 They would put, yeah... Walter 34:24 I think you told us that story in the video from 2015 when we were cooking in the kitchen. Simon 34:29 I think I may have done and it's a great way you know, all of these drinks. So it was a medicinal drink, like the gin and tonic was originally a medicinal drink. The gin and tonic was to get the Indian officers to drink tonic water, which had quinine in it, which stopped them getting malaria. So in India, so they drank gin and tonics, so, yeah, so a lot of these drinks, same with the old fashioned, was the old fashioned cocktail where it comes from, and that was one of the ways that they hid, they put medicines in it. It was considered medicinal. So, so you know they, a lot of this has great history and... Walter 35:06 Wow. Simon 35:06 ...alcohol, alcohol was one of the medicinal kind of, give, so the people would have their old fashioned cocktail in the morning, a little small one. And it would put them... Walter 35:16 I like this idea. I'm, I might have to start practicing. It's good for me, is what you're saying. Simon 35:22 It is good for you. Well, you, you should go practice your cocktails, I need to go and get ready for my cocktail class, I think. Walter 35:29 Awesome, awesome. Well, Simon, I can't thank you enough for joining me. It's an absolute pleasure to see you again. It was nice to see Sybil for just a little bit there. So, you know, best to you. I'm going to put all the links up. I'm going to put your website, your, your podcast, the things that we talked about earlier. So all those links are going to be down under this video, so if you didn't catch any of that. Simon, how many books do you have now? Simon 35:53 Three. Walter 35:53 Yeah, three books. Simon 35:54 Eat My Globe, the same title as the, Eating for Britain. And my last one was called Fed, White and Blue, which was about me becoming an American citizen. Walter 36:02 And that, you know that, I am an American. So that was actually my favorite one. I love the stories. And I just wish there was video of you on half of these stories because I just can't picture you in some of these situations. So I highly recommend Fed, White and Blue. So, Simon, thank you very much for joining me. Cheers to you, cheers to Sybil. And, let's talk again soon. Simon 36:25 See you soon.

Links

Simon's Website: https://www.simonmajumdar.com/

Eat My Globe podcast: https://www.eatmyglobe.com/

Simon's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVoQkjZj0pk1Yuyf29rsBdA

Convoy of Hope: https://www.convoyofhope.org/

Golden Rule Charity: https://www.goldenrulecharity.org/

About Me

I'm a lifelong storyteller and wanna-be chef. You've seen my work on Food Network and PBS to name a few.  My favorite stories revolve around travel and food.

 

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