How the magic of Disney doesn’t extend to its food

This weekend I went with the family to Disneyland Paris. We had good weather, the park was busy but not horrendously so and I think we all had a good time (despite some badly-timed illness).

However, being in France, a nation of food lovers, the country that gave the world gastronomy, you might expect to be able to get something to eat there. Apparently not. French food culture is left at the gates.

I expect it to be expensive and I don’t expect it to be Raymond Blanc standard, but I was truly unprepared for just how bad it was. I’ve never come across fish and chips that was actually tough to chew before. Every French fry was served cold and limp. And the coffee…. *shiver*.

Not only that but they don’t even seem to be able to cope with what ought to be a fairly simple system. The restaurants we went to operated on a set menu basis. You enter, tell the man on the door what you want to eat, pay for it, are then seated and your food arrives (in the fish and chips case, almost exactly as we sat down. Not cooked to order then…).

Seemingly simple but even this doesn’t work. The menus aren’t clearly displayed so you don’t know what drink you want because you don’t see the options. The process of actually ordering then becomes painfully prolonged as you have to order each meal/drink combination individually (which when you’re in a party of nine, takes a while). Bookings we’d made and confirmed then seemed to be a surprise. Service was surly and rude.

I don’t understand how, when everything else in the park is so carefully managed they can get this bit so wrong. I guess it’s a captive market so they don’t have to try but it’s so at odds with everywhere else in the park where ‘cast members’ are happy, smiley and helpful.

Midweek pasta bacon chilli thing

While it’s nice making time-consuming, slightly complicated food, that’s no good if it’s midweek and I can’t be arsed.

This is a very tasty, very easy pasta recipe passed down through the family – Bacon and pea, lemony, chilli pasta.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Bacon, 4 rashers, diced
  • Pasta, 200g
  • Garlic, 1-2 cloves, crushed
  • Red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Peas, couple of handfuls
  • Juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Creme fraiche, 2-3 tablespoons
  • Olive oil
  1. Fry the bacon in the olive oil until it’s crispy. Then turn off the heat, add the garlic and chilli and stir together. Leave in the pan.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per the instructions. When it has 4 minutes left to go, add the peas and turn the heat up to bring it back to the boil. When the pasta and peas are cooked, drain them.
  3. Return the bacon/chilli to the heat. When it’s sizzling again, tip in the peas and pasta and mix together. Then add the lemon juice and zest then stir in the creme fraiche. Make sure everything is heated through and serve.

Easy.

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I done a pie!

Yep, a great big chicken and leek pie courtesy of the Pieminister recipe book.

Very nice filling but a nasty case of the dreaded “soggy bottom” (© Mary Berry) which was apparently caused by using the wrong type of dish.

In my defence, I would point out that the recipe says to use a “lasagne type of dish” which is what I did but apparently you should use metal tins for pies. The annoying thing is the Pieminister book says this at the beginning so I don’t know why it then says you should use a lasagne dish. No-one makes lasagne in a metal tin do they.

The pie

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…and it’s little brother

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5 things every new blogger should know

Some useful insights from top blogger Martin Belam’s course this week.

1. Have an objective for your blog

It should be able to be summed up in an “elevator pitch” type one line summary – “I want my blog to [objective] so that [end result]. For example, “demonstrate my interest and knowledge in a subject so that I will get offers of work”, “become a hub of information on a subject so that I can make money from advertising”. It could be ‘softer’ objectives though – “become a hub of information on a subject so that I can find others with the same interest”, “provide an outlet for my writing to help me come to terms with something”?. The point is, if you don’t have an objective how will you know if your blogging is successful?

At the moment, this blog’s objective is simply to give me some experience of blogging so that I understand it better. That objective will eventually change though.

2. Find your voice but recognise this can take some time

The best blogs have a bit of personality about them. This is something you need to find but it can take a bit of time and also, practice. As you do more blogging and writing becomes more natural to you, your voice will hopefully develop.

3. Edit, edit, edit

Always read back what you’ve written before publishing. You should always find something that can be written better or more efficiently. Check punctuation and spelling – it may seem pernickety but it’s the kind of thing that can undermine people’s opinion of a blog and lower  its value in their eyes.

4. Plan your publishing

If you want your blog to be a serious affair, you need to plan what you’re going to write about and when.

Decide how much time you can devote to blogging then give yourself a rough target of how frequently you’re going to publish. Plan around that. Maybe, look at what you’ll be doing over the next month or so and schedule in posts based around those events (if relevant to your subject of course). Write posts in advance and have them ready so you can always try and publish something.

Your schedule doesn’t have to be set in stone – events may mean you want to publish more frequently but readers like a certain amount of regularity to blogs – if they know something new’s going to appear every day/week/month they’ll look out for it. If it’s sporadic, they may lose interest.

5. Choose your article headlines wisely

Think about search engines and how you want your blog to be spread around Twitter etc. Clever, cryptic puns may not be the best idea as people won’t know what the post is about. Titles that clearly state what the post is about and why someone should click work well (e.g. 5 things every new blogger should know).

Also, try and keep them short – 60 characters is considered the magic number. Firstly, this is about what is displayed in Google search results. Secondly, it gives people plenty of scope on Twitter to add a link, comment, retweet etc.

There was loads more tips but I may come to those in another post.

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