Winter Cometh

Hello, I hope we all had a productive NaNoWriMo this year. I certainly did: I wrote 195,000 words, which is almost certainly my new record, and while part of me wants to try for the nice round 200,000 next year, a largely part of me is reminding me of how few of those 195,000 from this year have really pleased me in terms of quality. 195,000 words, and about 5 of them worth reading!

In addition to writing another novel, my “shamefully not updating my blog at all” time has been spent attending a variety of parties, including my own 34th birthday: I also went to the Last Ever White Mischief Halloween Ball (I went to the first: it seems appropriate that I attend the last, too) and met some lizards; attended a ghost walk on Halloween which ended in the prison cells below the Viaduct Tavern in Holborn; I went to the last Hunterian Museum Late before refurbishment, which featured the opportunity to drink gin while pickling a plasticine penis (not a sentence easily uttered after the gin), and cheerfully ghoulish lecture on the anatomical effects of hanging; visited an absolutely splendid bar in an air raid shelter, called Cahoots, which sells incredible cocktails and contains a converted Tube carriage; went to the stunning Museum of Last Parties for cocktails, a Cockney knees-up, a 1920s disco, a Morris dancing demonstration, a conga line featuring a guru with light-up shoes, and the opportunity to cover myself in so much glitter that my dry cleaner complained about it later; shot down to Brighton for a half-remembered night of dancing which has left me covered in mystery bruises; had brunch at Dishoom with the latest Ben Aaronovitch book, and tried, on the whole, to ignore the fact that the world is burning down around my ears.

As a recent dining companion said, if we’re going to have the last days of the Weimar Republic, we shall have to have the parties, too.

In addition to all this riotous behaviour I have been recovering from surgery, but that really does require its own post.

In the meanwhile, as a placeholder, please feel free to watch me and m’companion Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool reviewing Dr Strange back in October, sitting outside Balans Cafe in Soho and occasionally making new friends while I slag off Marvel’s most recent movie offering and Rich tries to be slightly more positive about a film neither of us paid to see.

It’s my face, and voice, together at last!

Another Review, and why reviews matter.

First, a link:

Rori Shay on how Amazon uses reviews to rank books and increase your exposure to things more people have enjoyed.

Next, a review:

review

(Click for full-size)

I appreciate each and every single review, because they genuinely do make a difference. Every time you tell a friend about one of my books, it sticks in their mind, and maybe they pick it up one day, and enjoy it themselves. Every time you mention one in passing, or make reference to one, you pique someone’s curiosity, and perhaps they spread a little further.

And hey, if you don’t enjoy the book, remember other people have different tastes, and that also spite-recommending books to people is a fun prank.

Aut Visum Aut Non

A man was born in California in 1948’s closing months who was destined to make something quite, quite bonkers in London. Just off Spitalfields on Folgate, having been “drawn to London by English light” (already bonkers), Dennis Severs purchased a house and, like Jeanette Winterson and bonkers artists Gilbert & George, renovated it.

However, being magnificently bonkers, Severs didn’t politely repaint the walls and strip out some annoying 1950s fittings and whatever else it is my father is currently doing to a house he’s acquired in Dorset, nor did he simply limit himself to fixing the roof, installing some electrics, and having protracted arguments about different forms of environmentally-friendly plumbing as my mother & step-father did when they, too, bought a derelict property and turned it into something legally habitable.

No, our Dennis was a man with a vision. A glorious, batshit vision. For twenty years, until his death, he resided in this property, living in a museum. Somewhere between a set piece, a really involved one-man LARP, an exercise in time-travel, and the most elegant excuse for being a card-carrying capital-H Hoarder you could possibly devise, his house on Folgate was made into installation art history:

Not only did he turn each room into a tableaux about the mysterious Jervis family, with food left on the table and in some cases playing cards strewn on the floor (you can just about see them in this picture), not only did he live in the middle of this nutjobbery, effectively inventing an art form to justify his wacko spending habits (God bless you, sir), devising a sense of immediacy and imminence of an invisible family…

(From basement…)

(To attic…)

… After his death it was turned into a public attraction.

Meaning you can visit this wonderful monstrosity, which is precisely what Emma and I did last week.

We’ve tried to explain the experience to each other, standing in the suddenly-loud street afterward. The weirdness, for me, of the smells and creaking floorboards, reminiscent of so many other experiences (Installation History seems to have been an unusually vibrant museum market where I grew up); the nuttiness of the scheme; the fact that on entering a cat ran past us; the way almost all the food was real (smells, again, and the acknowledged difference in weight and visual texture and believability that results); the piped sound of voices from other rooms lending the air of having just missed real people, and above all:

You will complete this journey in silence.

After a while, holding my breath, listening to the voices of the past while peering at their goods, the enterprise began to feel grubby. I felt like a ghost of the present, haunting the past. As if I’d wandered backwards in time to gawk at the private doings of normal people. The pressure of the experience is startlingly immense in that moment. (Slightly spoiled by the necessary presence of volunteers to stop people nicking things or walking into the open candle flames).

“You’re about to begin a journey into the past,” Emma sagely mentioned, mimicking the doorman at the house, “As he stabs away at his iPad, somewhat ruining that illusion.”

“Yes,” quoth I, “but did you notice he had the same face as the portraits? I think he may have been generated by the building.”

After the better part of an hour stalking an immaculate set composed of imagined history and funded by a man who thought nothing of filling the master bedroom with china pots on tiny gold shelves (a shelf for each of them), this seemed a perfectly rational explanation.


The house is on the south side of Folgate Street, and dates from approximately 1724. It is one of a terrace of houses (Nos 6-18) built of brown brick with red brick dressings, over four storeys and with a basement.

Other, Better Authors

Regular readers are tired of me hectoring them to buy my books and fund my decadent lifestyle choices like “being able to afford to get to my job” and “paying the electricity bill”. Irregular readers are confused as to why I’m not shouting about Huel at this precise moment.

In the fullness of time I’m going to come back and beat you all over the head with the imminence of The Next Big One, explain how I have gone from a banana-hating, coffee-eschewing meat addicted sandwich-lover to a cold-brew-hefting, banana-craving, bread-avoiding pescatarian hipster scumbag (actually that one’s pretty straightforward: turns out testosterone changes your tastes and body chemistry. Also, willpower and working nightshift. Hoo boy do you need to be able to stomach a lot of coffee).

But for now I want to draw attention to m’colleague and global opposite, Wayne Ree. Pronounced “Ray”, because fuck you, and also because there’s an acute accent over the second e that my keyboard wants no part of.

Wayne, a founding member of the aptly-named Global Beards, is a versatile and imaginative writer who I feel just isn’t getting the love he deserves. The man has written Yellow Princess: Attack of the Dinosharksbut also quieter, more adult and introspective pieces in Tales from a Tiny Room, and partnered up with the explosively excellent Anna AB on the ferocious collection Prompt – snappy, dangerous short fiction. Also, he’s bought me whisky at least once so that pretty much makes him a Good People.

So you should buy his stories, because they’re varied and exciting and because, if you’re very lucky and flatter him enough, he may one day let you touch The Beard. Maybe.

Kew Doodles, or Kewdles, Possibly.

On the 11th – and not the 10th, as I wrote on all the pictures – the Resident Australian and I went to Kew Gardens on our annual pilgrimmage to look at bluebells, and as has become traditional for the first or second week of May, it pissed it down at lengthy intervals. During odd moments of sunshine and longer sessions trapped in various buildings, I joined said Australian in attempting to chronicle the world in pen.

(I also took a shit tonne of photos but photos of a place everyone else has been to, taken on a bad cameraphone, do not benefit anyone).

mangaka

Top: during a rare moment of sun, the Temple of Aeolus, atop a small artificial hillock. Built during the Enlightment, when the fad for neo-Classicism was correspondingly at its height, and one presumes every sod and fool wanted a fucking ha-ha.

Middle: The view of a small, rectangular pond at the back of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which is a magnificent glass toblerone full of varying habitats; it will surprise no one to learn that the Resident Australian, whose cactus obsession becomes ever-more pointed (Sorry) with each passing day, jammed herself into the desert at the front of the building while I made tracks for The Bit Where The Frogs Are.

We stayed there for lunch:

(The orange stuff on the round things is masago, capelin roe; the round things are quail egg onigiri and I am justly proud of them – the vegetable maki rolls somewhat less so).

Bottom: There are many wonderful things in Kew Gardens (go! It’s nice! Take an umbrella!) but sometimes you have to accept that being able to self-serve as much clotted cream as you want is going to be the highlight of pretty much any day [You can take the boy out of Devon, etc]. I did at least exhibit the self-restraint of drawing my tea before I ate it, in part because the rain had started coming down like the wrath of God at that point and it was clear we weren’t leaving the Orangery any time soon.

I’d estimate that’s a roughly 1:1 ratio of scone to cream, there. Providers of cream teas in the London institutions which I regularly patronise please take note: this is the correct ratio. Not “Oh lord why must we waste our precious cream on these plebs?” and putting out a hotel buffet butter pat of trembling, terrified cream to smear regretfully over five miles of week-old scone. I’M CALLING YOU OUT, BENUGO. FIX YOUR TEAS.

… While I’m digressing, angrily, on the subject of cream teas:

Benugo’s cream tea, at the V&A, taken at the end of April in the company of the American Academic. I mean, the tray is pretty but does this look decadent to you, Benugo? The point of cream tea is that I’m meant to feel guilty for at least a month afterward.

A notable mention goes to the Stables Cafe, hidden in the basement of the Stables Market in Camden; not only is the decor fantastic and the welcome genial (and often accompanied by live piano), the cream tea as pictured here costs a whopping £4.50, rather cheaper than elsewhere. Do not be fooled by the demure shot glasses (and occasionally egg cups), that is entirely Sufficient for such tiny scones.

Back to the art.

fineline

We fetched up in another small neo-Classical location – this one with Walls and a Door – as the heavens opened with more vigour than ever before and made an effort at turning the Mediterranean Garden into the gardens of Atlantis. We were shortly joined by one (1) worried Scandinavian mother of an extremely new baby, and a soggy but exceptionally friendly robin, thus setting the scene for a potential End of the World Survivor Movie, in which the robin and the baby are the only people the studio isn’t allowed to kill.

The tree above, in rather less stumpy fashion, was in a pot just in front of where I was sitting.

Surprisingly, membership for Kew is entirely covered by five visits to the gardens in a year. I feel maybe, if I took out a membership, and went often enough, I might manage to once again go on a day when there isn’t a thunderstorm.

Sci Fi Nutriglop BakeFuture: Huel Experiments.

Before I begin explaining what the hell I’m talking about I just want to say that if anyone from Huel.com is reading this (give me free stuff), phrases like “orthorexic health filth”, “scific nutriglop”, etc, are just me making fun of my own preoccupations. As you’re about to find out, I’m very excited by this thing and the possibilities inherent in it, and so are a surprising number of my friends.

Health Filth

The deal with Huel appeals to be that it’s a powder that contains your entire nutritional needs which you mix up into shakes and then you don’t have to turn into a ball of neurosis about whether not eating fish for two days mean your eyes are going to implode or, if you’re me and work on night shift, if failing to eat eighty pieces of fruit and a thousand yogurts means you’re going to crumble into a scurvy-ridden bowl of osteoporophic dust.

The Story

A friend who engages in pastimes such as punching bears and running up hills recently alerted everyone in her internet vicinity to the existence of a miraculous substance. Quoth she: “The science fiction trope of a nutrient gruel so ubiquitous that it has its own TV Tropes page is now a reality”; and I, obsessive maker of increasingly tiny food and hopeless slave to new gadgetry, proceeded to shriek “I WANT THIS AND I’M EMBARRASSED” on every social media platform upon which I routinely reside.

To my surprise, instead of calling me a weenie and pointing out that just because something uses Helvetica does not make it true, several of my friends responded:

  • Oh yes I’ve got some of that it’s good for days when I can’t decide what I want to eat.
  • I’ve been meaning to buy this, I think it will help when I’m too exhausted from [list of horrifying chronic health conditions, full-time work, and child-rearing duties in various combinations] and don’t want to resort to eating crap.
  • Got some for when I have surgery to recover from and won’t be able to eat properly.
  • Would you like to go halves on some? My lunch breaks are too short for me to actually get to the shops and I think this might help me to actually eat lunch.

I dithered a bit. My house is already a museum to weird food fads, not least the unceasing tide of Paketsu, whatever delights TokyoTreat have sent me that I haven’t managed to actually eat yet, and currently about ten types of no-calorie energy drink, not to mention the array of bizarre flours, powders, and stock cubes I insist on collecting (look, it’s not hoarding if it’s not perishable).

“It’s sort of like liquid porridge,” quoth friend, “and you get a free t-shirt.”

Well, I thought, I really do not need any more t-shirts.

But I like porridge, and after a concerted reading session of the website when I probably should have been engaged in, say, work, or sleeping, or looking where the hell I was going while walking somewhere, I found that someone had already considered the possibility of baking with it.

The Games Begin

The fun starts with the drop. As in, I had to take two buses into deepest, darkest Tower Hamlets to get to the friend I’d gone halves with, and an exchange of a SACK of nutritionally complete dubious powder took place on a windswept, rainy corner in an inconspicuous carrier bag.

Then I brought home a Very Nicely Designed Sack with a scoop and a zip seal that hasn’t had as thorough engineering as the logo (I have resorted to rolling and pegging to keep it closed) and began the important work of finding out what I can do with this weird shit.

Doing It Properly

There are two types of people in this world when faced with a new concept they have to interact with/learn to use in some way. Those who decide they are going to follow the instructions and get it exactly right, thus achieving the peak of the on-label use of an item, and the people who see something and go “I wonder what entirely unrecommended use I can put this to, I must experiment with every single one of them immediately and never actually bother learning how to use it for the intended thing”.

I am the latter, which is why I made a cake in my rice-cooker the first time I used it.

However, occasionally this approach has led to, well, things going “bang” or catching fire (often those things are me)… sometimes one likes a guinea pig.

Fortunately someone among my friends had already guinea-pigged it just before I got my hands on the stuff.

“It’s watery,” he said, referring to the recommended 5:1 ratio of water to Huel, “and it doesn’t taste very nice.”

Shortly after this my purchasing co-conspirator noted that hers had been made “claggy” by the addition of peanut butter. Forewarned, forearmed, and adequately fireproofed, I fetched down my safety goggles, and went to work.

doing it properly 2

First, I decided to, in a departure from my wont, follow the instructions.

Well, sort of.

Instead of a 5:1 ratio of water and unadulterated Huel what I actually did was sift Huel through a dusting sieve and add two scoops of coconut “drink” (thanks, M&S, that’s not at all ominous) that happened to be lying around, and three scoops of hot water, producing a pleasantly warm glop which I then attacked with a hand blender. I rather imagine that if I hadn’t insisted on sifting into a milkshake glass I could just have put it in the knock-off Nutribullet thing and mixed it that way. At any rate, the end result wasn’t too watery, and thickened up fast enough, as my peanut-butter experimenting friend had promised.

In the interests of making it taste of something (it does, in actual fact, taste faintly of unsweetened, unsalted porridge, but I appreciate that’s quite unnerving for an entire milkshake’s worth of drink), I lobbed in two teaspoons of Walden Farms caramel dip, which is a boon to the calorie-obsessed as it contains nothing even slightly approaching food.

doing it properly

This is how it ended up looking. Breakfast with a cup of tea (spot the peg); accounting for the coconut milk it came in at 190 calories and kept me full until lunchtime. Texture: rather like a bircher had a baby with an anemic smoothie.

Then I went to town, in a limited way. Adding no flavours (well one, in a cheat you’ll see at the end), and experimenting solely with structural additions:

what i used

WATER!

HUEL!

BAKING POWDER!

ORGRAN NO EGG NATURAL EGG REPLACER

OLIVE OIL

The first order of business was to reduce the water to Huel ratio to even, and get something more malleable:

ratio of 1 to 1

This is a 1:1 ratio of Huel and water. It’s basically cake batter.

Fried in a pan with minimal cooking spray, it comes out a bit like a chapati:

chapati

I love a chapati, and I think with a little less water a more workable/rollable dough could be produced.

However, I also love a pancake, and I know from my socca experiments that you can make them with just flour and water. So I did. Well, with a small cheat.

pancake

2:1 Water/Huel
1/4 tsp Orgran egg replacer
Pan fried.

Apart from the slight oaty taste and the reduction in flexibility that comes from not including an egg this was not really noticeably different from yet standard pancake (British iteration, not American).

I also know from besan/socca experimentation that pancake batter on a sheet in the oven makes biscuit.

cookie2

1:1 Huel/water

185C fan oven 15 minutes (on silicon baking parchment).

Bit inchoate. I mean, it held together and everything but felt fragile. I thought I’d fortify it, so went with what I would call more cake batter next:
cookie

1:1 Huel/Water
1/4 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp Organ egg replacer
1/4 tsp water

185C fan oven 15 minutes.

And lo, a perfectly serviceable savoury cracker did appear.

But what I was really interested in was the noble, humble, neglected Savoury Cake:

cake

1:1 ratio of Huel and Water (tbsp)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp Orgran egg replacement
1/4 tsp water (for the Orgran)
1/4 tsp olive oil.

185C fan oven for 15 min.

In cake form – I suspect Orgran won’t cut it if you want something spongy, as this fragile and crumbly construction (not too fragile and with some integrity and bubbles, although definitely not a sproingy mattress of softness either) was the result of a standard amount of baking powder. Interestingly it puffed up immediately, producing a kind of foam-batter which was very light. Perhaps I’ll try frying that like a hot cake in future rounds, and certainly EGGSPERIMENTS are indicated in the cake line (I am so sorry, I blame Easter for turning me into Pun Dad). Perhaps gluten free bakers could suggest how to use xanthum gum here to achieve a more satisfactory bind, as I have never laid eyes on the stuff and have NO CLUE WHAT I’M DOING. As is probably evident.

I doubt bread is going to work with this but pfft, I don’t actually like bread very much…

Then I got full of myself, and made soup:

tomato soup

Well, sauce. Using the 5:1 ratio of Huel and water recommended for the shakes, plus a Kallo tomato stock cube, resulted in something quite intense and reasonably thick. Possibly a bigger batch to improve the stock to Huel ratio next time.

Final reckoning:

final reckoning

Chapati, two biscuits, a pancake/crepe, and a cake, plus soup.

I’m wondering if I can use this to make muhallabieh.

I Love Living In The Future: New Shit Exists!

While I am usually too suspicious of purported developments (and too broke) to actually buy them until they’re old hat, I do love to waste my time on new inventions websites fantasising about what could be achieved if I were only a) rich b) rich, and c) really, really rich (if you’d like to help me become slightly less poor: products are available to assist).

I’ve collected together some of the best, most lunatic, or most avarice-inspiring things I’ve seen.

The Compute Plug.

Computer Plug

An entire computer in a plug. Perfect for the space-deprived being of tomorrow or, given rent prices in London, New York, and Tokyo, the space-deprived being of today.

Everblock.

Everblock

Addressing some of the housing issues and the time taken to build both furniture and shelter, these are literally construction-sized Lego blocks, something I have been dreaming of since I was a wee ‘un. Brilliant. Website here.

Motorized Unicycle Thing.

I’m not going to lie, I see people on these in the street occasionally and I think they look like prize wankers, but I’m sure when it’s more normalised and they’re cheaper this will become a perfectly acceptable means of transport in London, especially if they are given their own lane and don’t get in the way of pedestrians and cyclists.

Leather Bag Scarf.

No exciting new technology here, but I’m sure that in the permanent hellish Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic wasteland that we’re going to endure in, oh, about thirty years or so, this will be a stylish and multipurpose alternative to the bum-bag.

The Drumi.

Drumi

A washing machine that is operated entirely by pedal power.

Bartesian.

bartesian-1

For the cocktail bar in, I dunno, your space Limo. Listen, my space Limo is going to have a cocktail bar, okay. You can have a coffee machine in yours. I don’t drink coffee.

Shelfpack.

shelfpack-1

A suitcase that turns into a set of shelves, because if you’re going to be itinerant for your job, you may as well accept that fact with good grace. Pairs nicely with the workstation suitcase, which means that with only two pieces of checked luggage you are ready to accept that you no longer own your existence! Corporate dystopia is Now.

GlocalMe.

More for the dark dystopian post-apocalyptic future where for some reason there are no Wifi hotspots but still internet, or more realistically for uploading safari photos if you are too impatient to wait until you get back to the very nice hotel in Nairobi with the perfectly good Wifi, you spoiled dick. Caution: It is a Kickstarter project which to me usually reads as either a scam or “a lot of money to wait a very long time for potentially nothing”, so there you go.

Sony All-in-One MP3-player/headphones.

Another slow step towards just streaming music directly into your brain, but this one cuts out the continual advertising.

Tumeta Frozen Smoothie Maker.

It’s a tiny cutesy egg that that shits out ice-cream-esque “healthy” desserts that probably still aren’t as healthy as just eating frozen grapes from the freezer, which I am this minute about to do, and it’s totally pointless and every time the temperature goes over 22C I go back and look at the product page like I’ve been hypnotised by the God of Bad Decisions. Why do I want this?

Thank Slim Hand Scanner

In the Future, this is what you’ll be using to digitise the relentless paperwork that continues to happen to your office at the cost of the lunar forests because some fucking backward asswipe refuses to learn how to put their signature on a PDF. You know that.

Grotesque self-pimping!

Hello! I just got an email from my lovely editors at New Smut Project letting me know the anthology I’m featured in (as Melissa Snowdon) got a really nice review from Adriana Ravenlust at Of Sex and Love! And in fact got singled out for attention (okay, okay, she singles most of the stories out for attention because it’s a great anthology full of inventive fiction and such but let me have my moment).

Which I hope stands as further encouragement to, if you haven’t already, grab yourself a copy of Between the Shores and enjoy; and/or pick up Heart, Body, Soul which I didn’t write anything for but which does feature a story by a friend of mine.

Comparison: Travel Chopsticks

Once upon a time, the author of this blog was an undergraduate at university. They lived in a hall of residence and shared a kitchen with twelve other people, about four of whom were thieving fucking bastards who continually nicked their bloody cutlery and just casually used it like it was theirs. Such are the perils of communal living.

Being opposed to starting fights that aren’t winnable when the kitchen is already a warzone (some joker at admissions had put Greek and Turkish Cypriots in the same corridor, sharing the same kitchen, and Opinions Were Aired Loudly, although not loudly enough to drown out the girl on the floor below us who liked to practice the Imperial March from Star Wars on her trumpet at 3am most mornings) I adapted: on a trip to Yo! Sushi (which was a big deal from a lump from West Devon back in 2002) I got some of their retractable chopsticks and kept them in my wallet.

As a result of this solution to the thieving buggers in my halls I learnt how to eat everything up to and including ice cream using chopsticks, and when I finally lost the retractables I mourned their passing and tried to find suitable replacements.

This has proven more difficult than you might imagine. For one thing, the Yo! Sushi retractables are disposable by intention. They don’t clean well: once you’re no longer a student it’s not really appropriate to carry around some bacteria-infested spit-soaked wooden sticks. I mean, it’s probably someone’s fetish and I don’t want them to feel bad about it, but I have also worked cataloguing brain samples for a prion disease research project since then (never let anyone tell you that data entry does not provide you with access to some weird situations) and I’m somewhat more circumspect about what I put in my mouth now.

On the subject of the bacteria-laden wood-tipped telescoping Yo! Sushi disposables: it would be so easy to make these in something more durable and easier to clean. There is a gaping HOLE in the market here, if I were an entrepreneurial person instead of a massive whiner I could just march onto Shapeways and hire a designer and have these things in shops by the end of a year. I’ve studied the design! And because I’m really quite obsessed with this I’ve taken photos so you can too:

chopsticks3
click on any of these images for a larger, closer look
travel chopsticks
click on any of these images for a larger, closer look
chopsticks2
click on any of these images for a larger, closer look

As you can see, there’s a ridge and dent locking mechanism and the wooden part slides in through a hole at the top which on the intact one is plugged by a little plastic cap. If you were to make the thing in metal (with a rough bit on the tips to help with grip), you could just put in little rubber bungs in that spot – easy to remove so you can completely dismantle both the tube and the tip in order to give it a thoroughly good wash/autoclaving depending on your level of obsessive sterilisation. Also the rubber would grip more firmly and prevent the bun from coming out the way the cap’s popped off these.

On a dull night at work I even sat and tried to draw a diagram, that's how obsessed I am.
On a dull night at work I even sat and tried to draw a diagram, that’s how obsessed I am.

One set of perfectly good telescoping sterilisable/dishwashable chopsticks to a design that ALREADY EXISTS. WHERE ARE THEY?

To save you the weight of my wrath, here are all the goddamn replacements I’ve bought and been dissatisfied with, and why.

The Current Chopstick Winners: Monbento Flexible Retractable Chopsticks

What’s Right With Them: They’re compact, they fit into their own handles, the connecting module is firm, the little chopstick stand that also keeps them together when they’re folded away is handy and cute, they’re easy to wash, and the tips are ridged for keeping a decent grip on your food. They also come in a range of colours.

What’s Wrong With Them: They’re expensive, because they’re Monbento and because delivery from everywhere seems to add an unbelievable additional cost; they’re not telescoping which means there are more pieces to get lost, and the cap is very good at getting lost indeed; and they don’t actually fit in my wallet.

The Not Winners:

Generic Tableware.

The whole kit.
How the chopsticks work.

What’s Right About Them: Cheap as hell, come in a convenient case, ridged ends for food grip, relatively firm connection, are easy to clean.

What’s Wrong About Them: That case will break, and before it does you will be obliged to wrap the chopsticks in a paper towel to stop them from rattling against each other and the cutlery; they don’t fit in my wallet; the screw connection comes undone occasionally in use; no means other than the case of keeping them together; clinkclinkclinkclink; they don’t telescope so when undone you have more pieces to keep track of.

Terra Nova Lightweight Collapsible Chopsticks

Image is misleading: these slot together with a divot, and the tips are made of wood.

What’s Right With Them: Precious little. The case keeps them together and under those circumstances they are quite compact. That’s all I can say in their favour.

What’s Wrong With Them: Everything. They have wooden tips which absorb grossness and cannot be easily cleaned; the metallic finish on parts of it comes off in flakes; they’re hard to get out of their case with any great ease and when assembled aren’t secure (I’ve had bits fall off when I’m using them); they don’t telescope; they don’t fit in my wallet; they’re not hygienic; they’re awkward; and to top it all off they’re expensive.

Muji Travel Chopsticks: No longer available online.

What’s Right With Them: Cheap, and plastic so easy to clean. Come with their own case.

What’s Wrong With Them: Not in any way collapsible; do not fit in wallet as a result, no form of grip on the tips so especially with the glossy finish of the plastic it’s actually very hard to eat a lot of foods, including noodles, rendering them pointless not only as travel chopsticks but as chopsticks in general.

Nice eShop Knife & Fork Chopsticks

An admitted deviation from my stated search.

What’s Right With Them: While these were clearly not going to be what I was looking for, they’ve proven handy so far: the contrast section is easy to handle, they work as chopsticks and as cutlery (Although I don’t link them up as demonstrated), and the tips are abraded enough to have a decent grip.

What’s Wrong With Them: Aside from very obviously not being travel chopsticks I’d add that the slot in the fork predictably gets clogged with food and can actually be kind of hard to clean properly.

Coloured Travel Cutlery Set

The configuration took a while to master.

What’s Right With Them: I’d place these as second to the Monbento. They’re not too expensive, they have their own case, the fork and spoon are also pretty useful, there is a rough patch on the tips for grip, they’re easy to clean, and the connection point is firm.

What’s Wrong With Them: They don’t fit in my wallet, they’re not telescopic – the usual problems. Also they’re ugly as all hell, although that doesn’t rank particularly highly in my list of requirements.

Coresmart portable chopsticks.

What’s Right With Them: In theory there’s plenty going for them: I got them from eBay very cheaply; they look cute; the case is more compact than the option above; the connection looks straight forward, they’re easy to assemble–

What’s Wrong With Them: They literally broke the first time I used them. Fuck off. The connection snapped right off. This is not what I call a reliable set of anything.

Ones I Haven’t Been Able To Test:

Brunton FlipSticks

Not telescoping but removing the “extraneous bits will get lost” issue.

These look like they could be the business (although the wooden tips trouble me for hygiene reasons) and I question how well I would be able to grip the arch. Of course that is not a problem as I can’t get these. Not only are they Not Available from the US Amazon site, when I’ve found them on eBay the postage costs have been so prohibitive, so insane, that the idea of trying them out seems like playing Russian roulette with my bank balance, as if I will pay for these and my job will immediately fire me in an act of hubris to punish me for spending so much money on something so stupid.

It’s not rational but neither is charging me £20+ for shipping some chopsticks, eBay. Get bent.

Collapsible Compact Chopsticks.

I mean it becomes immediately apparent where these aren’t acceptable: they’re not telescoping, for one thing, but on the whole they’re pretty alright in every other area. Can’t see the tips to see if they have grip, but the package looks sound and the chopsticks rest as a means of keeping them together is a nice touch even if it increases, ultimately, the number of parts which can go missing.

Have you been to the link and seen how much they cost? Because when I wrote this post it was in the region of £60.

Pray excuse me while I cackle disbelievingly all the way to hell no, a street in the vicinity of a town known as What Am I, Made of Money?

Nameless Japanese telescoping chopsticks

The holy grail.
These are they.

Here they are: The holy grail. These are they. The thing that I want. Ridged ends for grip. Telescoping. Maybe wallet-sized? Metal! Clean! Compact! Perfect! Beautiful! Why don’t I own them?

Because they’re Not Available on Amazon, I’ve been able to find this Japanese import literally nowhere else, and during the brief period they were available they were MORE THAN A HUNDRED POUNDS. And listen, my quest is great. My obsessive need for telescoping, hygienic, durable, wallet-sized chopsticks is mighty. My endurance is beyond calculation. But my bank balance is as feeble and as ephemeral as the fluttering petals of spring cherry blossoms and even if I were possessed of, oh, even a whole twenty thousand pounds a year instead of my current stipend of “you literally cannot live on this without a partner”, I would not be putting that kind of money into acquiring them.

This is vexacious. Something must be done.

But in a twist!

Because I like to end with irony: I finally found eating implements that fit in my wallet and are easy to clean and light-weight. And they’re not chopsticks.

Droog Credit Card Cutlery

droog

Okay, the cost of shipping them put them at an embarrassing price for some bendy bits of plastic. Okay, I’d probably have been better off with something like this if I was going to insist on fiddly stupidity. I am however beyond shame now. I have weird, bendy plastic cutlery in my wallet and I’m not afraid to use it to scrabble futilely at salads.

But one day I will have those telescoping chopsticks, I’m warning you.