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Wednesday 29 May 2013

Letts Skip To The Prune Course

Just occasionally, the Mail’s odious Parliamentary sketchwriter Quentin Letts (let’s not) tries to be a little too clever, and ends up painting a very different picture to the one he intended. Today’s example has come as he enthusiastically talks up the humble prune – yes, the fruit all too often served with custard which is purported to keep one regular – but also reveals his less than worldly side.
Harry Potter and the Gobshite of Arslikhan

Quent clearly understands that much of his audience does not like prunes. He therefore reels off a number of food and drink combinations where they can be of supposed benefit, as part of his sales drive. “You can have prunes with lamb, prunes with pork, prunes with pheasant — they make it less dry — and prunes with hare or rabbit” he gurgles enthusiastically.

He goes on (but you knew that anyway): “Pudding looms? Why not prune tart or prune crumble, or prunes stewed in Vouvray? Good drop of stuff, Vouvray”. Yes, Quent, most of us do know about Vouvray, especially the sparkling variety, which is a far safer bet than risking a budget Champagne for your celebration, with the possibility that it will, technically speaking, be crap.

But Vouvray is not the only alcoholic beverage on the Letts menu: “before bed there are worse fates than a tumbler of cheap ‘marc’ brandy with a prune floating to the bottom like a depth charge. The prune somehow civilises the fiery drink”. A “tumbler”? How large a “tumbler” would that be? A half pint one? Rather him than me. And marc is not brandy, as he ought to know.

I will explain. Brandy is produced from grape must, in other words, the juice that comes from inside the skin of the fruit. Marc (the French term: it’s Grappa in Italy, Tsikoudia in the Greek Islands and Bagaceira in Portugal) is distilled from the skin and other leftovers from the wine or brandy making process. It definitely isn’t brandy, and as for consuming it by the tumbler, well, I’ll pass on that one, thanks.

True, there are very good examples of this spirit (let’s hear it for the excellent Bagaceira São Domingos), but a lot of it is wince-inducing, even when diluted with a mixer (says someone who’s been to both Crete and Santorini). One hates to think that Quent might have a problem with the falling-over water, but, it seems, all roads on the Letts prune patrol come back to the subject of drinksh.

Hungover? You stagger into the kitchen first thing in the morning, peer into your fridge, and find yourself being twinkled at by a big bowl of these desiccated dollops of deliciousness” he enthuses. The thought enters that someone has developed a habit for this mildly laxative fruit as a result of some other habit. As to the identity of the latter, you might wish to speculate, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Bit of a giveaway there, Quent. Some hacks still spell Lunchtime with a capital, eh?

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