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Back Buzz - May 20, 2006

pumping heart Russell's Bakery, 20 Market Place, Pickering, North Yorkshire

Recently we spent a weekend on the East Yorkshire coast. After spending a night in Scarborough we drove inland to take a quick look at the lovely old ruin of Pickering Castle. Located on the north edge of the Vale of Pickering, which was once a glacial lake, and overlooking the Pickering Beck, this Norman motte-and-bailey castle was built by William the Conqueror. Over the next 300 years the original wooden defences were gradually replaced by stone.

We had started the morning with breakfast at our pretentious Scarborough hotel: a full English devoid of any semblance of taste and accompanied by a pot of hot dishwater. As a result I was now in dire need of caffeine, so we decided to stop in the town of Pickering for a coffee. After I spotted an espresso cafe at the top of the hill Andrew parked the car at the bottom of the same hill, which surprised me because I know he doesn't enjoy walking up hills. But he had mistaken my sighting for the cafe at the bottom of the hill, Russell's Bakery. Before I could warn him Andrew had already ordered his double espresso. As I gazed upon the espresso vending machine with its pre-selection buttons I heard my expectations take a nosedive with a loud kerplunk!

Since there were no options for "double short cappuccino" I asked for a "cappuccino" and an "espresso" in the same cup. Although some push-button espresso machines make tolerable coffee this one was stocked with that horrid ersatz instant shite, similar to the machine at the Sheffield Hallam University cafe to which my workmate and I would resort in mid-afternoon caffeine desperation, only to have to endure the din of our stomachs gurgling loudly in protest for the rest of the day.

Russell's looks like a nice place to eat, though, and I've heard they make great burgers, which is a personal coincidence because there used to be a Russell's Hamburgers in my home town of Long Beach, California which made the best burgers around. But Russell's Bakery simply doesn't do real espresso. And of course the "cappuccino" cups both our drinks were served in are actually cafe au lait cups, big enough to serve chilli in, and my powdered espresso was drowned by way too much reconstituted powdered milk. We sat in the rear smoking area of the long roomy cafe. The day had suddenly turned very cold, with mini-gales blowing in through the open back door, so finally there was a purpose to our giant handwarming cups. It was around noon and the cafe was filling up with locals and tourists having breakfast and lunch. On the wall there is a large display of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a preserved steam railway running across the North Yorkshire Moors for 18 miles.

It probably would have been a good place to stop for lunch, but we just couldn't finish our alleged "coffees". As we walked back to the car I was praying that all that lactose-rich dehydrated milk wouldn't put me back to sleep. But what was that sudden roar? Unfortunately it was my stomach. Ah, well, it was going to be a noisy journey in the car...

Speaking of ersatz edibles reminds me of an e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from a couple of years ago:

I'm having fun with my new broadband. It's such a relief to be able to browse the Internet without it costing so much per minute, and to be connected all the time. From the April Fool's edition of one of my research newsletters I discovered this fascinating site on the popular sport of cheese racing: The cheese racing was not an April Fools' Day joke, I see. It is rather amazing that the plastic doesn't melt or explode. What was it designed for? I'd like to see CRASS [The Cheese Racing Association] build a scale model of the space shuttle -- covered with cheese tiles, of course. They could pilot it down the streets in the Cheese Bowl parade. The Grand Marshall would have to be your creation, Cheesus of Nazareth. Where would the parade and the annual competition be held? Tillamook? Philadelphia? Just what is the process cheese capital of America? Until they organize their own event, Cheese Racers might be candidates for the St. Stupid's Day parade in San Francisco. Is there a Velveeta in any of the 50 states? That would be the ideal location.