Friday, 20 September 2013

The killer cook book non cooking cook off!

Again, here is a copy of the MIE blog for this week, you can see that we have been busy...

 Here’s a wee question for you. What is a cranachan?
Is it         a) a very small house in a cold and rainy place
                b) a wee fuzzy creature that lives at the bottom of the garden     
                c)  a whisky based dessert


All will become unclear … 

As you may know I edited the killer cookbook  for the Million For a Morgue campaign. I was rather pleased when  I got the programme for the Bloody Scotland Crimefest and saw that as well as my own event, there was the “Killer Cook Book Cook Off’ based on the  TV programme "the Great British Bake Off". There was to be four crime writers cooking live (and it was to be filmed for TV) plus me running around with a mic. The hotel chef was going to do the Paul Hollywood bit ...  (He’s the chef on the TV)
             This is Paul Hollywood, I have no idea what the hotel chef looked like. He was keeping well clear.

What could go wrong?

Well, turns out the hotel changed hands and nobody checked with the new owners that they were OK with isolating the fire alarms for the event. And only told us on the Thursday  evening ( the  event was due on the Sunday ). The hotel cancelled it. With about 70 tickets sold. And only my name was on the tickets.

Mmmmm …

I don’t really know what happened next but the hotel seemed to go in the huff. The organisers tried to cancel the tickets and then that wee bit of Scotty recalcitrance came in ... the one thing you don’t say to me is health and safety …. For a morgue !!!!….

All week I had been doing press interviews and being photographed in my own kitchen (!!!!) saying ‘’ oh we are very much keeping it under wraps re who is appearing etc,” basically talking bull pooh.

So I got to work. I baked 70 flapjacks, had to  buy booze for the two cocktails (not the Grey Goose Vodka, this was supermarket cheapo). Then buy all the ingredients, then  go through the non cooking  recipes and think  about what we would need to make them, then serve them ... and … get them to Stirling. I live in Elderslie ( an hour away by motorway). Then there was the real health and safety issue of keeping food in hotel room for 48 hours … fresh cream… raspberries…..fromage frais ….salmonella etc.

In the end, we left some stuff in the  car boot.  Stuck some stuff in the freezer. Alan ran down the very steep hill to Marks and Spencer four times on the day to buy ‘more stuff’. And back up again laden with ‘couldn’t get that stuff but got the nearest I could get’ stuff. He’s used to running marathons so feel no sympathy. Wee cheapo shops were a great  source of comedy bloody hands, plastic shot glasses, napkins,  cocktail sticks ... and slowly a planned formed. I woke  up in the middle of the  night and told the dog that  we would not be downhearted. We were going to do  "can’t cook, won’t cook" but change it to  "want to cook, not allowed to cook."
Who needs Paul Hollywood when you have criminal minds!
                            Criminal masterminds armed, dangerous, ready to cause liver damage.

 All Sunday we spent chopping and cutting and mixing, the salsa refused to defrost, the flapjacks tray was piled high, the cranachans kept eacaping etc. Five other authors had moments of insanity and because they are scared of me, ( I was wielding a large knife) offered to join in. 'Team bald’ Craig and Gordon (who has guest blogged for MIE) and ‘team blonde’ Alex, Lin and a Californian Scot called Catriona McPherson ( who was then flying out to Bouchercon!)
So ... to set the scene… I walked on behind a table laden with cocktail shakers… this is then what 
happened …

I introduce team bald. They walk in to the tune The Stripper. Gordon is six feet four and was wearing a tall chef’s hat. He was wearing a pink diamante apron. Craig was wearing chef whites covered in fake blood. Well that  is what  we told the police. They both carried their trays aloft and swaggered. Team blonde came in, with a swagger, to the tune of ‘I’m too sexy for my apron...’
                                        Mr Urqhart in action, see collie dog under Pat's arm

By the time I had introduced the girls, the boys were already on the way to making their cocktails. They had the bottles open. I’ve now seen the photos (at the time I was busy) and they are swigging the stuff behind my back, mm... the boys were supposed to be making the Margueritas donated for the book by the anthropologist’s husband.  The anthropologist said later that she was surprised more of the audience didn’t end up in her morgue the way they were slinging the stuff about, forcing the audience to knock back shorts of almost neat tequila. Team blonde were more organised. One was dressing her homemade scones and the table with jam and squirty cream as her team mates went to town with Peter James’ writing martini. As it was made with four quid vodka not his forty quid vodka, it turned out more like nail varnish remover.
The olives went down well though.
Two slaves from the audience walking through the crowds with trays  of Martini, shots of Margueritas, (supercharged), Bloody Mary tomatoes,(more vodka but some vitamin C), 70 flapjacks, and some half frozen salsa that  really did look as if it belonged in the  morgue. Mr “Urquhart” was a haematologist and the other was a nice lady called Pat McCollie (see photo and giggle). I think the collie was donated to a nice wee kid in the audience who asked the only sensible question. Probably as the grownups were all puggled by then. Pat  did a  whip round and we got more than a hundred pounds for the charity as well.
                                                      The green T shirts are crew, muscling in on the event.

Then the boys started on their Ewert Gren’s sandwich donated by new MIE blogger Anders Rosland.  Craig was starting to cut the ham with a whisk. Gordon’s wife had told me he was so hopeless in the kitchen that he couldn’t open a can of beans. I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. Catriona pointed out that the famous McSween haggis people had given her an award for making her own haggis as “there is no good haggis in California”.  Lin was chastising folk in the audience for olive swilling… that might become yet another national sport.
                                                Catriona persuading the audience to nibble some frozen salsa.

We then tried what I think might be a world record for cranachan assembly. I have looked back at the video. I had no idea that so many of the TV crew and the Bloody Scotland PR team had wandered into the event, and got on stage  to lend a hand. Or get in the way. Or steal something  to eat.
We had 50 or 60 glasses on the front of the stage and we then tried to fill them all up with cranachan….to the tune of Benny Hill…… never spilled a drop. I hope you enjoy the unofficial photos.

Later Catriona was hiding in the loo and overheard somebody say the event was the highlight of the festival for her, she had seen Jo Nesbo but thought we were funnier!  Someone came up to me in the car park and said they had never laughed so much in their life- was it all rehearsed…..( wit? ) It was a perfect highlight to a great weekend ... oh there was proper stuff like Lee Child,  Val McDermid, Dr David Wilson and others, but none of them had a supporting cast of cranachan the way we did!
The MIE bloggers have supported the campaign all the way through. Here is a video  link   to a spontaneous interview for the daily record you might  like to see, that  is a very sharp knife in my hand. Can  you tell I’m making it all up as I go along?

Enjoy, Caro 20th September 2013

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