Congratulations to Newmarket sausages, but this label has a price

Blue Stilton cheese from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, has a protected geographical status. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

A piece for Comment is Free

It’s a happy day for some sausage makers: Newmarket sausages are the latest food to be awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status by the EU. The sausages now link happily with Arbroath smokies, Cornish pasties, Gloucestershire cider, “Scotch” beef and lamb, Welshbeef and lamb, Whitstable oysters and others. Italy has well over 200 PGIs (and PDOs – Protected Designation of Origin – a similar system of recognition), France around 200, Spain well over 150. Newmarket sausages becomes the UK’s 50th food product to earn European recognition for their quality, history and links with the local area.

I spoke to a tired but delighted Chris Sheen, MD of Musks Newmarket Sausage. “I made my first application 10 years ago,” he says. “It went backwards and forwards as they decided on a geographical area. Defra helped us with the application, then the EU sat on it for a year. By the end, we were on 18 versions of the application – there was a lot of mental aggravation when they kept coming back and asking for more changes, but it was all worthwhile.”

Good luck to Sheen: I hope he sells more sausages as a result of this. But the issue raises a number of questions. Promoting local foods is a sound idea in principle. If you live in Suffolk, it’s nice to help the local economy by buying its sausages. And if those sausages are any good – although I don’t remember having tried them, I’ve every reason to believe they are – then it’s worthwhile to bring them to wider attention.

But it’s not hard to foresee potential problems. After their efforts, producers of Newmarket sausages are now given a shiny badge with which to emblazon their packets. But earlier this year the EU rejected an application by Lincolnshire sausages for PGI on the grounds that there were already “too many variations” of the product in the UK. That was the only reason – too much replication. It was outside the remit to consider the taste of the food, or whether Newmarket sausages deserve to be given a commercial advantage over those from Lincolnshire, even though that’s the effect of this.

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The man who eats live animals

Food for Louis: eating eyeballs, raw heart, a live scorpion and a frog. Photographs: YouTube

A piece for the Guardian on Louis Cole, who eats strange things

A YouTube channel called Food for Louis reached 1m hits on one of its videos last week. Louis Cole is a shaggy-haired 28-year-old living in Roehampton, south west London. Since he started posting videos last May, Cole has filmed himself eating, among other things, 21 live locusts, a raw bull’s heart, a turkey leg crawling with maggots (the “Christmas special”, that one), a rotting dead frog , a “mouseshake” (10 dead mice blitzed in a blender), a large, live lizard from the Brazilian jungle, a live tarantula, live crayfish, live scorpion and, most controversially to judge by the “dislikes” and comments, “my pet goldfish”.

After the bush tucker trials of I’m a CelebrityBourdain with his balutBear Grylls and Fear Factor, the British public is now familiar with this kind of stunt eating. But Cole takes things rather further. I don’t know which is worse: the dead lizard spasming as it pokes out of his mouth, the way he grips four tarantula legs in each hand before biting the creature’s head off, the crayfish pinching his tongue, or the money shot of the mashed-up scorpion, disconcertingly resembling beef stroganoff. No, I do know which is the worst: the ragworms. Cole manages three of these, each a little under a foot long. They bite him back when he puts them in his mouth. As he delivers the coup de grace and begins to crunch, his gag reflex is so strong that a half-chewed ragworm corpse splatters out of his mouth. Undeterred, he slurps it back in like a ribbon of fettuccine.

If it all sounds idiotic, pointless and embarrassingly laddish, the most surprising thing about Cole is that he doesn’t talk or act like an extra from Jackass. He’s softly-spoken and rather unassuming in person. Before he started earning what he tells me is “enough to survive on” making his YouTube videos, he spent five years as a community worker helping to run an organisation that sought to protect inner city children from gangs. He has taken troubled youths to countries such as Zambia, and says it was terrible when one London council ended its association with him after it became aware of his YouTube channel. Cole started eating strange things for dares a few years ago. “My mates would get me to eat a spider,” he says. “I never had any problem with it.” He began with the easy stuff – a wasp, a rotten apple – before graduating to more challenging delicacies.

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Consider baked beans

So-called ‘baked’ beans

All your life, you’ve been lied to. Turns out they’re not bloody baked beans, they’re stewed beans. They don’t do what they say on the tin. Someone needs to take Heinz and the supermarkets and the rest of the mislabellers to the ASA. Someone needs to spill the beans.

The beans in “baked” beans are navy beans, common beans, Phaseolus vulgaris, the same and vital species that gives us kidney, cannellini, french, black, pinto, haricot, flageolet, borlotti and marrow. They are native to the New World and, along with squash and maize, formed the so-called “three sisters” that were the agricultural base of Native American cultures. Such beans contain up to three times the protein of rice or wheat, making rice and beans, stalwart dish of the Americas and the Caribbean, almost a complete meal.

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Consider champagne

Champagne, in a martini glass for some reason

It’s a cliché, someone said, that most clichés are true. And Napoleon’s chestnut on his favourite times to drink champagne – better put, I think, than Mme Bollinger’s more famous lines – makes a useful point. “I drink champagne when I win, to celebrate,” said the old tyrant, “and I drink it when I lose, to console myself.” Champagne is the one true anytime drink. Crack open the fizz at nine o’clock on a Saturday morning and you’re having a good time. Glug back the scotch or Stella and you offer the world a very different impression. This dichotomy may largely be down to marketing, but I’m glad it’s the way things are.

Champagne is not an ideal place to grow grapes. It’s cold, it rains a lot, and the soil isn’t great. So for most of its history the region produced dullish, off-white or lightly roséd wines, never the purple mouth-stainers of the south. Worse, once the wine was in the bottle, an early winter – not unlikely at those latitudes – could halt fermentation, leaving dormant yeast in the plonk. When spring came the fermentation would start again, causing carbon dioxide bubbles to develop in the wine. Not only were these seen as a ruinous fault, they could precipitate the wholesale destruction of a cellar, glass in those days being much weaker than today.

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