At about this time last year, there was a charming book released that detailed the autobiographical story of the down-on-his-luck author at a time when he had recently come off drugs but was left vulnerable and homeless. He then met a stray cat, who he called Bob, they teamed up and Bob gave him the motivation to keep going and make steps to turn his life around. For a long time the author sold the Big Issue magazine in Covent Garden with Bob by his side until someone suggested that he put his and Bob’s enchanting friendship to print.
It was quite a lovely little book and sold very well and stayed a long time in the bestsellers list. A follow up has just been released.
However, I have noticed one side effect of it’s popularity – there are a hell of a lot more Big Issue sellers with pets.
For those not in the UK, the Big Issue is a magazine written by the charity of the same name, contributed to and distributed by homeless people with proceeds aiding the charity, providing the sellers with a small wage based on how many they sell and raising awareness of their plight. Big Issue sellers are a common sight in most towns here. We have a few colourful sellers in my town – the one that sings to advertise his wares and the bloke that makes a killing by mocking his own stock (examples include “Hello Sir! Want to waste £2.50?” “£2.50 for a load of old rubbish?” “Help me beat my personal record and sell two today!”), there are two more who, recently, perhaps on realising that they didn’t have the same talent for song and jabber as the others, have got dogs. Now the dogs seem perfectly happy and well fed and the sellers seem happier for having the company but, is this the ‘Bob effect’?
Can the Bob-effect be the reason that a Big Issue seller in a nearby town has now got a ferret as well? I mean, there are animals that people want to pet and then there are animals that have a bit of a reputation for being a bit, well, nippy and smelly. Would you get a bitey, smelly pet in the hope that it might up your sales?
I have yet to see another cat-owning seller. I imagine most cats quickly wise up and won’t tolerate being lead on a lead in the street everyday, however comfy a bed they are given to rest on as the seller attempts to sell. It seems Bob was a one off, that or slightly dim.
One of the two local Big Issue dogs has recently been given a tinselly collar and sits passively with little antlers on his head. I don’t know if the animals have improved sales, but they’re certainly getting fat off treats from passers by.
When there is a dog with tinsel collar and antlers, that must must be when Christmas season starts. Forget the lights turned on by Z list celebrities, forget Santa’s grottos, forget special offers on Port and stilton plugged with all the fruits; a decorated dog is a true sign. I’m quite envious, Toki tends to eat the tinsel rather than want to wear it.
All the food is starting to be pushed, my mother already has a lovely goose, christmas puddings were being stirred this sunday gone, we made our first mince pies of the season this week, all the meat suppliers I have ever used have sent me huge and heaving catalogues and the roast chestnut seller has set up his stall in the high street.
Lovely, heavenly, rich and sweet christmas food. If one wants something different from the usual beef wellington that crops at this time, have a look at these pigeon ones – one pigeon breast per person (unless that person is Vinnie, in which care it would be, er, four…) enclosed in parma ham and a dab of pate in buttery pastry. Serve with a sweet red wine or port sauce, enhanced with a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly for a lovely balance.
And buy a Big Issue the next time you see these chaps. It’s hard to compete with a cat.
- 4 pigeon breasts
- 4 slices parma ham
- 2 teaspoons mushroom or game pate (I used a pheasant pate)
- egg for egg wash
For the rough puff pastry:
- 250g flour
- pinch salt
- 250g frozen unsalted butter
- ice cold water
- Make the pastry by sifting the flour and salt together then grating in the frozen pastry. Bring it together quickly, bind with a bit of water at a time until it all comes together in a smooth pastry with streaks of butter still visible.
- Wrap and chill for 40 minutes.
- Season and sear the pigeon breasts and leave to cool.
- Take the pastry and roll to three times as long as it is wide and fold like a business letter, turn ninety degrees and repeat, repeat it once more and it is ready to use. Place inthe fridge until needed.
- Put a teaspoon of pate on the edge of a piece of parma ham and put the pigeon breast on top of it and roll it in the ham, repeat this with the others.
- Preheat the oven to 220C.
- Roll out the pastry to just under the thickness of a pound coin and cut four squares. Secure each square around a pigeon breast, crimping the edges. Place on a baking tray and egg wash.
- Place in the oven on the top shelf for 12 minutes for a rare centre. let rest for four minutes and serve.