4 AUGUST 1961, Page 29

Consuming Interest

Underground Army

By LESLIE ADRIAN I 'SOMET IMES think that hell must be a place much like London Underground : it could. hardly be much. worse than the. Tube in the summer—hot, airless (ex- cept for fierce dusty hurricanes), and swarming' with lost souls.

With one eye on Dr. Beeching I have lately been reading' the annual report of the British Transport Commission. A study to determine the sources of noise on the Underground trains has been started. The planning of the. Victoria. Line was pursued last year. Twenty-two new trains were' added to the rolling-stock. And Notting, Hill Gate Station was finished.

At this rate of progress.the subterranean move- ment of London's workers should catch up with actual needs about the same time as the arrival of the first space-ship on Mars. Meanwhile we shall continue to queue for tickets while the automatic machines stand idle—half the slots are now sealed. up. The clerks .are too busy mak- ing. up. their returns to open both ticket windows, no. one has. the decency to punch our ticket when we've bought- it, and all too often no one wants to collect' it either. No wonder the LTE prosecutes 7,000 people' a year. Familiarity with such laxity breeds contempt of being caught.

According- to the report, the LTE now has an operational research department. No doubt it is busily engaged on problems in queueing theory. It should soon turn its attention• to such minor problems as how. to get several hundred pas- sengers of a Tube train when several hundred' others arc trying to get on at precisely the same time and the platform is packed solidly with bodies. At present the method is either for the station staff to shout unintelligible instructions at the tops of their voices, or simply to disappear through one of. those doors marked 'PRIVATE.'

The Machiavellis of Broadway are not as worried about• these minor grievances as I am. They record blandly the increase in the subter- ranean swarms, explaining that 'reduced bus mileage discouraged passengers.' Then they have the nerve to add: 'London Transport continued to make. its services-as convenient and attractive as possible. . . I' think we had all better take the advice of the Egg Marketing Board and go to work on an egg.

I find. something dispiriting about ordering ice for a party from the fishmonger or the local coal merchants--the accepted sources. What might once have served as a cod's bier doesn't appeal to me for insertion in my guests' drink, let alone mine; and hacking away at a chunk of ice does not induce the proper frame of mind for bringing- off a social success.

So I am glad to hear of a new firm, 'Ice Cubes I.td.,' 209 Clarendon Road, WI 1 (PARk 3182), which delivers neat looking ice. cubes to all but the City area of London, and on the day of ordering. The cubes are shaped like yo-yos (cubes with a hole in the middle freeze more quickly, apparently) and come in plastic bags of five, ten, fifteen and twenty pounds weight, at sixpence a pound. A friend of mine ordered the five-pound bag (2s. 6d.), which included some 140 cubes, and had plenty to spare at the end of her party for twenty-five, though it was a warm summer's night.

Jack Veeder, a former Harvard football star and director of the firm, tells me he first con- ceived the idea for Ice Cubes Ltd. out of despera- tion about ten years ago. Faced with an un- planned party, he sent out for some ice. Four hours later his emissary returned with the ice, apologising for taking so long, but explaining they wouldn't have the same trouble next time; they were in luck—the mortuary which had sup- plied it was right around the corner.

A correspondent writes to say that limes have at last become available in her part of the country, but now that she can get them she doesn't know how to use them.

My belief is that they make the best of hot weather drinks—straight, with a little sugar, ice and soda; or coupled with gin or vodka Alter- natively they can be used wherever you would ordinarily use lemon—juice, slice or chunk; as in a gin and tonic. A squeeze of fresh lime on a Charentais melon is particularly effective.

The trouble is that at a shilling each they are uneconomical : I must confess that my chief reason for plugging them so assiduously is the hope that if demand rises and they begin to come in more regularly, the price will fall. And this is not unlikely, as the chief reason for the high price is that they now tend to go only to the luxury stores.

* I have been called to order by a correspondent for discussing mayonnaise without once men- tioning arachide oil. He rightly makes the point that arachide oil (at one-third of the price of olive oil) can be used by those who dislike the taste of olives—or cannot afford the price of their oil. Similarly, margarine makes passable pastry—for people who don't like, or can't afford, butter.

In northern France (Waverley Root's 'butter' region) olive oil is considered to be too rich, too pungent and too dear. So it is hardly surprising that the patronne from Brittany (referred to in the letter) never touched it. There are even restaurants in France, well to the south of the butter belt, who use the northern dislike of olive oil as an excuse for making mayonnaise with the cheaper huile d'araeltide. (In England, where the sight of freshly' made mayonnaise is so rare, delight at being offered the 'real' thing stultifies any criticism of the oil employed.) However, emulsifying eggs and oil does accen- tuate the fruity flavour of the olives, so it is advisable to choose a mild oil for mayonnaise. And the use of first pressing 'virgin' oil is a guarantee against the bitter tang of the stone which bothered my correspondent, jts both the stones and skins of the olives are removed before the fruit is pressed.

Arachide oil, on the other hand, is entirely innocent of flavour (a virtue in its more mundane kitchen uses) and the mayonnaise made with it would be equally insipid without the extra seasoning of mustard powder and additional lemon. juice. If my critic had confined himself to reminding me that arachide is a cheap and acceptable sub- stitute for olive oil, I would have acknowledged my omission, and left it at that. However, I must refute his suggestion that the use of olive oil (rather than arachide) can, in itself, be a cause of failure of a mayonnaise—if by failure he means separation. Only two things cause a mayonnaise to curdle: impatience, and the use of ingredients that are too warm or too cold.