Biblocafe Glasgow – writer’s delight

Posted by Cila Warncke


I’m a sucker for books, and coffee, so it was a foregone conclusion I’d love book/coffee shop Biblocafe. Especially once I got to know owner Lou, a writer, first-rate raconteur and creator of addictive caffeinated treats. The Spicy Mocha Abyss is a liquid work of art, but even better are Lou’s ferociously funny dissections of everything from media theory to the latest neighbourhood gossip. I spend far too many waking hours at Biblocafe because I can plug in my laptop, write and not only will Lou not make ‘you’re taking up valuable seat-space’ faces but she refills drinks, offers wise, wry advice on writing and life, and lets me hang around chattering till well after chucking out time.

Food for Thought

Posted by Cila Warncke

After managing to avoid waitressing for, oh, 15 years, I have tumbled into restaurant-work like a full pint glass pitching off a wobbly tray. Catastrophe, right?

Yet, like the sound of smashing glass, strangely satisfying. It’s going to be messy. I’m going to hate myself, my colleagues and my customers on a regular basis, but there is a perverse joy too it. In the middle of a real rush waiting tables is like trying to put Jenga together, from the top, while someone pulls it apart from the bottom. There is the added frisson, in my new place, of the tables being nestled so closely I wind up swiveling between chairs like a drunk trying to line-dance. There are a dozen other delightful wee challenges. Tables too small to hold our giant pizza platters. A touch-screen computer you need a hammer to communicate with. Mountains of cutlery to be polished. Stairs strewn with laundry bags full of napkins, high chairs and random piles of crockery. Not least, there’s my inability to comprehend broad Glaswegian – especially when shouted by cooks.

The compensation is not the pay, which is rubbish, but the sense of being part of a large, harried, dysfunctional family that copes. This is what keeps people working in restaurants long after they could and should have found something better to do. Every day is a reenactment, in miniature, of the heroic quest: hope, strife, crisis, the struggle against odds, catharsis, and finally calm. It is conflict-drama-and-resolution, broken into shifts. Humanities students are particularly susceptible to the lure of this never-ending stories; hence why all restaurants are chock full of former English majors. We could get better, or certainly less strenuous jobs, but we can’t help falling in love with being involved in what is essentially a never-ending soap opera with added plates.

Glasgow Not Quite Fighting Fit

Posted by Cila Warncke

Two Scottish food groups

Experts say “The Scottish population seems to be living dangerously”. Unfortunately, not in a Aston-driving, sky-diving, lady-killing kinda way, a la favourite son Sean Connery. Instead, risk-taking Scottish style involves scoffing burgers, downing “the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka each in a year”, smoking furiously and not taking any exercise (apart from walking to the offie).

Glasgow seems a poor place for a vegetarian long-distance runner to set up house, but this isn’t the first time I’ve spent in a city awash in cheap booze, bad food and hard drugs. I lived in Philadelphia for three years. If anything, West Philly is far less salubrious than the west end of Glasgow. If you wanted fresh veg there you had to go to the over-priced salad joint on campus. The only local supermarket was a hot, crowded, piss-scented emporium surrounded by iron bars. Grocery shopping usually meant going to the 7-11 on the corner and buying bagels, Kraft Singles, and breakfast cereal. The native delicacy is the Philly cheesesteak: fried steak, smothered in cheese, served up on foot-long baguettes drenched in mayonnaise. Makes Irn Bru ice cream floats look like health food. Glasgow, in fact, has health food stores. Within metres of my flat is an array of shops including Roots & Fruits and Waitrose where I can merrily fill my basket with fresh veg, oat milk (really), quinoa bars, posh olive oil, dense rye bread and all the things dear to my health-geek foodie heart. And you can go for a run here without worrying about crossfire, which is something of a luxury.

The difference: the west end of Glasgow is relatively upper-crust, West Philadelphia isn’t. The Glasgow University study reporting 97.5% of the Scottish population has at least one of five “major risk factors to health” – cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, poor diet, physical inactivity, and overweight – tersely notes “The most important determinants for multiple risk factors were low educational attainment and residence in our most deprived communities”.

Education is even more important than economics. Eating nutritiously is cheaper than eating processed food. I’ve fed five a homemade feast of sweet potato & cashew curry with rice, salad and chapatti for less than the price of a Supersize Big Mac meal. Yet people persist in thinking that eating well means spending big. A basic problem is that deprived areas lack access to fresh fruit and veg, or reasonably priced basics like rice, flour and pulses. Why? Because retailers don’t see a market there.

This is where education comes in: shop owners need to be educated that being poor doesn’t automatically mean wanting to live on crisps and cola. They need encouraged to open shops in poor neighbourhoods, otherwise people have no choice but to eat badly. Consumers need education too. Part of the problem is the machismo in British food culture. Men eat meat, salad is for girls, etc. Perhaps there is an argument for letting troglodytes who buy into that crap eat themselves into an early grave. But it wouldn’t hurt to get into schools and persuade the younger generation there is no glory in being a fat, wheezing, heart-attack-waiting-to-happen. If we (the government, parents, the medical community, volunteers, whoever has the opportunity to pitch in) could make that happen perhaps future health statistics won’t be quite so dire.