Musings on Muesli

16 07 2011


Whilst away in Brighton for a conference this week we were staying in a self-catering house, so I took the opportunity to grab breakfast on my way in each morning. I was introduced to Bircher Muesli one morning and found it so delicious that I figured I should try to recreate it at home. It looks pretty straight forward, so after a little research into wet/dry ratios I decided upon the following:

Part 1
100g rolled oats
80g sultanas
30g chopped nuts (think I had flaked almonds and hazelnuts)
20g sunflower seeds
200ml apple juice

Part 2
ground cinnamon
ground nutmeg
low fat greek yoghurt (100g per person ish)
1 eating apple (Braeburn was all I could get though I was hoping for a Granny Smith) – grated, skin on
pistachios, redcurrants and blueberries, to serve

The night before you want to eat the muesli, I gather it’s best to start soaking the dry ingredients, so I mixed all the Part 1 ingredients together and placed them in the fridge. I think you can use water or milk instead of apple juice if you prefer – I’m not really a milk fan.

Then, in the morning divide the soaked mixture into bowls, add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, then yoghurt, along with the grated apple. Stir to combine, and drizzle with honey. We served it topped with pistachios, redcurrants and blueberries, but you can use whatever fruit you have in the cupboard/freezer.

I reckon the soaked Part 1 mixture would keep in an airtight container for about 3 days.

The Part 1 mixture makes 4 generous servings, you’ll just need one apple per 2 servings I think. We enjoyed eating it 🙂


Starbucks: Brand arrogance?

18 04 2011

Grab a pen and a bit of paper. Close your eyes, imagine the smell of coffee, and then take this test: draw for me the Starbucks logo… No cheating.

Now why not take a photo of your attempt, upload it, and let’s see how you got on.

I’m curious, because to be honest I don’t think I could do that. I drink a reasonable amount of Starbucks (Don’t judge me. It’s not my ideal choice… give me Monmouth any day!) and living in central London I pass one about every 20 seconds, but I don’t think I could accurately draw their logo for you, not in detail anyway.

Yet recently Starbucks have decided to rebrand, removing the words ‘Starbucks Coffee’ from their logo, which led me to wonder ‘what else is there to their logo’? I mean, I kind of know roughly; there’s a woman in a circle, but I don’t think I could really tell you any of her features. In case you’re wondering, here’s what she looks like.

So the fact that Starbucks feels they can dispense of all language and still be recognisable to me seems a little arrogant… or perhaps I should say premature. There comes a point, I think, when a brand has become so established that the company earns the right to drop words. It’s like a right of passage. Aztecs captured and killed things, Jews have a Bar Mitzvah, companies demonstrate their coming of age by refusing to formally introduce themselves, expecting the world to guess.

And some companies pull it off with aplomb. Check this out, it’s a huge poster from the Oxford Street:

What’s fascinating about this is its simplicity and its assumed knowledge. There is no hint as to who those four random guys are, no explanation for that little fruit symbol, and no description of what iTunes is or where one might go about finding it. But we understand it perfectly well… at least I assume you did?

Were Apple and the Beatles less well known, this poster would be the height of arrogance, but somehow it works. And I’m sure there is a difference between a brand being recognisable and memorable. To be honest, if I tried to draw the Apple logo from memory now, I might struggle to know which way the stalk pointed… But that aside, the details stick nicely in my memory in a way that the mermaid queen with freaky striped arms doesn’t. Outside of the context of a coffee mug, or a shop front display, I’m not 100% sure I would recognise the Starbucks logo, whereas I’m pretty certain that I could see the Apple logo in any context (printed on toilet paper or cross-stitched on a granny’s doily?) and recognise it instantly.

At the end of the day it makes little difference… I doubt they’ll lose many sales over it. But for all its ubiquity, I’m just not certain that Starbucks’ logo is quite as familiar to us in the UK as they might think.

If nothing else, that fills me with a little bit of joy and hope for the future of coffee.

Partake of the Apple and you will be like a god!

22 09 2010

Not an essay or even an astute and coherent observation. Just a series of loosely related stream-of-consciousness-bullet-point thoughts and questions that have run through my mind this morning. Join up the dots for yourself, and if you feel enlightened, share some of your answers!

  • The iPad is a cultural phenomenon. It is having an enormous effect on print media, amongst other things. I don’t own one. I’ve not tried one. I’m undecided if I would even want to own one.
  • Here Peter Bregman comments on the iPad and the preciousness of boredom. Interesting. What do you think?
  • Is taking an iPad to bed really better than taking an iPhone? Or rather is Phil Moore closer to the mark when he says: “When I’m in bed with my wife, my 659 Facebook Friends really shouldn’t be there with us. Two’s company. 661 is a crowd.” How do we draw boundaries? (And how does Phil have 218 more friends than I do?)
  • If we were to apply Andy Crouch’s five questions to ask of a cultural innovation to the iPad, what would your answers be?
    1. What does the iPad assume about the world?
    2. What does the iPad assume about the way the world should be?
    3. What does the iPad make possible?
    4. What does the iPad make impossible?
    5. What new culture is created in response to the iPad?
  • So is the iPad a step backward or forward? Will the iPad motivate and empower the next generation to create culture or will it simply be an enabler for a generation to simply consume culture?
  • Now, check this out. An advert for an iPad app cashing in on the humour that a cultural innovation need not be a 100% improvement to be, nonetheless, an desirable innovation.
  • In the light of this, question 4 is a double edged-sword, for the iPad makes impossible one thing that may actually be desirable. How do we measure the comparative value of ‘possibility’ over ‘desirability’? What is an acceptable trade off? How big of a step does a step have to be for it to be a step worth taking?
  • Did Apple force the advert to be revoked? Or is that just a conspiracy theory? If they did, why? Is it simply too painful for them to see their precious product smashed to smithereens? Do they dislike the idea of people discovering that there are downsides (albeit trivial and farcical ones) to their product?
  • (Interestingly, the advert seeks to sell its product – the app – by pointing out the weakness of another company’s product – the iPad! In essence, it says ‘since you already own a flawed product, you might as well make cut your losses and buy our app to make it at least bearable!‘ I can understand why Apple might not like that rather two-faced approach to advertising. But it’s not even the age old technique of mocking the competitors under the oh-so-subtle ‘one leading competitor’ smokescreen. They have chosen to mock a product upon which they entirely depend, and without which they would have no reason to exist!)
  • And ‘though this article from 2007 on iPhone thumb surgery turned out to be a work of satirical-fiction, it still makes me wonder: “how long before…” Would that be a step too far? If so, why? Would multilating our fingers in the name of ‘cultural advance’ be any less detrimental than mutilating our values, lifestyles and interpersonal relationships?
  • That said, I typed this up on my MacBook Pro, and tweeted about it from my iPhone. And enjoyed every minute of it. Now before I start my day’s work, I’ll quickly update Facebook, check Twitter, and perhaps swat a fly with a relic from the bookshelf…