THE MOLE

How to cook sashimi

It was a cold and wintry day but Penelope (Roedean) had been taken by an urge to eat sashimi and was trying to convince The Mole to buy her lunch.

"But I want soup and a big stodgy pudding," The Mole complained. "That is what one eats in winter."

"Not if you want to look this," said Penelope with a twirl which convinced The Mole that going to lunch with his number one agent was a good idea, not only for his waistline but also for his ego.

The problem is that Vauxhall Cross is not famous for sashimi restaurants and they had to find a taxi. The Mole grumbled but soon they were walking into a very chic establishment with decoration which can only be described as ostentatiously minimalist. The Mole ushered Penelope to the table, trying not to look avuncular. She played along, having learned on her father's knee how to deal with men.

"How do they cook sashimi?" The Mole whispered. "I have no idea what it is."

Penelope laughed a very naughty, throaty laugh and several young men in suits looked up and narrowed their eyes at the older gentleman who could get a girl like that laughing like that.

"It's raw fish," said Penelope with a giggle. "It's the in thing these days. It always amazes me that the English like it given how they love to cook everything to death. But it has really caught on."

Not where I come from!" said The Mole.

"In that case," said Penelope, "You must think of it as an art form. The men who create it, they call them itamae, can look at a fish and know how to season every different inch.

"And then we lob it down our gullets like seals at the zoo," said The Mole.

Penelope laughed naughtily again and waved her arms like a pair of flippers.

"It is very good for the brain," she said. "Look at all those clever people at Honda and Toyota. They know how to make good engines. And that takes a lot of brain power."

"Engines," mused The Mole. "All I ever hear about these days is engines.

It's V10 this and V8 that. And everyone is chasing manufacturers because they need the cash.

Penelope has not really wanted to talk about Formula 1, it was out of season, but felt that The Mole would be more comfortable with that rather than discussing boyfriends or sexy underwear.

"Do you think Jean Todt is vindictive," said The Mole, thinking that he would rather be talking about girl stuff, like sexy underwear.

"I've heard him called many things," said Penelope, "but I don't recall anyone saying that out loud."

"I am trying to figure out this Sauber engine business," said The Mole. "There is something to these rumours that Ferrari is going to stop supplying Sauber in 2006 and take up with the Russians. So one must assume that Ferrari is stopping the deal because it is annoyed about Sauber voting against Todt in Brazil."

"Perhaps," said Penelope, "Sauber is stopping because he has a better option."

"Like what?"

"Oh, I don't know," she went on. "Peter is in very good nick at 61 but he is no spring chicken. He's 61 I think. He must be thinking about retirement. He seems to have been on a cruise ship since the season ended. He must be thinking about an exit strategy. And what better way would there be but to sell the team to someone like BMW or Volkswagen. He has a really great facility in Hinwil and the windtunnel gets the aerodynamicists all hot and horny."

The Mole pondered a moment. It is true that Williams and BMW are sometimes uneasy partners. And there have long been whispers that BMW might do its own thing with Sauber. And it would be an easy transition because technical director Willy Rampf is a BMW man.

"Don't forget Volkswagen," said Penelope. "They have just started a new motorsport department under a guy called Kris Nissen and he has been talking about the company 'having created an excellent base from which to compete in motorsport at the highest level'. He was a racer once, back in the days when Gerhard Berger was a lad but he never made it to F1. He was probably good enough. He won the German Formula 3 title but didn't have the money and ended up in Japan. And then he had this horrible crash and got really badly burned but he came back and was a frontrunner in DTM and he even tested a Sauber in 1994. He must have been about 35 by then so he had no serious chance of an F1 drive. I guess he and Peter were pals or something."

The Mole shrugged.

"It's a nice theory," he said.

The waiter had arrived and was laying out the fish in front on them.

"I say," said The Mole. "This looks rather nice."

"Just watch out for the wasabi" said Penelope.

"What's that?" said The Mole as he popped the little green mound of Japanese horseradish into his mouth.

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