Oh dear oh dear oh dear…

13 August 2013
Ben Pentreath

Just when I’d said my farewells…

Answered all emails. Check. Booked taxi for early morning departure: check.  Said goodbye to everyone… check.  Found out which day my niece’s A-level exam results arrive (Thursday). Check.  Packed. Not quite, but about to…. sort of ‘check’.  Checked the temperature in Siena. Check (it’s going to be very very hot).

What have I forgotten to do??


Yes. I could have realistically titled this blog with slightly more colourful language, but then again, you might not be reading it after the 9pm watershed.

I’ve got to admit, the last couple of weeks have been so crazy, that I knew that I’d forget something.  But, oh dear oh dear oh dear, please, not this.  Every now and again, I have a recurring dream that I’m going to some wedding (highly unrealistic dream, as I’ve kind of stopped accepting invitations to weddings) and I arrive in the middle of no-where to find that I’ve forgotten to bring any shoes, and I spend the entire party in my socks.  Well, it’s a bit like that but worse. You see this is not just any old birthday, but a rather special one.

Okay, this blog is about to sound like one of those weird emails you get from a ‘friend’ saying “I’m on holiday in Nigeria and I’ve lost my wallet, please will you send me $25,000?”



Well, what can one give the perfect girl who’s got everything? Nothing.  But what I can give her is this.  Especially, especially, for my American readers (I know there are one or two. I need your help).

On Valentina’s birthday, which happens to be August 24th, nothing, nothing, nothing would make me happier and more grateful than if you will go on her website and order something.  And then get your friends to do the same.  This could get quite funny.  Let me tell you a bit more.

A couple of years ago, Val threw caution to the wind, followed a brilliant dream, and left the world of publishing (after 20 years) to set up her own online marketplace for food and all things foodie. Now, I don’t know, but I suspect that there’s a rather large venn diagram between readers of my blog and people who enjoy good, real food made by good, real people.  Val’s obsessed by cooking and has been since I’ve known her. That’s one (small) part of what makes our regular pilgrimage to her house in Italy such happy times.  Old favourites are rehearsed again and again. I don’t need to tell you how great it is to be in the heartland of superb Italian food with the most fantastic and knowledgeable cook that I know.  Elsewhere I’ve said on this blog that if you want to be happy AND successful in life, you’ve got to follow your heart and passions.  So you can imagine nothing made me happier than when Val chucked in corporate life (and, well, I can say it even if she can’t, one or two crazies in the office) and followed her dream.

Anyway, if you haven’t followed the links from elsewhere on my website already, and if I haven’t talked it up too much, please have a look at Valentina’s website, Many Kitchens.  You’ll love her gently self-deprecating blogs, which come with rather useful recipes every now and again, and just the right dose of “help what the hell am I doing writing about all this stuff”?.  You’ll love browsing the stories of the producers, and then having a good look at what they are all making.

And then… then. If you’ll do me a massive favour, pur…lease… on Friday 23rd August, say, around about 9pm Eastern time, you’ll click on to Val’s website and start ordering something or another.  Anything tasty.  Pipcorn?   Apple Pie?  Some coffee beans anyone? And then you’ll tell five like-minded friends about this crazy English guy Ben and his rather weird obsession about bombing his best friend’s website… all because he forgot, um, to buy her a proper birthday present.  And ask them to pass it on as well.  You see what I mean? I think it could catch on.

(Just in case you think you’ll forget to set you alarm clock for 23rd, please don’t hesitate.  Get on the case now?  I’m meeting Val at 6.15am tomorrow and the trouble could start then. Every little helps).

Okay, so, here is what I have in mind. Valentina will wake up on her birthday to find her inbox overwhelmed with orders. This will generate, in turn, a number of positive trends. 1) she’ll be too busy concentrating on her orders to think about her birthday.  Which, when you think of certain ‘special’ birthdays, you’ll definitely understand, ahem, what I mean.  2) the best present I could possibly give her is lots and lots of happy customers.  3) she’ll think I’ve got some friends?  4) do you need any more reasons?  5) Um, I’ll have a nicer holiday?

Thank you. I’m really REALLY grateful for your help.  Please forgive me for the hard sell. It’s a minor emergency.

Just for the record, here’s a gratuitous photograph of a past triumph. Stuffed courgette flowers.

Where we’ll be lying tomorrow evening. Sorry to make you jealous.

28 comments on this post


Since my sister celebrates her birthday on August 24, I thought it appropriate to send her gifts from Many Kitchens. Thanks for bringing the site to my attention. It is wonderful new source for gifts.


Thank you Mary – Happy Birthday to your sister!!!

calhoun sumrallsays:

I will try to get a few Americans to do their part.
Your #1 fan from Sharon Connecticut


Thanks Calhoun!!!! 🙂


I shall try to remember to do this. She has some lovely things. I only wish she had gelato spoons for sale on her website as I’m in desperate need of them and can’t find them anywhere.


Love the idea I’m guessing no shipping to NZ but found another great blog !

Olivia Jamessays:

Have a fantastic HAPPY BIRTHDAY Val. Can’t make an order, since I’m in the UK but am thinking of you. Have a great time in Italy. xxx

Deby (in Canada)says:

Ben… have a lovely holiday. Can’t do birthday help ordering from Canada either-just investigated. Hope all your faithful in the USA do order…
Is it too late for you to order her a Sting t-shirt? … (or could you embroider one?)


Sausage rolls ‘are a favourite British hors doeuvre’…………………………………………?


lovely idea, just ordered


Wow, that pic brings back magical memories – I have lain in that very spot – fabulous house. Love and happy birthday to Valentina from Debbie and David xxx


I have never commented before on any website, but yours is my favorite and I’m glad to help – and I’m in the US. I’ll be ordering on the 23rd! I LOVE your blog!



Oh….. Tried to order some Fowl Rub (what a splendid name!) – but sadly no shipping to the UK. Tiny hitch in the cunning plan!


Dear Lizzi – sadly yes there is no UK shipping. Sorry! But thank you for trying… I’m very grateful… B


Happy to help with Valentina’s birthday; our way of saying how much we appreciate you, Ben.


THank you EBG and everyone for your help!! it’s a bit overwhelming!!! 🙂

What wonderfully attractive platter in the photographs. I presume it’s Italian and antique? Are they still made?


Dear Robert – I think it was a one off – it’s great isn’t it… perhaps something we can bring back in to production!


Ben, you naughty boy, leading me astray with food porn! I have forwarded your post on to friends who will appreciate Val’s beautiful provisions and will probably have to exercise considerable restraint not to order the lot! I’m having difficulty reining myself in but as my birthday is on the 20th I suppose I should treat myself. You’re a good(if forgetful)friend.

Ben, I took a look on V’s shop for the first time–I’ve followed numerous links from your blog but somehow never that one–and I should thank you! I believe you’ve helped me check off some items on my next Christmas shopping list! I shall put in my order next week, nearer the actual date, I have set an alert on my computer calendar. Well, I never thought to find myself taking part in an international conspiracy. How exciting!!


Just took a look at her site and immediately posted to my friends. Thanks!


Thanks Teddy!! Thanks Diane! Hmm 😉 it’s gaining momentum…!!

Charlotte Ksays:

How about we all show up and sing Happy birthday!? Oh well I guess ordering delicious goodies will have to do.


I just ordered! Happy Birthday to VAL!


Go Judith, go Charlotte K!!! 😉 I like your style!!!


i just had a quick look through some of the recipes on her site. wow! i can’t wait to try some, they look superb.. i’m in australia so i won’t be ordering anything online – sorry!
all the best for your holiday.


Ben…..we’ve just got back from a two-week jaunt in Tuscany and Umbria and it wasn’t just hot but BLISTERINGLY HOT! Perugia was insane at 43! And most nights in Orvieto were registering 38 at 10pm. FGS! Enjoy your well-earned rest….I don’t miss the mosquitos…but desperately miss beautiful, beautiful Italy.

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