The Hungry Hack’s guest eater this month is Dick Durham, former reporter on the Daily Star
I discovered that in South Korea, a land where mutt-munching is no more unusual than scoffing a beefburger is in the west.
It was September 1988 and I was in the kingdom of the lurcher-lunchers for that divided realm’s Olympiad, which, in Scoop-like tradition, was a bit like sending the crossword compiler to cover the recently ended Iran-Iraq War, as I know nothing about sport and care even less.
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My ignorance of those who have ascended the slopes of Mount Olympus had already handicapped me on the flight from Heathrow, as, upon realizing I was sharing the Jumbo with the UK’s athletes, decided to get an early story in the bag, ready to file upon arrival in hound-hungry Seoul.
In my hand luggage was a copy of that day’s Sun newspaper which was splashing on a story alleging that 800m runner Tom McKean had been in the company of nightwalkers.
‘He hasn’t given his side of the story,’ I said to my Daily Star colleague, Kevin Francis, a respected sports reporter, ‘and we should give him the chance.’
‘No, you should,’ corrected Francis, understandably unwilling to queer his own pitch before the competitors of the Games of the XXIV Olympiad had even touched down.
So I walked to the back of the plane where a gaggle of track-suited athletes were gathered. I waved my copy of The Sun and explained what I was after and a large fellow said: ‘We don’t want the fucking Daily Star asking us questions,’ to which I replied: ‘Are you on drugs?’ so surprised was I at the response.
Like the diner who asked for brown sauce at the Ritz, I had no idea of the significance of my question, but the large man, who I later discovered was Linford Christie, visibly shrank in front of me appearing aghast at my question.
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Later, during the contest, I understood the implications of what must have seemed a challenge as Christie failed a drugs test and even though this was quickly dismissed as nothing more than gingseng tea, I then understood why he shook my hand at the end of the flight and said: ‘No hard feelings?’ The last thing an athlete needs in an Olympics is a hack accusing him of taking drugs!
For those interested, the full story is revealed in my book, Guttersnipe, A tabloid hack’s memoir of Fleet Street, published by Amazon.
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I was mighty hungry myself when I eventually stumbled off the plane and out into the streets of Seoul, only to discover that the national delicacy, kimchee, is marinated cabbage which has been buried for six weeks underground. Perhaps that is how their love of sausaging dogs came about: maybe they were used to sniff out the cabbage before being added to the K9 casserole.
The dish I nibbled at certainly tasted of something disinterred and it was not until I returned home that my wife, Cathy, prepared her own version, which we only ate once. Here it is:
All hacks, whether they wielded the cardinal virtues of the Guardian or the carnal vices of the Star went along with the same ‘fact’ that the stadium was packed with 70,000 spectators as to diminish the audience was to diminish the importance of the story.
And of those stories, the one which sparked the greatest anticipation among the press pack was the 100m final. In that race was to be my bette noir of investigative journalism, Linford Christie, but the two favourites were Carl Lewis and Ben Johnson. Needless to say I’d not heard of them either so when bets were placed, with nearly all hacks plumping for Lewis, I decided to give Johnson a chance in a bi-lateral wager with the avuncular John Jackson of the Daily Mirror, who was regarded as the oracle of the Olympics having covered most of the prestigious contests in living memory.
The Press box at Seoul – Top centre: Dick Durham
Three days later, of course, in what became dubbed The Dirtiest Race In History, it was found that Johnson’s winged feet had been courtesy of Winthrop Laboratories whose anabolic steroids, commonly used by race-horse trainers, he’d ingested for a Pegasus-style lift over his competitors.
Jackson demanded, but never received, his money back and I was united with my old mate Christie, who got silver instead of bronze, because drug abuse, albeit indirectly, had made winners of us both.
That night I tucked into a dish, which sounds like an attempt to get Glaswegians to eat vegetables: Battered Carrots, but it’s not bad. This dish came with Cucumber Salad and Egg Bundles!
A ship’s plate had been erected on a cart with a fire beneath and around the plate hung skinned dogs, which were being fried on the plate.
As headlines go, Man Bites Dog, may be a newspaper-seller, but all I can say is the dish was gamey: not unlike a cross-between wild boar and goat, however having digested a portion I cannot claim to have been blessed with a record erection.
I’m afraid I never did get the recipe.