Chewing absently-mindly on some raw red pepper I was struck, the other evening, by the cosmopolitan nature of my food these days - over the past few days I had eaten food originating in China, Italy, North Europe the Spice Island, the Indian sub continent, the Middle East and Africa with some American as well.
It is an interesting mix and not at all unusual but it has not always been so. In my youth back in those dark, drear, days of post war austerity and rationing, it wasn’t that we didn’t eat well - we did, but it was so predictable. As a nation rationing had made us healthier! However, we longed for something different, isn’t it the same the world over.
We weren’t entirely dependent on what would grow in this country. We had had some spices introduced to the country way back in the Elizabethan times and no doubt other imports from further back. We had rice but it mainly tended to be short grain for puddings. We had oranges and bananas but on the whole post war Britain was ripe for new , exciting, something exotic.
A brilliant April fools day joke on the BBC, in the 1950s sums up how naive so many of us were back then, was when the nation was fooled into thinking
Spaghetti grew on trees.
Mum was a devotee of the Ideal Home Exhibition - once a year all that was new and exciting was exhibited in London and she was there, returning with bags of colour brochures and some ‘exotic' treat from the food hall. As soon as I was deemed old enough I accompanied her.
Maybe it was her genes which gave me all the desire for the new, she was first with coloured sheets, the first with colour on the ceilings, the first to try the strange fruits, vegetables and dishes which began to flood in, and I was only half a step behind her.
One year lychee's, another kiwi fruit, we tried stroganoff, uglies, strange tinned foods, complicated recipes, new decorating ideas, oh, it was a heady time for these once beleaguered islands.
Travel brought me and all who traveled more delicious firsts and helped bring the foods back to these shores. Although, when I traveled to Russia and made my way to the 2nd best hotel in Moscow! to try for myself an authentic Stroganoff, all I was served was a mediocre beef stew.The disappointment was tremendous
I was chopping red peppers for dinner (I was eating more of the red pepper than I was putting in the pan) I was pondering the first time I had realised just how good they were, when I bought them by the kilo and ate them like apples in the heat of far off lands, or the first fresh water melon, dust in my toes and the sun on my head. Or just how good fresh fish really is - those of you who can remember the rather tired fish of MacFisheries will appreciate the remark.
I like fresh ingredients and struggle daily with a complicated set of ethics and moralities concerning the food industry. I would miss the flavours if we ever loose the world's cuisines here, Trade I know is as old as civilization but so much of it now bothers me.
I like the mix - enjoy melding flavours together, trying the new; at the same time I worry we are growing too dependent on others for our food. If the trade routes break down what will do.
Should be okay.
I have recipe books, with recipes dating way back when. We produce splendid food here but will it seem dull and predictable if we don't have all those exciting foods from abroad?