- "How was it for you?"
I didn't witness any birds falling out the sky from cold
and hunger, didn't break anything slipping on the ice or run out of milk,
toilet paper or Weetabix - but what an awful start to January! Living
in Cornwall, the snow wasn't an apocalyptic event, however, we couldn't
walk down the lane to the village as the slope was like a ski jump, and
it was cold - our neighbour summed it up in a nutshell, "My hands
are so cold I couldn't roll a fag". Before the snow came, the sea
was as dull as tarnished pewter and the sky a choleric, sulphur yellow,
and once the snow had fallen, the single topic of conversation was, "How
was it for you?"
There's a sense of survival loitering
in my psyche and as soon as it snows I'm a metaphorical step away from
imagining wolves snuffling under the cabin door. We couldn't venture
out and being immured instigates a different way of eating and I cook
stodge such as jam roly-poly and steak and kidney pudding. When I'm in
the mood, I really enjoy cooking and can waffle on about recipes, menus,
ingredients and chefs ad infinitum. More years ago than I'm prepared
to admit I had a 'road to Damascus' experience- summarised in two words,
pommes Dauphinoise! The flavours in this simple dish were a revelation;
potatoes, which were usually chipped, mashed or roasted, became an amalgam
of garlic, nutmeg, cream and grated Gruyere melded into perfection.
To cook, I realised I first had
to understand eating and my understanding began at 'Riverside;,
a restaurant in Helford village, which was owned by George
Perry-Smith. Before moving to Cornwall, George had the renowned
restaurant, 'The Hole in the Wall' in Bath. Several chefs who have
since become famous, had a similar experience, Keith Floyd, Nigel Slater
and Tamasin Day Lewis, all recount their potato experience as THE dish
that inspired them.
George was Elizabeth David's
disciple, and while he never wrote a cookery book, Elizabeth
never cooked in a restaurant. The sounds and smells from his cottage
window promised paradise from a quiet man void of pretension and profanity,
whose kitchen was a sanctum of Zen-calm, where the restaurant had an
ambience that was relaxed and informal but informed and meticulous.
Believe it or not, I actually know who has George's box of recipes
cards, they have never been published, which is parallel to the Dead
Sea Scrolls being kept in a garden shed - Rissoles a la Parisienne,
Salmon in pastry with stem ginger and currants, St. Emilion au Chocolat,
Praline ice cream and hazelnut meringues - and rouille and aoili -
I couldn't pronounce them let alone know what to do with them!.
In my opinion George has
left an extraordinary influence on modern British food although he isn't
really spoken about, other than being referred to occasionally in others'
books. However, his legacy lives on with today's chefs who are honest
about their craft and let the food do the talking, unlike those puffed
up with their botox-enhanced self-importance. In Cornwall, the fundamentals
for local fresh food are abundant and self-evident in the fields and
sea, which is why so many great chefs have a presence here.
Lunch at Jamie Oliver's
We recently celebrated our wedding anniversary and drove to Watergate
Bay where we had a fantastic lunch at Jamie Oliver's, 'Fifteen'
restaurant, where 80% of the food is sourced from within Cornwall,
with some suppliers producing specially for the restaurant. On the
menu, there was a pudding created from Amalfi lemons...that's my second
most favourite place on earth, but that's another story!
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