gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,

Absolute Write Blogchain #5

It's my turn in the blogchain and I am following Matt, who reminisced beautifully about cars.

I can't reminisce beautifully about cars because I don't drive. Besides, my mind is firmly set on more distant climes. Mostly those more distant climes are historical but the post office just delivered a parcel from a friend. Elizabeth Chadwick knows me all too well. Some of the things she has included in the parcel are revenge for practical jokes past, but the rest are things I need or things that fascinate me. The most fascinating of all is a magazine called "BBC Food" which has an article this issue on Great British Food.

Changes in road monsters are interesting, but changes in eating habits are obsession-creating. Reading through the feature article on British Food makes me think about the bad reputation that English food enjoys internationally. Historically it used to be one of the great cuisines: in the Middle Ages the English ate some divine comestibles. It is also the base upon which Australian food was built.

For this article chefs nominated traditional dishes and gave recipes. I was curious to know if these classic and beautiful dishes have any link to what I eat.

First up is fillet of beef with mixed peppercorn sauce. It's kind of a dull cousin here. You order something like this when you want safe food at an old-fashioned restaurant. I also suspect that Australian cooking is considerably lighter on the fat. For 280 g of meat, this recipe uses 25 g of clarified butter, a knob of clarified, 1 tbs vegetable oil and 3 tbs double cream. Served with chips and onion rings and a little watercress and tomato, that's quite a heavy dish.

The next recipe is a cake. It's one of those slightly fudgy fruity sorts that can be served warm or cold. It takes me back to my childhood, with formal afternoon teas. These days the only place I see this sort of cake is as dessert after a hearty winter dinner. They used to be a standard. So Australia is losing this part of its English culinary background and has modified another. Interesting.

And that's it. The rest of the magazine is about modern cooking, not traditional. Modern cooking is a lot more familiar. This is largely because England is emerging from summer, and summer dishes tend to be lighter. This is where *our* cooking has changed. We have lighter food even in winter. I can't serve up the hearty casseroles anymore. Plates aren't piled high with mash and peas.

Australians have a lovely tradition of hearty food. We are losing it. I suspect, however, that we have gained as much as we have lost. I can still make my grandmother's Christmas pudding or make a cholent or do potatoes in gravy as a treat. The skills haven't been lost. It's just that everyday I prefer a salad with balsamic vinegar, or some nori maki, or souvlaki and tabbouli.

This may be just me. What *is* universal is that you can now buy decent coffee and really good chocolate. It's much harder to get a good old-fashioned cup of tea. When I was a child we never had to watch out for teabags and poor leaf. And we never did what I do with my good leaf, and make Indian spiced tea. Tea masala and bok choy: the new face of Australian cooking.

After me comes Brian Kolm. Go take a look!
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