I enjoy cooking, and on the whole, my culinary efforts are reasonably successful.
Just lately, when attempting some new recipes, I have had to make them more than once before getting them right. This puzzled me as I had followed the recipe with care, and then a clue. The problem always occurred when it was an English recipe aimed at the English market. Why should this matter? Reference the photographs, all authentic and unaltered in any way. The item on the right in each case is from Sainsbury’s, that on the left from Intermarche, and there are many more examples I could have shown. Now, as I have been trying to convince my wife for years, size is not important, but it is if the recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic, or one large egg, and it goes further, because if a piece of fruit or vegetable has been allowed to ripen naturally and reach maturity it develops its full flavour, items that are harvested too soon so that they have a longer shelf life do not.
Now I am not having a go at British supermarkets, though heaven knows they deserve it, nor do I wish to denigrate British cuisine which is as good as any, and better than some. I want to give a wakeup call to the expats who do not appreciate the wonderful range and quality of the local produce.
The English are very proud of the fact that in most towns and cities in the U.K. one can find a vast array of styles of food from all over the world, and how the English are so adaptable and eager to try new styles and foreign cuisines, and justly so. However I can’t help but wonder if this constant search for new tastes is partly brought on by the poor quality of much of the produce in the average super market. The Sainsbury’s of this world have a lot to answer for. Also if the English are so adaptable why am I constantly hearing of ex-pats driving all the way back to the U.K., at a cost several times that of a ticket on Ryan Air, just so that they can stock up with all their old staples, Branston pickle, water biscuits and even flour for God’s sake!
One of my father in-law’s favourite stories was of a time when holidaying in Germany, he was sitting at a table in the Hotel restaurant next to a couple from Lancashire. When black bread was served, the lady was heard to remark, “Ee it’s not like ‘ovis.” I rest my case.
So, please, be open to the tastes and styles of the region. Not slaves to their cuisine, but not slaves to your past either. The Mediterranean diet is renowned as being one of the healthiest in the world. We have a good and plentiful supply of wonderful fruit and veg, superb fresh fish, great charcuterie, lovely wines and fabulous olive oils. It is a cook’s dream. As I said before, adopt, adapt and improve, and think yourself privileged to be able to live in the Languedoc.