Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Food is more than fuel!

For anybody that knows me well, you will know that food is a big part of my life. I grew up in a family where food dominated the conversation 99% of the time. The words ‘try it’ were constantly being uttered as a fork full of food was thrust towards your face. The thinking behind this being that if you try something once and don’t like it, you never have to eat it again but if you don’t try it you may just be missing out on something you might love. I was brought up to try all sorts of things from seafood to crazy cuts of meat that other families wouldn’t dream of eating and it never did me any harm.  I seem to have inherited the ‘try it’ gene and I get pleasure from cooking for other people. Don’t get me wrong, I love eating but I also love entertaining and watching people enjoy my food.

This may be a somewhat controversial view but I have found that the way people respond to food, often gives you an insight into their personality and their attitude about life in general. In my experience, I have found that the more adventurous foodie types are often adventurous in the rest of their life too. Put simply, fussy eaters tend to not just be scared to try new food but also scared to try new things in life .I know this is a huge generalisation  but apart from a couple of cases where this rule has let me down, generally it has rung true.

 I do want to emphasise that I am most definitely not a food snob. I watched ‘Come Dine With Me’ yesterday (obviously a repeat that I have watched 10 times before) and there was a woman on there that I would class as a typical food snob. She looked down her nose at the other contestants that weren’t particularly familiar with wasabi caviar and gold leaf bananas and felt like it was her duty to teach them. I like to think that I am not pushy or patronising like she was.  I do love the finer things in life but I am also happy to settle for good, simple, wholesome food or a big juicy burger. Life is about balance in all areas any my bank account just couldn’t cope with the strains of living a caviar lifestyle all the time.

I’m not  a parent but I do feel very strongly that parents have a role to educate their children about food and nutrition. One of my housemates at uni had never tried a tomato and he was 21. We are not talking a strange, exotic food type here just a standard tomato. I know a lot of children aren’t keen on them but how can you get to 21 and not even try one. He also had no idea what a shallot was after seeing some  mature cheddar and shallot crisps in my cupboard. Fair enough if you haven’t tasted a shallot but I would think most people could hazard a guess that they were posh cheese and onion flavour.   He would quiz me most nights about what I was cooking but I’m pleased to say that after living together for a year he did get more adventurous and would try new things that he actually enjoyed. I was shocked but it seems I was not alone in this experience. 

When my best friend started uni her housemate looked at her quizzically one morning as she spread honey on her toast and with puzzled eyes asked her what it was.She was 18 years of age and she had never seen honey! She also had no idea that eggs could be cooked in more than one way. She was only familiar with boiled eggs. Where have these people been living, under a rock!? It’s hard for me to fathom these kind of scenarios coming from such a food orientated family and also being nosey in general. How can you get to the age of 18 and not be able to recognise honey!?

It’s clear that many people out there have no idea about food and nutrition. I have seen so many TV documentaries focusing on obesity & health and despite there being a wealth of information available to us, some people just have no idea. There have been cases of mothers sneaking burgers into their children at school so that they can skip their healthy lunches. What hope have they got! Food is important to me because I enjoy it but it is also essential for a healthy life so we should all care about it to some degree.

I love nothing more than being with other people that have a zest for life and an excitement to try new things and last weekend I bought tickets to go the Foodies Festival in Battersea Park. I went on  both Friday and Sunday and loved every minute. This was definitely leaning more towards gluttonous enjoyment of food rather than the health and nutrition end of the spectrum but I’m on holiday this week so it is allowed.

Describing itself as a celebration of the country’s finest food and drink it really was a gastronomic feast.  We had the opportunity to try a whole range of food and drink and the amazing weather made it even more enjoyable. We went to several food and drink demonstrations including one by Katie Caldesi and another by Caroline Artiss. It’s great to pick up new recipes and useful tips and tricks. We were also lucky enough to get places on two of the wine tasting seminars, an Italian one with Guido Cenciotti-Alterocca  from The Italian Wine Boutique and a Portuguese session with Charles Metcalfe. Both were fantastic and I picked up lots of new knowledge adding to my current limited wine expertise.

Over the two days we ate Thai food, oysters and delicious Italian ice cream. We also had the pleasure of tasting the most amazing pate made by Findlaters Fine Foods. Apparently you can buy it in some Waitrose Stores and in independent delicatessens.  I would highly recommend it, especially the duck liver and venison varieties. I tried almost all of them and was disappointed by none. 

We dabbled with jerk style sauces made by the Backyard Company and watched a demo by company founder Antonio Smith where we had the chance to try the sizzling jerk chicken.  We couldn’t leave without buying some of the sauces to create our own dishes at home and following tips from Antonio made a jerk pork dish on Monday night. It was absolutely delicious!

A weekend of sunshine, smiles, food and drink was exactly what the doctor ordered and we were given a massive wedge of parmesan on the last day completely free which was a bonus. We will of course be cooking with parmesan on a regular basis for the next few weeks so I may even share a recipe or two! How important is food to you? Do you eat just because you have to or because you enjoy it?