Fridays are usually only notable as that day I breathe a sigh of relief and bid farewell to the working week that was. Last Friday was a different story; Friday 24 June is not one many in the UK will forget in a hurry. The day after the night before, a day of celebration for some and commiseration for others but either way, history was made. We said see you later to the status quo and hello to the coming months, or more likely years, of uncertainty.
On a day when more people than ever were thinking and talking about national identity and pride, I thought it was timely and ironic that we were headed to a supperclub which billed itself as intimately British in style yet leaning on its Chinese-Malay, French and Spanish heritage. This speaks volumes to me about our ever developing global communities where traditional lines of ethnicity, race, religion, and opinion are slowly being crossed or erased. As a child of migrants, and now a migrant in this country, this scenario of blurred lines is the type of national identity I respect and believe to be our current reality.
I went through a phase where I thought Vietnamese summer rolls were the best thing since sliced bread. I was in my late teens, had never been to Vietnam (still haven’t…) and just thought they were so much more exotic than the stock standard spring rolls I had munched on all my life! I did and do love spring rolls, my parents make cracking ones, but I don’t think it was cool for a teenage girl to profess a love of deep fried foods back in the day.
Now, years later, I am still quite fond of summer rolls but I find myself ordering them less in restaurants and ordering spring rolls more. Mostly because I won’t let a certain someone get a deep fryer (that self conscious teenage girl had some sense) and summer rolls are so easy to make at home!
Except when you live in London where summertime is temperamental and selective about when it decides to make an entrance! But if it wasn’t this way, whatever would we do for small talk? Come rain or shine, the great British summer is officially upon us which means we Londoners are either planning weekends in the country or praying for those impromptu picnics and backyard barbeques!
I like the countryside jaunts as much as the next city slicker with a penchant for fresh air once in a while, but there’s something to be said for a spontaneous frolic in one of London’s many green spaces. Our usual park of choice is nearby Clapham Common where as soon as the sun is out, every SW Londoner and their dog is fighting for a piece of the action. This year however, we might find ourselves heading to Hyde Park since we’ve discovered this fantastic little gem, nestled in one corner of the grounds…
Since embarking on this ‘photograph it, eat it, write it’ malarkey, I have been lucky enough to be invited to some rather enviable events. Usually when I tell a certain someone about some cooking class I’m attending or a great dinner invite for a new restaurant, he smiles, nods… feigns some excitement so as to not crush my enthusiastic little foodie heart, tells me he’s sure I’ll have a great time etc etc… All very supportive stuff.
However, there has been one event which commanded his full attention as soon as I mentioned ‘Ireland’ and ‘spirits such as whiskey’. Those who know a certain someone will no doubt remember that he takes great pride in his Irish heritage and his ability to drink whiskey, always a double and neat. So what was this event about? Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, were throwing a bit of a party at the Irish Embassy to showcase some of Ireland’s finest whiskey, gin, cream liqueurs, poitin and craft beer producers, and I was invited along for a taste.
According to the Oxford Dictionary: a barbeque is a meal or gathering at which meat, fish, or other food is cooked out of doors on a rack over an open fire or on a special appliance. Technically speaking, this is correct and covers most bases, but what this definition from the pedantic wordsmiths doesn’t tell you is just how many incarnations of the humble barbeque there are!
Is there really anything as satisfying as eating a hunk of meat (and vegetables too I suppose) that’s been cooked over a grill? No, no there isn’t, not in the Connie Dictionary of Deliciousness anyway. The classic Kiwi sausage sizzle will always hold a special place in my heart but recently my love of the barbeque has expanded to include the Korean version with spicier meats and an epic array of sides, and the American version with all the meats cooked low and slow.
“Oh you must try a deep fried Mars Bar…” said basically everyone when I mentioned we were heading to Glasgow for the weekend. Of all the things to recommend to someone, this was the best they could do? Surely Scottish cuisine is more than just a sub-par chocolate bar (let’s all agree that Mars Bars are boring) covered with batter and deep fried? Surely…
It is so much more than a greasy chocolate bar. Of course it is; I’m not really sure what my momentary despair was all about. Logic leaves me sometimes when I’m worried about my next meal. Scotland is known for being home to an incredible range of produce from salmon to beef to black pudding, and perhaps the most famous of them all… haggis! So with my reinvigorated enthusiasm, we set out to try some of the best Scottish cuisine Glasgow has to offer.