By Freda Rumford from the June 2011 Edition
Many of life’s pleasures revolve around food. No matter which part of the world a person lives or which ingredients are available, the assortments are mixed together into a myriad of equations each with totally different endings and the recipes of the land and continent evolve.
If given a choice of cuisine, which would you as an eater prefer? The spices and fragrances of India; the delicacy and hidden treasures of China, or the robust flavours of Italy? Probably if I could only eat one nations food forever, my selections would quite probably be Italian. The variety of ingredients, the freshness of fruits and vegetables and the treatment of same in the roasting tomatoes, or charring of peppers give the burst of flavour my taste buds insist upon.
Food preparation differs vastly around the globe and even when using mostly the same ingredients, the end result can be totally different. The mixing of spices, the blending of items in a different order, even from town to town, each minor addition or subtraction of only one small thing can make such a huge difference.
Why is it that one country has the ability to become “King of the Kitchens” for one delight or another? The French are known for their wonderful pastries, followed hotly by the Austrians whose Viennese pastry shops and elegant deserts are world renowned. The Belgians and Swiss have their chocolates, the Germans their schnitzels and sausages. The English have their puddings and pies plus the (now known as false) reputation of being the worst cooks in the world.
Everyone I know loves Chinese food but the foods of Vietnam, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and other Asian lands are now coming into the limelight. The use of lemon grass lifts one cuisine out of the sameness of the other; the infusion of green teas in another creates the same in a different land. But each has its own particular speciality and delight.
With the shrinking of the world, many food unavailable years ago are now much easier to find. Mongolia grills, Arabic stews, Greek souvlaki, hummus and lamb and the claiming of baklavas by both of the latter. Although my best bet would put those onto Turkey’s doorstep. How many ways area there to even brew tea? And how many kinds of those are there? There is the thickly brewed matte of Argentina, the black teas preferred in England to the delicate green teas of the orient.
So many flavors and fragrances, just waiting to excite our palates!
Even the types of food or grain the animals are fed, the local waters used to give life to the vegetables and fruits, make such a huge difference and are what makes cooking such a daily adventure and dining out such great way to discover new and exciting combinations that the avid cook cannot wait to go home and duplicate.
This is a huge topic and one that generates a lot of conversation everywhere. Even after eating a perfectly cooked meal, the discussion of the preparation of yet another dish can get the salivary glands working and the desire to try something else new and exciting is just around the corner for another meal to enjoy in good company.
So many people now watch the Food Channel on TV, read numerous magazines and buy hundreds of books (each containing just one wanted recipe) to expand their knowledge on food preparation merely in order to pleasure their friends and loved ones. Mainly though, for the “wannabe chef”, the desire to try to conquer a new “probable favorite” is the name of the game.
Even so, foods go in fashion statements, from the Californian cuisine, to the New French cuisine, to the “I love all food” cuisine. All of us can remember the years when angel food cake, or baked Alaska, or Pavlovas were rigueur of the day (note these are all desserts). Now those are not so popular or the base is shop bought rather than the cooked laboriously by thrashing the ‘bejasus’ out of some poor egg white as the whole thing is made from scratch. How many people actually stand and laboriously fold and butter layers of dough for hours to make puff pastry rather than buy it.
I remember making Eccles Cakes from scratch one time. It took an entire day; they were absolutely the most incredible thing to eat and were gone in ten minutes. They were never made that way again!
Unfortunately, living as we do in Manzanillo, not all of the ingredients we are used to using in making these earthly delights are available. We have to bring them down when we drive from Canada or the U.S., inveigle friends to bring them for us, find substitutes or just remember past pleasures.
Occasionally one of the ingredients will appear of the shelves of one of the three local supermarkets and are immediately picked up by the lucky shopper who happened to be there on the day of arrival. A word to the wise: if you see something that may be needed within the next six months on the shelves – Buy It – it may never appear again.