I don’t remember my first taste of coffee. I remember my first taste of tea – plastic mugs of weak PG Tips served at 4pm tea at school – part of what I now recognise to be a wartime rationing themed spread. Packet mashed potato was administered with potato scoops, and slices of spam were cut from the block using a bread knife. In the late-nineties there wasn’t the excuse of recent conflict to justify the menu. But I suppose some people just struggle to move on….
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A few years ago I had a conversation with Omar Allibhoy which stuck with me. The Spanish chef and founder of Tapas Revolution was, unsurprisingly, talking tapas. Or the lack of.
When he first came to Britain, he was taken aback by the amount of drinking which took place without food. It’s a uniquely British trait. Walk past Leadenhall Market after work, and you might spot a packet of crisps amongst the pints, but not much else. Or wander down a British high street early on a Friday evening, and you’ll notice that the general migratory route goes from work, to pub, to bar, to club – without a pit stop at a restaurant for some non-liquid sustinance….
Early last week I cooked a three-course meal. I know, no big deal, right?
I usually stick to two courses though. I launch myself into the main course, and then put a pre-prepared pudding on the table. Minimum effort, maximum time to catch-up with friends. But last Tuesday night I pulled out all the stops. I served watercress and soda bread to start, then bavette with chimichurri, and finally a pavlova….
The booze cruise of the nineties played out to a set rhythm: hire a white transit van, make a beeline to a greasy spoon, then a mad dash across The Channel to Calais warehouses where the booze was piled high and flogged cheap … and back in time for tea.
Hoards flocked across The Channel, fueled by 48p/litre petrol and £1 ferry crossings. They took advantage of the paltry amount that the French taxed wine and cheerfully crammed the boot full. Eight years ago, the enthusiasm for a ‘booze cruise’ started to waiver though. The pound began to slide. Petrol prices went up, and so did the cost of Channel crossings. A wider variety of cheap wine became available in British supermarkets, and lots of the Calais wine warehouses started to close….