6 Sep 2009

Culinary Heritage at Large

After writing my piece about Staple Kitchen Ingredients, I started to think about the reasons – if any – behind my cupboard/ fridge staple food choices… This led me to think about my culinary influences…

My mum and maternal grandma have exerted the strongest unsurpassed culinary influence over me. Both are accomplished cooks, without even attending catering college (only the compulsory home economics curriculum in secondary school), or cheating with ready-made flan bases, dessert mixes, food colourings, or take-away delights! Cooking is simply second nature to them. They would make a Béchamel sauce in a flash, create a winter-warming Pot-au-Feu (hotpot) or mutton ragoût with all the trimmings, or whip up a fluffy Gâteau Saint-Honoré from scratch and without fuss.

Yet how did they acquire the knowledge - or was it talent (are you born with it)? At first glance, a handful of cookery books and recipe cut-outs from magazines might partly be the answer but quickly pale into insignificance when compared with the hand-me-down first-hand knowledge that they gained from their elders, watching an auntie, a grandmother, an old family friend cook up a storm in their tiny Corsican kitchen, while also producing their own Malvoisie wine, olive oil, bread and Figatelli (smoked pork sausages)…

In passing, I do marvel at the fact that not only did those generations of country women cook their own meals from scratch every day, but they also had a living to make, working long unforgiving hours in their hillside terraces and gardens, battling the elements and unreliable crop yields, painstakingly travelling miles daily on foot or mule-back… They also had children to raise while their husbands were away at sea (six months on the trot), a home to look after, and a busy community life that they had to abide by (dictated by regular church masses, religious pilgrimages etc)!

Mind you, at least they didn’t have to make allowances for the time-consuming, cash-siphoning distractions and personal hobbies of today’s women: media entertainment, fashion shopping, spa treatments, dining out, and the ready availability of prepared food to keep us away from the stove!

Despite our moans and frustrations, today’s women enjoy more me-me time than has ever been enjoyed by women of the Western world since they started to earn a living! Please pause for a moment to ponder this because ladies, no matter what, I do believe that we have never had it so good in that department! Please do not hesitate to let me have your thoughts and comments!

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