10 Sep 2009

Culinary Heritage - Mum (Part 2)

Always one to spot a culinary trend in the making, mum introduced the family to avocados, kiwis and lychees in 1979-80, courtesy of our local organic retailer, La Vie Claire, which was a food pioneer of the times. On her weekly shopping trip to the store, she would purchase eccentric ingredients (for the times!) from palm oil (which she would use in the deep-fat fryer as a substitute for ordinary cooking oil), cider vinegar, strawberry juice, wholemeal bread, carob spread, Demerara sugar, and of course a small selection of organic fruit and veg.

Mum was (is) no hippie despite her slightly off-the-beaten track food choices; she was (is) more certainly a health-conscious consumer who back in the 1970s started questioning her chicken, her drinking water and her grapefruit as scare disaster stories made the news, from radioactive waste to nitrates, from growth hormones to antibiotics…

Even today, well into her 60s, mum still keeps up to the minute with culinary trends and currently serves most of her entrées and desserts in verrines (namely transparent serving glasses) with cleverly displayed food layers as strong visual elements emphasising colour and texture that give justice to tiramisus, trifles, Eaton messes and the like. She still manages to surprise me with her new recipes and lust for food. Recently her incredibly refreshing Limoncello and melon cocktail went down a storm!

To name but a few of mum’s cupboard/ fridge staples, we’ll note chard, lemons, chestnut purée, tinned macédoine, a variety of ground or slivered nuts, capers, anchovies, tinned tuna, liquid crème fraîche, and also the odd jar of raisiné (a traditional Corsican fig, walnut and grapes jam).

I admire my mum for her effortless yet passionate cooking. Cooking goes beyond its primary purpose of feeding loved ones, it is also a social activity, gathering friends and family around the table for shared moments of joy and happiness. And, with someone like my mum, cooking is also an art form: the art of presentation, and the subtle touches that indicate that her meals are a labour of love, not a chore, and for these I am grateful!

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