I love my food, I make no secret of that. I love the taste of it; the salty, the sweet (especially the sweet,) the sour, the unusual, the exquisite, the everyday tastes of everyday foods. I love the textures, the sight, the aromas and even the sound of food. Yes, I love my food – which would of course explain why my bottom resembles two badly parked Volkswagen Beetles.
As ever, let me begin with an example of my love of all things yummy.
Now, many people will bemoan the fact that Easter eggs appear on supermarket shelves only two weeks after said shelves have been cleared of advent calendars. The majority of the public will spend many unnecessary hours venting their spleens, discussing the advertising and consumption of festive chocolate products. You know the type of thing…
‘Oooooh look Keith, there’s an advert on for Cadbury’s Crème Eggs and you’ve only just put the Christmas tree back in the loft. What is the world coming to? Do you want to know who I blame for this? Teenagers, swanning around in their hoodies, acting like they own the place…’ etc., etc.
Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where seasonal chocolate is not available in a constant and uninterrupted cycle. It gives me a sense of comfort. Many things in our world today are transient and short-lived, fast-paced and fleeting, never to be seen again – but not chocolate. One knows that come October, one will be able to purchase chocolate Santas and Rudolphs, angels and Christmas trees. I even saw a Christmas Christ once; complete with manger and full nativity scene however, and despite my negation of God’s existence for the past 35 years, I could not bring myself to take a bite out of the baby Jesus. Then, in late January comes the turn of the Easter egg, with its polished foil and the promise of many surprises within. Let us not forget Valentine’s Day, where a massive box of chocolates is in order or ‘he of the anal sandcastles’ is treated with a massive box of the grumps. Then it’s my birthday – enough said. Then Halloween; trick or treat? Well, that’s easy isn’t it? Treat please, and by treat I do not mean an apple or a bloody toothbrush. Bonfire Night comes along with toffee and chocolate apples and that brings us back to Christmas. Hurrah!
When I first came out to Australia, I was told by many people that the chocolate here does not taste the same as the chocolate back in the UK as there is a hidden ingredient which acts as an anti-melting agent. I have a suspicion that these people were trying to ward me off chocolate so that I might lose a few (hundred) pounds, however I made the mistake of trying a Twix when I first got here – just to see – and although the aftertaste is slightly different, that is about all. Since then, and only in the name of scientific and culinary experimentation as I am sure you will understand, I have tried every chocolate on the market, and I can now publish my findings under the heading ‘Tastes Pretty Good To Me’. Chocolate therefore cannot really be classed as one of the things I miss – although I would suggest to Mr Cadbury that he introduces the Giant Chocolate Button to his Australian consumers.
Now, Melbourne has a well-deserved reputation for its fabulous restaurants and café culture and one cannot turn a corner without coming across the drifting aroma of fresh coffee, or a veritable cornucopia of foods from all nations.
Derby, however, is not as well-known for its culinary establishments but there is still one place I miss – Birds the Bakers. Now, if you are not from the Midlands, you may not have come across this family run bakery, and so I shall spend a little time describing the tasty treats one can procure from this establishment.
The first, as promised, is pork pie.
Now, I like a pie as much as the next man, especially if the next man is Desperate Dan, but pork pies have never been my absolute favourite. Pork pie is difficult to get right. Too much aspic and it is like eating a mouthful of tasteless, gelatinous slop, too little and the effect can be dry and difficult to swallow. The meat has to be spiced, but not too peppery for fear it tastes too much like another favourite of mine, the Cornish pasty. And the pastry must not be too greasy, or else it gives me chronic and crippling heartburn – I’m a martyr to my oesophageal sphincter. Birds mastered the art of the pork pie decades ago, and there are few households in Derbyshire that do not partake in a Birds pork pie, at Christmas especially.
As well as this delicacy, Birds also make a quite delicious beef paste, presented in a little glass pot and full of beefy goodness. Some people may be put off by the centimetre thick layer of fat which coats the surface as a preservative – or as we people who have arms like a flying fox call it, elevenses. And for dessert – a lovely little strawberry trifle, complete with jammy splodge to embellish the softly whipped cream which in turn sits atop custard and jelly. My Nan used to deliver one to her neighbour Reg every week. To a pudding-obsessed 8 year old such as I was, this was a thing of wonder, and a thing which made me just a tiny bit jealous. ‘How lucky he is,’ thought I, ‘to have a trifle delivered to his doorstep every single week.’ The fact that the poor man was housebound seemed to completely escape my attention which was instead wholly focused on dessert.
Finally, here is a list of other things I miss and which my friends in the UK might wish to send me for my birthday;
- Paxo Sage and Onion Stuffing (you can get stuffing here, but you have to put egg in it which seems wrong somehow, unless I’ve been reading the Paxo packet wrong all this time and have neglected to put egg in, the very thought of which gives me a sort of stuffing paranoia).
- Walker’s crisps, in particular Roast Chicken, Prawn Cocktail and Cheese and Onion flavour.
- Marks and Spencer’s meals for 2.
- Salmon en Croute – salmon in Australia is mind-numbingly expensive, so God only knows how much it is when dressed and wrapped in pastry.
- Waitrose in general – which I know makes me a middle-class oink, but I don’t care, I miss everything about it, including the air of superiority I get when doing a weekly shop there.
- Party food – mini sausage rolls and cocktail sausages and pasties and scotch eggs and the like. Aussies do not seem too keen on the ‘mini foods’ concept.
I’m sure that these food stuffs are available somewhere, so like a food-obsessed Captain Cook (excuse the pun), I shall trawl every corner of this blessed country on a search for the things I crave and I shall return like the explorers of old holding aloft the spoils of my search, covered in the ginger crumbs of a half-masticated scotch egg. It will be hard, but I do not mind doing it, really I don’t.