Saturday, May 08, 2004

Regional food differences

When I was a child in Australia (as is the case almost everywhere) the selection of food and ingredients available in your average supermarket were not nearly as impressive as they are today. (Fancy gourmet ingredients certainly could be bought (expensively) in Sydney, but the portion of the population who cooked with them was very small. And I didn't live in Sydney). And in many ways they were very limited indeed.

If my mother wanted to buy a tub of ice cream, there were three varieties: vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate (more commonly referred to as white, pink, and brown). And, as a very special innovation, there was something called Neapolitan, which contained all three of those in the same tub. (If my parents had wanted to use food for giving geography lessons, they could have told me that this was named after a city called Naples in Italy, where they make superb ice cream that the stuff in front of us did not resemble in any meaningful way. And we could have gone from there to learning that Bolognese is named after another Italian place called Bologna, and when Australian culinary sophistication proceeded beyond plain cheddar cheese when I was about 12, it could have been explained to me that parmesan cheese was named after another Italian place called Parma. I thus could have realised ten years before I did that whatever may be said about the Italians, they do know something about food. But I digress).

When I was in primany school, the school canteen sold three types of sweet bun. These were the "Cream bun", the "Finger bun", and the curiously named "Chelsea bun". The cream bun did not contain actual cream (as this could not cope with the Australian climate) but instead contained an artificial sugar confection of vaguely cream like texture. The finger bun was long and thin and had pink icing on top, but the reason for the name was obvious from the shape. The Chelsea bun contained fruit, but the reason for the name was obscure to me. I knew vaguely that these sorts of buns were English in origin, but that was about all. I didn't really understand that in England, cream buns did contain actual cream (which didn't go bad due to the cooler weather), and my mind would have boggled had it known that I would one day have a friend (Sir Geoffrey de Havilland's great nephew, no less) who would regularly invite me to fine parties in a place in London called Chelsea, and that he would once or twice even take me for breakfast to a restaurant nearby called "The Chelsea Bun", where the bun may or may not have been invented.

And that is one of the fun things about life. As you grow older, your horizons widen. And you look back and you see that the clues as to how your horizons would widen were there all along, but that you just didn't understand them at the time or understand what they were.

(I started this post to comment on the fact that I had just had pork sausages and unsmoked bacon for breakfast, whereas a week ago in Australia I had beef sausages and smoked bacon. Unsmoked bacon is like cream buns with actual cream in them: not normal in Australia due to the climate).

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