I had my 1st sardines EVER today…and to tell the truth I was mildly disappointed. Not that I didn’t like them or they were bad or anything. They were actually quite good. But the surprise had been spoiled as I have been eating canned kippers for 30 years…and basically these are quite similar.
I can’t remember what I was reading the other day that inspired me to buy the tin, probably something like Down and Out in Paris and London, or another book about being on your uppers. True confession when it comes to food I have a suggestive personality – I will reading along and someone will describe a food or drink so deliciously that my mouth will water and my brain will say..”hey that sounds good, I’ll have me some of that.”
Kenneth Roberts has a loving description of Hot Buttered Rum that to this day makes me drool, but alas I have never found a hot buttered rum that could hold up to his words. Maybe I made it wrong because I found it disgusting…but I would reread that description again in a heartbeat. Mary Lasswell’s books about ladies of a certain age living high on low income caused me my first and not last pickled herring.
The smoked kippers no doubt were left over from some Wodehouse novel I read back when I was young and impressionable, as was my first brie. But my first Stilton…I can remember ‘my first Stilton’, it was a Mary Russell mystery by Laurie King, where she mentions keeping Stilton and crackers wrapped up in her sock drawer – don’t ask me why it sounded edible but it did and I did and I still do – not the sock drawer part. Helene Hanff caused me to make Yorkshire puddings instead of popovers. Beans on toast, toad in the hole and other Anglophile dishes crept into my diet a little at a time over the decades.
This transference thing also happens with films William Powell and Myrna Loy are responsible for those nips of gin in the spice cupboard not me. I can’t remember who is responsible for the vodka in the freezer, but it certainly wasn’t an original idea of mine. I can lay the Wendsleydale cheese at the foot of Wallace and Gromit thank you very much…but i do prefer the kind with cranberries.
Don’t even mention the obscenity that is food essay, the porn of the food world. I’m so easy, I can gain 10 pounds before I reach the last page. The absolutely most decadent and self indulgent are anthologies of essays of ‘best thing I ever ate’ or best food writing of the year. With the grocery bill included, it can get very expensive to read books like that. I do like cookbooks too, but if it’s just a compilation of recipes it won’t hold my attention, I prefer the kind with stories to go with the food. I even have a few with just stories where the recipes are incidental (Gehman’s Haphazard Gourmet.)
I am much more turned on to food by words than glossy intimate images of food. You have to spell it out for me, tell me why it hit the spot at just the right time, and I will cookup nearly anything. It’s really not that hard. . . I could be reading the tale of a hiking trip where all provisions were lost, save for the ramen noodles (Bryson’s Walk in the Woods) and damn it to hell, I will be boiling up some ramen with one hand and still reading the book with the other. The 1938 cross country cycling trip (Bicycle Built for Two, 1940) I am reading has sent me on a rye bread and apple binge.
It’s also nice to know I am not alone at this, my friend Marian who passed at 95, would tell me how reading Vardis Fisher’s the Mothers would cause her to raid the fridge late at night….now THAT’s good reading.