Tuesday, November 2
The Power of DNA
Our cousin from the Land of Oz visited us with his girlfriend last week. The last time we'd met was three years ago at my wedding. In the intervening period, while I remembered that my cousin and I shared an interest in music and guitars, I had kinda forgotten that we shared a passion for food as well! My cousin, Musical Chef (an engineer in real life), and his brother are fantastic cooks, and it turns out that his girlfriend, Foodie Doctor, is too. By a stroke of luck before their arrival, I had planned (as our first sight-seeing outing) a trip to Borough Market, one of London's famous food and produce markets. I myself hadn't been to Borough Market in more than two years, so it was great to see some of my old favourites again.
It's amazing how much looking at London with visitors can open your own eyes to it. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so blasé about being 20 minutes away from a sprawling market nestled under criss-crossing bridges near the Thames. We strolled amongst large iron pans with rabbit casseroles cooking over flames, steel drums of mulled wine, shelves of bottled beers and ales from around the world, elaborate displays of fresh seafood (including an octopus clinging to a rock, below a crayfish whose claws swayed from side to side), mountains of fragrant chocolate brownies and loaves of bread, wheels of cheese boasting various months of ageing, bright berries tumbling out of their punnets, extensive displays of vegetables and enormous mushrooms, frying chorizo and grilling bratwurst… all while Foodie Doctor snapped pictures of the food, the crowds and of us.
It was a heady morning. We tasted various samples on offer, and we slowly collected a feast for breakfast the next day. And thus it was that, on Saturday morning, after enjoying a few cups of tea from our wedding china, we settled down to the breakfast you see in the photo. (In our defense, I will say that we had gone to bed at 3 a.m. the night before, after a memorable jamming session with Musical Chef on acoustic guitar, me on electric guitar and my sister Rice Krispie on keyboards. So, we were hungry!) We had assembled: a 22-month aged Comté and a melting Époisses from France; slices of Parma, a large ball of Mozzarella and an Ubriaco matured in red wine from Italy; good old British sausages (curiously named ‘Boston sausages’) and a pork pie; sweet German mustard to accompany the sausages; a variety of mushrooms (which Foodie Doctor sautéed with butter, garlic and sage); and a dulce de leche from Argentina. To all of these treasures from Borough Market, we added Gentlemen’s Relish (an anchovy paste I’d picked up last week from a nearby deli), Pain de Campagne from my local French bakery, Irish breakfast tea (purchased in Dublin in the summer), and orange juice from Florida.
The Époisses is one of my favourite cheeses. It’s an unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy, which is washed in the local brandy (marc de Bourgogne) as it matures. This leaves it with an alluring, sharp nose, and a flavour that’s part brandy and part sweet garlic. Take it out of the fridge about half an hour before eating and spread it over toasted crusty bread. I’m also a fan of Comté, another unpasteurised cow’s milk cheese. This hard cheese is good with almost any bread, but you might go for something white, so that you can appreciate the grainy texture of the Comté. Imho, the best Comté has a firmness closer to parmesan than to edam or cheddar.
While the weekend was wonderful for all the experiences we shared, it also made me slightly sad that so much of my family lives so far away. Cases in point being Musical Chef living all the way away in Sydney and Cinnamon being in North Carolina. Just imagine the weekly cooking and jamming sessions we could all have if we lived in the same city! I was also amazed that, despite Musical Chef and my sisters and I not having met each other all that often (a few times as children and a grand total of three times as grown-ups), all of us just connect. Not least on the planes of food and music. There you have it, I thought, the power of DNA.