The Perfect Food Partnership
To me, the word food is full of colour and life, with so much of its importance deriving from the people behind it. A farmer’s enthusiasm for his produce or a chef’s pairing of flavours – their passion is so essential in making a place for good food in popular culture.
Food and passion come together in many ways and places- people behind food are waiting near where we live. Last summer, during a drive through my local country roads I met a man who has given 25 years of his life to cherry orchards, growing and selling in England, Portugal and Morocco during the sunnier seasons. For him, cherries were not just food but his life. In such short space of time I learnt so much about how experience had shaped his knowledge of such a delicate fruit (one of the last few still picked solely by hand), from the ideal climate (sunshine and breeze) to the impact of incorrect conditions on the stems of cherries, to a change in customer preference. He told me a modern want is perfection- the extent to which we will walk away from local, artisan fruits and turn to chain shops and supermarkets where food is mechanicalised and this life behind its production cannot be felt. But in those 30 minutes, I didn’t just learn about the fruit, but instead such valuable ways of looking at life and how food had taught him to live freely between countries with little materialism to hold him back.
Some of my most memorable food experiences have been abroad. When travelling, you are welcomed with the opportunity to meet local people whose sole livelihood originates in food. I have met cooks, farmers and street sellers who have so much pride and enthusiasm in showing you key ingredients to family recipes, passed down through generations to become the centre of small, family run restaurants. In a small bakery at the foot of the Aegean Sea, I met a man who has spent 65 years in his kitchen baking his family’s cheese pies. Made with the town’s own goat cheese, his kitchen brought a strong familiarity and personality to the small mountainside town, against the gentle lull of summer travellers. He made baking feel like an art form, balancing several batches of pastry effortlessly at once – working out timings through touch and colour. Even with a language barrier, through animated gesture and a face full of passion he was able to express how much culture there is to learn through food.
Another evening remains clear in my mind as the most captivating example of how a recipe can have so much significance to an island’s history. Seated with the waves of a sea warmed through months of summer sun at the head of the table, in the easy atmosphere and dimmed sunlight of hazed evenings, we watched an elderly gentleman and owner of this restaurant’s eyes shine with fervency as he began to describe his chef’s special - a secret family recipe - marinated goat and rice-stuffed vine leaves in a delicate lemon sauce. Through eyes growing smaller with smiles and cupping weathered hands whilst naming the ingredients, to counting off on fingers and spontaneous kitchen runs to collect flavours for us to smell and taste, he brought to life the way he had been taught to cook, and with this, an overflowing passion filling our lungs with silence and hearts with admiration. This is food.
Food is everywhere in our lives. At the corner of the roads we live on, strewn across plants of spice lining rivers, along the backstreets of city centres and hung across orchard trees throwing dappled sun onto the ground beneath them. People are the perfect partnership with food. Those who are so involved in the processes behind delicious food are interesting to all of us, because they bring food to life and make every mouthful worth sharing.
Food is a story to be passed from one weathered hand to the next, on battered paper or through word of mouth to be enjoyed and explored by all without boundaries or exclusion. Food is kept alive by people. Because a true love for food can’t grow desolate with time.
By Ella Mansell