Memories can be triggered by the slightest thing: a touch, the sound of a voice, a familiar smell, a song that takes you back to a time when you had almost no care in the world. And often these are memories from our childhood.
My first vivid memory of food was in Spain. My parents bought a house there when I was born, and we spent many weeks there during the year, escaping my father’s hectic work schedule back in the City of London. This was in the early 80’s when the costa’s were just beginning to get invaded by "The Package Holiday", with fat, tattooed-families looking for no cultural change whatsoever, just a fry up in the sun (sorry Spain, we Brits have ruined so many of your quaint seaside retreats).
Anyway, we always frequented a little Spanish café on the beach - just a few old tables, a rusted up BBQ, and about five local gents drinking slowly in the sun. One of the waiters would always take a fancy to me, pick me up and take me into the kitchen to have a look around (I’m guessing because I was blonde and English, not for any other strange reasons, I hope!). The smell of the sardines on that BBQ, the chickens roasting on the rotisserie and the sound of the sea, always takes me back to those idyllic family holidays.
But my childhood food memories don't' end there.
Falling in love with entertaining
My mother was famous for her epic dinner parties, and I think that my eager anticipation for one these was when I subconsciously fell in love with the idea of entertaining.
Mum would seemingly prepare these events for days in advance, from the most elaborate puddings, profiteroles, Black Forest Gateau, Pavlovas, Mille-feuille, and of course a magnificent croquembouche. And it didn't end there! Three or four courses would often be produced to follow on; Salmon en croute and beef Wellington are just a few that come to mind. But just as the food played a huge role in memory, so did the guests.
The huge fireplace that separated the drawing room and the dining room would always be lit, warming both rooms (I’m guessing dinner party season was in winter). My mother would be dressed in an elegant gown and my father in a velvet jacket and bowtie. They would dance together before their guests arrived, and before Dad would crack open his selection of fine wines and spirits. My sister and I would be allowed to greet their friends as they arrived, before being ushered upstairs to sit and watch them from above in the Minstrels Gallery.
I can still remember it this to the day, 30 odd years on: the smell of the food and the log fire, the sound of clinking glasses, my father’s outrageous giggles, and the oohs and aahs as the food was served.
It was a happy time. Everyone seemed relaxed and at peace, just how it should be (and the fact that they were all really pissed!). So I must have thought, I can do this!
Fast forward to today and here I am doing almost that :) Although I can't quite claim the roaring fireplace or elegant dress codes in my Abu Dhabi home, I like to think that I'm a great host and warm entertainer who is able to share his love of cooking with those near and dear, as well as Oscar and Jemima's subscribers. Bon Apetite!