Hello World

6 Oct

Right, so let’s have at go at this blogging thing.

Tomorrow, I embark on a month long trip to Europe to undertake my project as a Peter Kirk Scholar. My project has the rather serious sounding title of “A Study of Changing Cultural Attitudes Towards Food, During the Post War Period In Britain, Italy, and Slovenia.”

The purpose of the project is to try and get to the heart of what makes the respective countries unique in their relationship towards food. I chose the name of my Blog because it ties in neatly with what is seen by many as the basis for British Cooking. A lot of meat, and a little veg, both boiled.

I’ve already spent the summer talking to various people in the U.K and getting their thoughts on the state of British cuisine. The interviews will be posted up as I travel, to help provide a contrast between the various countries.

Whilst you can’t hope to cover such a broad topic in anything approaching comprehensive detail I know what I do want. To discover how people’s attitudes have changed, and why they have changed. I will look at the basis for the stereotypical views of the Countries, and explore how true they were, they are, and if they ever had any basis in fact.

Nobody wants this to be another tired travelogue where I float around Italy, waving my arms about and rhapsodising about Nonna’s tomato sauce. I’m not going to spend my time uttering “If only Britain did x”, as so many middle class people do on returning from Italy. This is a tired cliché, and one which hopefully I can get beyond. I want to see what food in Britain and Italy is really like. More importantly, I hope to learn about how people in these countries really think about food. As Brillat Savarin says, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”

So what are the stereotypes I hope to explore?

Italy: Italy truly is a place where even peasants dine like kings, and everybody knows how to make a decent ragu. People buy fresh food from daily markets, and the pizza and pasta is beyond compare. People live longer, thanks to the famed Mediterranean diet. Globes of glistening white mozzarella nestling in a bed of crisp salad and juicy ripe tomatoes. A country that does food so well it has dishes that colour co-ordinate with the national flag. (Although Britain may be hamstrung somewhat by the dearth of blue foods). In short Italians eat well, can all cook, and have an unrivaled culinary heritage. But how true is this? Or to put it another way, is Italy like the Dolmio adverts?

Slovenia: Potatoes. When ever Slovenian Food was mentioned the immediate reaction could be summed up in one word. Potatoes. This was even true of those who had managed to make the subtle but important distinction between it and Slovakia. It seems then that Britain see Slovenians as the rest of Europe has traditionally seen us. A land of stodgy bland food, whose purpose is merely to fuel rather than excite us. It will be interesting to see whether this is the case.

England: The land of the eponymous pair that graced this blog with its name. A country whose culinary reputation is dire beyond belief. We are the cucumber sandwich eaters of Europe. We can’t cook, and shop purely on cost, not on value. Chowing down on flavourless food, which we smother in ketchup. Whilst this is to a certain extent an exaggeration, it is worth remembering that in the 70´s and 80´s, this wasn’t far from the truth. Whilst it’s fair to say that Britain has changed, the question is how fundamental these changes really are.

These then are the stereotypes. It remains only to visit the countries, and see how things really are. So wish me luck.

It seems only fair that the Peter Kirk Fund should get a mention, if only to give you somebody to blame for the existence of this Blog. If you have a desire to get £1500 pounds to undertake a project of your choosing in Europe, and are between 18 and 26, have a look at http://www.kirkfund.org.uk


One Response to “Hello World”

  1. Jan October 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    No such luxury for me of a ‘cucumber sandwich’.
    As a child in the sixties I was offered the unique combination of white sliced bread and tomato ketchup in a sandwich!
    The double whammy of being tricked, as I believed it to be a superior strawberry jam sandwich, followed by being violently ill following its consumption, ensured I went on to become keen to know exactly what I was eating!

    I look forward to learning more about other peoples early influences in inspiring them to beome passionate about ‘good’ food, as you travel!

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