a life in food


My memories have smell, taste and texture.

Timaru, 1968. My grandparents’ dairy. I wriggle on my belly between granddad’s legs and haul myself up onto my feet to grab a fistful of chocolate fish from behind the counter. Dark chocolate Santé bars were another favourite.

Middlemarch, 1969. Dad’s surgery. I have my left forefinger stitched up after cutting it in a raid on a tin of Highlander condensed milk. (NB. condensed milk: an essential ingredient in salad-dressing, spooned over shredded lettuce and hardboiled egg slices, eaten with boiled potatoes freshly dug from the garden and leftover cold roast lamb.)

Coromandel, 1970. Pohutukawa explode with crimson and the sea is impossibly blue. My sister and I eat grinning slices of watermelon bigger than our heads, spitting the black seeds joyously into the golden sand.

Reading, 1973. Lunchtime at Christchurch, Church of England Primary School. Fire-breathing dinner ladies in blue smocks. Grey liver and bacon rollups. Frogspawn semolina with lurid dollops of tinned jam.

London, 1974. Mum and I travel down on the train to see Dad get his diploma. We eat sweet juicy black cherries from a brown paper bag. Later that day I eat my first gloriously salty olive.

Paris, 1975. My aunt takes me for the weekend. The hovercraft leaves Dover’s white cliffs for dust. An old man makes me a paper bird as we queue outside the Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame. Gargoyles. The Mona Lisa. Hot chocolate and beautiful buttery croissants.

Palmerston North, 1980. Freezing cold after swimming club. Hot tomato soup from a thermos flask followed by Black Doris plums from a tree in the back garden. They stain my lips purple.

And so it goes on… a milk-shaky thick and creamy latté in Wellington, a tiny perfect cup of bitter espresso in Rome, finger-licking fish and chips in Sydney, moules et frites in Bruges, a savoury Japanese pancake I cook myself on an iron griddle in a Kyoto okonomiyaki-ya, a magnificently meaty beef pie in a London pub – the waiter brings a tiny scoop so I can prise the marrow from the bone holding up its perfect crust…

I relish it all.


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