Charles Campion, food writer and critic, takes on today’s fine food issues

“Flamin’ June”

For anyone interested in cooking and eating, deciding which of the 12 months is best for food and drink is like picking a fantasy football team – it’s perfectly alright in theory but will soon be overwhelmed by events. November has its supporters – think of all those unctuous stews, crumpets that drip butter, roast gamebirds and heart-warming soups. But the golden month must be June, if only because it is such a contrast to the “hungry months” of January and February. The weather is better in June and the fisherman can put to sea, mackerel and crabs are top quality. The spring flush of grass has worked its magic on the cheeses. In June there are new potatoes, peas and tiny beans. Strawberries, rhubarb and gooseberries. The exotic stuff is also at a peak – gulls’ eggs, calcots, elderflowers. Most accomplished cooks know that every great meal stems from buying the very best ingredients and interfering as little as possible. If you cannot cook up a storm with June’s bounty there’ll never be a better time. At this time of year, food and drink should be celebrated everywhere

News of the global reach of the pasty. Wind the clock back to 1658 when the first settlers were landing on the Cayman Islands. In 1654, Oliver Cromwell sent a task force to fight in the Anglo-Spanish War, and it included the first man to settle on the Cayman isles. He was either called Bodden or Bawden (in those days illiteracy encouraged a more flexible approach to spelling). Today the Cayman Isles are one of the larger British overseas territories, and they’re into hardcore banking and tourism. Mr Bush – their man in London – has hit upon the jolly wheeze of trying to find UK descendants of the marine called Bodden. The Caymanians feel closest to the Cornish, and point out that there are many elements common to both of them – fishing, boat building, a westerly aspect and, bizarrely, “inventive cooking”. Apparently, the Islanders are famous for their “Cayman Isles patty” which is uncannily like a Cornish pasty.

Boffins will confirm that we are more susceptible to the smell of a drink or dish than its taste. They would confirm that whisky tasters get 70% of their impression from the nose. The big supermarkets understand this theory and are not averse to siting the fan outlet from the bakery beside the front door. The makers of instant coffee make sure that a small puff of coffee-scented air is trapped in the jar under the paper seal. None of which compares with the full blown “olfactory molestation” suffered by several Italian neighbours. In a court case in Montefalcone, Italy, the irate occupants of a block of flats sued a married couple who cooked pot after pot of rich pasta sauce and horror of horrors, sometimes fried fish. The litigants claimed that the smell permeated all the other flats. The smell of bread fresh from the oven, of freshly roasted coffee, of a massive beef joint “resting”
before lunch are all aromas we can take pleasure in. But before poohpoohing those sensitive Italians, surely much depends on just what the smell is? How about continual kippers, over-boiled cabbage or burnt toast? Not worth a lawsuit but not very pleasant.

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