Magazine article The Spectator

Food: Imperative Cooking: Salad Days!

Magazine article The Spectator

Food: Imperative Cooking: Salad Days!

Article excerpt

BEWARE dinner invitations in the summer! Beware them, of course, at any time, but summer is second worst, after Christmas. There is clearly a fierce competition to serve boring, overcooked, farmed salmon cold - with new potatoes as many times as turkey and sprouts were served last December. Even when it isn't salmon it'll be something lighter. The general idea is that the English summer is so scorchingly hot, the sun beating unrelentingly all evening, the night sodden with sweat, that special summer food is necessary. I don't mean seasonal food. Of course, one eats English asparagus in May and June. I mean the idea that only certain dishes can be supported in the warmer weather. There may be no hill stations to flee to as the evening temperature soars into the low sixties, but at least we can banish three quarters of the good things to eat on the grounds that they would be quite unsuitable.

No one else does it. I was in Cairo the other week and they serve cracking heavy stews in weather much warmer than in Blighty. An old friend who now lives in Connecticut complained that he can't get kidneys there and wondered if we could find some in Cairo. No trouble. They came stewed with a mixture of other offal almost all offal is thought unsuitable in the Home Counties after May day - in a heavy, spicy gravy. Last week some of the chaps had an outing to the splendid Bala in Bedford. There were more kidneys, a keema curry, a mutton curry, heavily spiced chicken, channa, kofta and goodness knows what else. Indians do not put their stews off limits because it's summer. I'm regularly offered and accept cassoulets in France in August and morcilla in Spain in September but never steak and kidney pudding in England before October, and certainly not roast pork in midsummer.

At times it is almost funny; notably when a chap has to work his way through the cold cottonwool salmon surrounded by pouring rain and lashing gales. But that is not the real point. There is no reason why any healthy and well-trained appetite should be jaded by what passes for heat in England. And if it were, the way to perk it up is not by banning most good dishes. Last week I came across a hare. We had it stewed in red wine with onions and pearl barley and ate it, platefuls and platefuls of it, on a balmy evening, listening to the frogs by the pond in the garden and watching the blackbirds busy about. …

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