***Series Summary – In an effort to clarify my personal definition of food culture, I’ve invited a few food forum friends to share stories and recipes on my blog, with the hope of it giving us insight into the culture developed within their own home kitchens.***
Kate or Norm as most call her, is endlessly entertaining. Her stories regarding her past, her present and her future world travels are like little vignettes on the story of a woman truly grabbing everything out of life. Her appreciation for foreign ingredients is also entertaining as what she finds odd is usually very normal to so many of us. Even transcending this fascination to grocery stores across the globe which she unabashedly photographs. In fact, I’ll never forget her tale of having gotten in trouble for taking pictures of the famously camera shy, Dean and Deluca.
Kate’s everyday, girl next-door look, gives no evidence to how truly interesting she is. It’s been a pleasure to read her stories and click through her pictures, which make me feel like I’m right there next to her and I hope you’ll feel the same after reading this guest post.
Whatever else I might have been like as a child, I imagine my parents had quite an easy time with me when it came to food. I have always eaten pretty much anything put in front of me, and unlike many children it seems, was always willing to try new foods.
As an adult I have maintained my try-anything-once attitude towards food; an attitude that I believe has served me well over the years. I am fortunate enough to have had the experience of living on 3 different continents over the last 6 years as my husband is in the military. Naturally home-loving, I don’t think that either he or I would have chosen to move house every 2 years but as the Army throws these opportunities at us we do our best to roll with it and make the most of whatever new situation we find ourselves in. This of course also means that we are able to whole-heartedly embrace the food cultures in which we find ourselves.
From 2006-2008 we were posted to Ontario, Canada. You might not think that the cuisine of North America is all that different to that of the UK, but we certainly found ourselves adjusting our diets. In the past we had eschewed the burger, deriding it as ‘junk food’, but what a revelation a good burger was to us! Home-made all-beef patties, sliced gherkins, relish. We even developed an only-slightly-ironic taste for square slices of processed cheese (or ‘cheese possessed’ as we now lovingly refer to it!). Barbecuing is practically a religion during a Canadian Summer and we bought a fabulous smoker barbecue that bears more than a passing resemblance to Stephenson’s Rocket. What an excitement to be able to hot-smoke salmon and chicken over woodchips! Despite being hundreds of miles from the sea, we ate far more seafood than we ever had before; it was so cheap compared to UK prices, as was steak. I still fondly recall the first and only time I have ever made Beef Wellington, using a great slab of fillet steak that had cost perhaps $20, but would have been 4 times that price in England. Burgers, steak, ribs, lobster, we ate everything with gleeful abandon. We even sampled poutine, the heart-attack-inducing Quebecois dish comprising of chips (sorry, fries), gravy and cheese curds. Thank heavens we also gorged on fabulous locally grown produce – Niagara peaches, blueberries, sweetcorn, squash – and did plenty of exercise, spending our Summers walking, cycling and swimming and our Winters skiing and snowshoeing.
It was an emotional wrench to leave Canada in many ways, but on setting foot back on UK soil we immediately felt that we were home. Straight away we began remembering all the foods that we had missed while we were away: many of these I can no longer recall, but being back really made me realise how fortunate we are in the UK to have such a range of supermarkets with such a vast choice of stock. Never again will I complain about Tescos, we don’t know how good we have it. Added to this the incredible range of ‘artisan foods’ available both in markets and supermarkets. What sticks in my mind most of all however was our excitement at being able once again to make a clotted cream tea. It seemed to be the epitome of ‘Englishness’ to spend a day out walking in beautiful countryside, then come home to freshly baked scones, home-made jam and a tub of Devon clotted cream.
Now, from 2010 to 2012 we are in Brunei, on the island of Borneo, in South-East Asia. Inevitably, and excitingly, our diets have changed once again and we have embraced this change. I saw it in Canada too, but it’s so noticeable here that many expats simply try to recreate food from their home countries. You can almost do that, but not easily or well – and it will certainly cost you a lot if you only eat foods imported from your home country. Inevitably we have the occasional evening when we crave a taste of home, any European dish will do, but most of the time we eat Asian – plenty of rice, noodles, soups, stir-fries. This has its health benefits too; both of us lost half a stone in weight during our first 3 months in Brunei, and after nearly a year here the weight has stayed off. Less dairy (no clotted cream!), less red meat, more fruit and veg, much of it local. Our Asian holidays over the last year have had a real food focus as we have gone out of our way to discover the dishes that make each country what it is; and what amazing things we have discovered… Rice paper rolls and Beef Pho in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; sweet coconutty sticky rice with sesame seeds for breakfast in Myanmar, and pickled tea-leaf salad for supper; spicy Chiang-Mai sausage in Thailand, plus taking a fantastic Thai cookery course. At the heart of any country is its cuisine, and what an adventure to explore it.
I feel that this piece should really include a recipe… but where to start? Peach pancakes and maple syrup in honour of Canada? Spicy Mee Goreng from Brunei? I welcome all these recipes into my life, but England is where my heart and home is so I will go with the traditional plain scone (recipe). Serve with home-made jam and real clotted cream.
For more posts by Kate, join her at It’s The Norm