Dish of the Day: Eating foods in and out of season
Coming from a city where anything you should so wish to cook with is available, to a small town in the south of Italy where if it’s not local and in season you won’t get it for love nor money is a wonderful thing – or is it?
London, with all of its markets, suppliers and importers, boasts some of the best produce in the world. Be it John Dory from Billingsgate or scotch beet from Smithfield. Then there’s the hundreds of suppliers to the restaurant industry, the butchers and fishmongers all over the city, wine shops, bakery’s and so much more. You can pretty much get anything at any time of the year, which has made the city so attractive for so many people.
Now I’m in Puglia for a week, relaxing with the family. I remember a few years back having eaten some amazing artichokes from the family next door. When I enquired, I was informed that they finished a week or so ago, and that we’d have to wait until next year. Now, the mentality most people have, is that artichokes are available in summer, and parsnips in winter, but what people fail to realise is that when things are grown naturally, associating a vegetable with a whole season is down right ridiculous.
Asparagus in May? Maybe we had sun a little sooner than usual, or the chill of late winter/early spring never quite left, which means maybe we get asparagus two weeks earlier or a month later. This is Mother Nature we are talking about, not a scientifically grown item with an alarm clock (although unfortunately nowadays veg, and, sadly, meat and poultry are actually grown this way).
To counter the ideology that we only eat produce when it’s ready, it was really quite annoying not to have eaten those bloody artichokes. In the markets of new Covent Garden, using artichokes as an example, they’ll buy from whichever region or country that has them first, then work their way through Spain, Italy and France until the last batch is gone. What this means is that we have artichokes available for a couple of months instead of a couple of weeks.
That’s the pro side of living in a big city, but there is also a certain romance about missing out on something by a matter of days and having to wait a year for the next, as annoying as it is. What life would you prefer?
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