I couldn’t put an exact time or date for when I became obsessed with food. It was probably a culmination of things. I didn’t have a particularly foodie upbringing. We were a poor single parent family and although we weren’t exactly getting by on cabbage soup and stale bread the first 25 years of my life were spent in some sort of culinary backwater! Although a competent cook (she’ll admit to not really liking cooking) my mum didn’t use garlic until I introduced it to her about ten years ago and is very much from the steak well done school. Then there was my gran’s veg. Over cooked to the point of disintegration it was pink in colour and soft and bitter! But I’m not without my own culinary faux pas either. I had an unhealthy obsession with cold super noodles as a child and ate way too many slices of Bernard Matthews turkey ham as a teenager. Best of all is my infamous tea making as a student – using water that I’d previously cooked boil-in-the-bag kippers in (hence the title of the blog)! Sometimes being thrifty isn’t always the best approach!
But through the fog of culinary mediocrity come some choice nuggets. My gran’s Yorkshire puddings, so phenomenal I can still taste them today (I’ve not managed to replicate them yet, if only I’d asked for the recipe before she took it to the grave), my mum’s left over chicken soup which spared no tender morsal of flesh or flavour from an already exhausted carcas (instilling my virtuos approach to not wanting to waste anything foodwise) and my first oyster at Leeds fish market introduced to me by my Father.
The chefs at my first job post university were also influential. One was an old school kitchen firebrand who showed all the passion for food that was wasted on 99p breakfasts and OAP specials and when he wasn’t trying to smash me round the head with a pan he was showing me how to make proper omelettes (Saturday kitchen style) and the importance of doing simple things well. Whilst he instilled some basic skills his colleague provided me the ingredients (tarragon and proper fish stock) to make my first ever foray into proper cooking, a fish pie. Ruined, I might add, by me adding too much salt!
Some credit has to go to Jamie Oliver, whose Naked Chef programme came at just the right moment in my culinary development and was the first accessible TV chef for a young man of working class extraction. All the others previously being middleaged and middleclass or Ainsley Harriot! Jamie seemed somehow normal and whatever you might think of him you can’t feign passion for food like that.
The biggest influence however has been my fiancé. Her passion for food rivals mine and it’s only since getting with her that my love of food and culinary repertoire has blossomed. It’s only when I had a partner to share what I ate (my previous girlfriend was an unadventurous veggie) that I started looking into new things and really getting enthused. Once, she drove me 25 miles just for a pork pie (J Stainforths of Skipton) and has on one occasion made pork pies for me from scratch. It wasn’t long after that that I asked her to marry me!
So lots of things that have built up to this point when a few months ago (now ten months ago) a couple of friends of mine over a pint said, you should start a food blog, so I did and here it is. It will be honest and lacking in snobbery, and I’ll champion the humble mackerel as much as 10 course tasting menu. I believe good food (cheap or expensive) should be for everybody and can bring people together. You may not agree with some of the things I say but that’s OK. I’m just one person and what I say is, ultimately, irrelevant…