France decided yesterday to stop export of medicine made in France to the European fraternité. I suppose once liberté had to be temporarily suspended, we were already on the slippery slope to the restoration of firsts among the egalité. Unfortunately Robespierre wasn’t inclined to add securité to protect from terror. And today, what was until recently only a renascent nationalism is finding its legs. I hope European solidarité notices before the Hungarian contagion supplants Covid-19.
I have heard many say the curfew is helping us become more self-sufficient. Here’s a dinner we cooked for ourselves the other night. Romano peppers stuffed with lentils, accompanied with rice and greens. The peppers recipe came from Mildreds. Oh, how we miss Mildreds! It’s not quite the same having their two cookery books but they help.
You know DIY and self-sufficiency are very different. I’m not sure everyone gets that. And I wish people would recognise that the ‘pan’ in front of ‘demic’ refers to global rather than home cooking. Bear with me while I remind us just what global means when it comes to your plate.
The stuffed Romano peppers were prepared by thousands of people. We used to be concerned by food miles. Now we need to think of the ‘food hands’ whose threatened livelihoods threaten ours. Our duty of care to these unseen ‘others’ is enduring. Planter, picker, trucker, shipper, well fed, underfed, beggarman, famine. Sorry about the scansion.
This is Ireland so the thin-skinned, sweet Romano peppers had to come from Spanish hothouses. The small amount of olive oil probably came from Italy – it’s an Italian product but the bottle doesn’t record provenance. The Baharat spice was bought in London last year, packed in the UK but who knows where the black pepper, cinnamon, salt, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, garlic, cumin, ginger and chilli ingredients were sourced. Wars were fought over control of the supply of some these spices and today, you have to wonder how control of the spices will grab our attention in the coming few years. The lentils came to us from the Le Puy AOC grown on the volcanic soil of Velay in France and sold in The Punnet in Glasthule. The onions and parsley were from the same shop having been harvested in Spain, probably by migrant workers. The dried apricots made their way to us from Turkey. The freekeh was picked green and young, and roasted somewhere in Australia. The sesame seeds in the British-made Tahini is labelled as being from multiple countries. The squirt of agave syrup was sourced from Mexico. An orange, the lemons, turmeric root, currants and pine nuts were also bought in The Punnet but it’s hardly their fault that the country of origin was undisclosed. Our serving was topped with ‘tobacco onions’ but we were lazy and used Dutch crispy onions, an export for sushi purposes and imported here from Pimlico. On the side of the main, we had Spanish spinach cooked together with Irish curly cale, spiced with some of the same stateless chillies used in the stuffing of the peppers. And there’s wonderful Black Venus rice from the Italian Piedmont, perhaps grown in fields we might have walked as we passed from Ivrea to Vercelli in late-June. Or will walk through next June? And finally, the rice was flavoured with bay leaves picked in our front garden. We are very pleased to be self-sufficient in bay leaves. And tulips, assuming one is enough.
I have sometimes walked south along the coast and turned inland through Delgany, to take a 27 km walk to a house we can’t visit at the moment. We see the family there, safe, on WhatsApp and Zoom and via other marvels of a handheld digital age. Sharing images is great but we miss them sharing the excess from their self-sufficiency of potatoes, honey, greens, purple sprouting broccoli and above all, the fresh eggs. Great to have the space during a crisis, apart and not having a fifth birthday party, instead going out with a picnic lunch while Dad repairs a fence to keep the sheep safe. Or being six, fully-suited as an apiarist, wondering where the queens have gone from the hives. It’s great to see and hear video of a three year old helper digging in the poly-tunnel and planting sun-flowers that will grow as tall as Mum. We saw some 29 Tamworth pigs arrive on WhatsApp. The whole family is remotely video monitoring the progress of a clutch of duck eggs in the incubator. But the real news is of the hatching of the chickens last week because one was born with wonky feet. The wonky foot was troubling the chick and the children. Did I mention Mum and Dad have day jobs as mechanical engineers and are able to work from home during this crisis. So of course they have a 3D printer. And of course they designed prosthetic chicken shoes for the chick, printed them and put them on the little guy. Sadly, there was a sick sibling that shared an infection and wonky-foot died while the second and improved version of the chicken shoes was printing. Our grandkids could see that everything that could be done was done. And held it to the end.
Also see – From Memory