I was in communication yesterday with a young friend, a former student and therefore not so young as he once was as it is almost 12 years since I stopped teaching sixth form. The young man in question is “trapped” in Rome. Well, he is actually working in Rome and usually travels around a lot, particularly between italy, Spain and the UK, but now finds himself stuck in Rome until someone decides the crisis is over and done with. Or at any rate calmed down enough for some of the travel restrictions to be lifted.
I am quite relieved to find that Brexit does not seem yet to have impeded his ability to work in various countries of Europe. However, I can understand his frustration at being stuck in the Italian capital but not being able to go to work, to go to his Italian language class, to visit the tourist sites or just to partake of the Italian city life.
My Spanish sister tells me that they are being advised to stay at home as much as possible. And she is not even in one of the biggest cities of the country. It must be odd to be told to stay at home in places like Spain where a largish part of social life has always been sitting out in squares and on streets chatting to neighbours or popping into the cafe for a quick coffee and to read the papers. No wonder they end up singing from their balconies. Somehow standing in the back garden and bursting into song, which presumably would be the equivalent here in the UK as we don’t usually have balconies, does not sound quite so likely.
And now rumours are flying around about the over-70s being put under house arrest for four months. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there are suggestions that we will be told to stay at home, perhaps venturing out, like timid mice, to the corner shop for supplies. Well, that would truly make a mess of the summer for us all! We shall see!
The current situation underlines the madness of leaving the European Medicines Agency, the body responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines. We haven’t quite left yet but we’ll be gone by the end of our transition period. In the meantime, will we still be considered part of it as regards finding a vaccine against Covid-19? Once again, we shall see!
Are we not also leaving the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) which is responsible for ensuring safety and environmental protection in air transport in Europe? Is there no value in staying in?
Ah, well, at least we will have taken back control!
I seem to have got back into lets-moan-about-Brexit mode. So here is something Jay Rayner wrote about waiters in the Observer Food Magazine this morning:
“Have you ever watched a waiter take a dover sole off the bone? It requires an extremely steady hand and ocean-like depths of confidence to slip the knife along the back of a hyper-expensive fish and slip the fillets away from each other while being watched by the person who paid for it. Have you seen a waiter taken the orders of a table of eight and then make sure, without asking again, that everybody is served the dishes they ordered across multiple courses? And then deal with the obstreperous, foul-mouthed drunk in the corner without disturbing anyone else? Have you watched a restaurant cook fulfil a dozen grill orders at the same time, without losing track of any individual preferences, while their colleague whips up soufflé after soufflé?”
The point he went on to make was that the points-based immigration rules system dismisses jobs like those as being unskilled!!
Also in the food magazine, there was an article about recipes and techniques chefs inherited from their mothers. One interviewee was Ravneet Gill, a pastry chef. She was interviewed with her mother Jaswinder and her grandmother Jit Aktar. Asked who was the best cook of the three, Ravneet said unhesitatingly that her mother is the best, hands down, no question! “All my dad’s brother’s’ wives are from India, but Mum is from Kenya, so she’s got more of an edge when it comes to spicing,” she said. Jaswinder herself explained that Indians will often only cook the food of the region they are from, but growing up in Nairobi exposed her to different ingredients and cuisines.
This got me thinking about people I know in Galicia who are reluctant to try unfamiliar kinds of food. Come to that, one of my granddaughters should be an honorary Gallega as she is not just reluctant but a total refuse-nik when it comes to trying new types of food. We live in hopes that one day she will grow out it and suddenly discover the delights she has been missing!
But the Kenyan-Indian Jit Aktar and her belief that being exposed to a variety of cuisines made her a better cook brought to mind something I have often thought about English cuisine. We are often described as being boring from a culinary point of view, traditionally relying on the quality of our ingredients to make up for a lack of imagination in cooking. And yet I have long argued that because we have had immigrants from so many different parts of the world we have absorbed their cooking habits into ours and consequently have a much greater variety pf food - maybe not British as such but definitely very tasty.
Another argument for keeping our borders open if we can.