I know it’s not cool to admit this sort of thing but I am developing a bit of a man-crush on Jamie Oliver. If any of you find that disturbing, try watching Jamie’s Comfort Food (currently on Channel 4) and, unless you are one of those poor unfortunates who consider food to be nothing more than fuel, you will probably come to agree with my superior insight.
It is pure pornography and I love it.
Also, Jamie’s Great Britain (Channel 4) was an excellent tour of internationally-influenced dishes.
I was a fussy eater when I was young, and I have no-one to blame but myself. These days I am food-obsessed and willing to try pretty much anything, although Heston Blumenthal’s particular brand of insanity holds no appeal for me.
In those days, we used to refer to the local Chinese takeaway as the “Chinky”. It’s not a word I would use these days, but it was quite innocent at the time, although maybe indicative of an inherent ignorance about the subtleties of racism. Some time in my teens, a friend of mine introduced me to Chinese food, via Wong’s Chop Suey Centre (really) in Dinnington, South Yorkshire, UK, and the first thing I tried was a spring roll.
I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
Later on, when I was old enough to go into pubs, my favourite post-drinking snack was chips and curry sauce. As I have got older, my tastes have broadened and also my appreciation of the positive influence of other cultures, and not just on our food.
Curry has become as English as fish and chips (ho ho), even celebrated in Cockney rhyming slang as a “Ruby” after Ruby Murray (I believe), the popular singer of the 1950s.
Also, as the unimpeachable Daily Mail informs us, Chicken Tikka Masala has been Britain’s favourite dish for some years despite being deposed recently by another dish of foreign muck.
Anyway, I kind of feel a little guilty about this, but I have a real soft spot for the so-called Chinese-style curry sauce. If you go into an English chip shop and ask for curry sauce, it’s a game of Russian Roulette. It can be anywhere on the spectrum from a tasteless, golden emulsion with a few sultanas suspended in it (bad) to the the Chinese-style, browny-orange lava (good).
What you see above is something from a kind of Chinese takeaway version of a British greasy spoon. It’s not a pretty sight, but I can’t deny a certain relish in the random and savage beauty of this particular Shanghai Surprise from a vendor in the new Sheffield Market, comprising fried rice, noodles, two skewers of chicken and Chinese-style “curry” sauce.
A real comfort food.