Food/travel Squir­rel Pie

Country Life Every Week - - Books -

Elis­a­beth Luard (Blooms­bury, £16.99)

IF YOU AIM to be a travel writer, it helps to grow up in a diplo­matic fam­ily. One of Elis­a­beth Luard’s child­hood homes was in Uruguay and, later,

when she was mar­ried to the owner of Pri­vate Eye, she lived in An­dalucía. Her in­ter­ests were moulded by stay­ing with the fam­ily cooks. ‘Home,’ she says, ‘is a state of mind, por­ta­ble as a penknife.’ These food-based es­says take her ver­tig­i­nously from snail stew in Crete and jamón from the wild, black-footed pigs in Spain to pax­i­ma­dia—a bread of bar­ley flour and wild yeast that fed Alexan­der the Great’s sol­diers— and on to can­ni­bal­ism in Tas­ma­nia. On ‘Tassie’, she mourns the early in­hab­i­tants who ate raw fish, ran naked in the forests and didn’t need to own pos­ses­sions, work or earn money. They were wiped out. The strangest tale, from the last cen­tury, was the at­tempt by Ceaus­escu of Ro­ma­nia to abol­ish home cook­ing. Fam­i­lies were or­dered to sur­ren­der their recipe books, which were burnt in the way other dic­ta­tors made pyres of fam­ily Bi­bles. The peo­ple then had to eat ac­cord­ing to state recipes in can­teens. Need­less to say, when the dic­ta­tor met his well-de­served end, all the fam­ily recipe books reap­peared from un­der mat­tresses. But how mega­lo­manic can tyrants be if they think peo­ple’s di­ets can be changed?

On Maui, Mrs Luard meets Sean, a Hawai­ian-born Ir­ish­man who won’t eat fish, pre­fer­ring dough­nuts. She tucks into squir­rel pie in Maine, gen­tly braised with home­cured ba­con, and dis­cusses the de­li­cious pata ne­gra of Spain, a coun­try in which ‘his­tory dic­tates the gas­tron­omy as nowhere else in Europe’. Spain’s hammy diet was a di­rect re­sult of the fall of the oc­cu­py­ing Moors.

Each chap­ter, di­vided by coun­try and into is­lands, deserts or forests, ends with a few rel­e­vant recipes. I doubt that many will tackle these, as the in­gre­di­ents—bot­targa, kan­ga­roo and, of course, squir­rel —are not on most su­per­mar­ket shelves. As for the rest, the book is charm­ing, good-hu­moured and full of in­for­ma­tion. What more can you ask? Les­lie Ged­des-brown

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.