Kumquat may

The Vi­o­let Bak­ery’s Claire Ptak was in­tro­duced to this sharp lit­tle cit­rus fruit by mim­ick­ing a man she saw shop­ping as a child – now she uses them in a syrupy buck­wheat cake to die for

The Guardian - Cook - - Residency -

He had a mul­let. Hair that was brown with sun­bleached, wavy high­lights: short around the face and longer at the back. He had dark sun­glasses and plat­form train­ers. His trousers had a slight flare at the an­kle and on top he wore a denim waist­coat.

It was the early 1980s and my mother had sent me to buy some gro­ceries in our lit­tle coastal town of Point Reyes, Cal­i­for­nia. This re­mark­able man – I re­mem­ber him as my disco prince – was walk­ing in front of me as I made my way from the car park, into the Palace mar­ket. I stayed a pace be­hind him as I gath­ered the car­rots and av­o­ca­dos on my mum’s shop­ping list. The man picked up a small brown pa­per bag and filled it with what looked like minia­ture oval or­anges. I watched as he ate them whole, right out of the bag, peel and all, while me­an­der­ing through the fresh sec­tion. They weren’t on my list, but as soon as he turned the cor­ner, I filled a brown bag with them, too.

At seven or eight years old, this strange and con­fi­dent man caught my at­ten­tion first with his ap­pear­ance, and sec­ond with his ap­petite. I’d never seen kumquats be­fore, but I im­me­di­ately wanted to try them. This mo­ment started a culi­nary jour­ney for me. A sort of “monkey see, monkey do” way of eat­ing.

To this day, no mat­ter where I go, I look around to see what the lo­cal peo­ple are eat­ing, then go straight over and try some my­self. This idea that lo­cal folk know what’s good to eat is at­trac­tive – and use­ful – no mat­ter where you are in the world. I’ve used it to good ef­fect walk­ing through the souks in Mar­rakech, back­pack­ing in Bangkok, driv­ing down the Baja Cal­i­for­nia penin­sula, and cruis­ing through the French hills in a car­a­van. You will never go wrong if, when in Rome, you eat as the Ro­mans eat.

This strange man caught my at­ten­tion first with his ap­pear­ance, and sec­ond with his ap­petite

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