Sunday Express

For goodness sake let food unite us...


WELL, that’s it for spag bol then. It was only a matter of time before supper became political. Various food magazines – Condé Nast’s Bon Appétit, BBC Good Food and Olive – have begun trawling through their recipe archives for signs of cultural appropriat­ion. Falafels must fall! What used to be approvingl­y called “fusion food” is now deeply suspect.

Asian Salad has been deleted even though it’s merely code for “contains ginger and spring onions”, and is better than Russian Salad which can look like dog sick in the wrong hands.

Any salad would also be an improvemen­t on my mother’s salad – which was a tomato, three slices of cucumber, a lettuce leaf and a dollop of Heinz salad cream.

Competent when it came to roasts, fruit crumbles and shepherd’s pie, my mum was of the generation who felt obliged to wrestle with foreign food in an attempt to be modern.

She’d cook mince, add curry powder and a handful of sultanas and call it vindaloo. It was quite nice really but probably wouldn’t get a thumbs-up from Madhur Jaffrey or the new food police.

Mum also went through a stage of coming over all French and making dainty hors d’oeuvres because someone had given her an hors d’oeuvres dish. From my point of view hors d’oeuvres translated as Not Quite Enough To Eat Salad, especially as it was the main course and not the starter.

CHINESE food was a big ask for a 1960s mum but we did occasional­ly have Vesta Chow Mein with those yummy crispy noodles that you tipped on top and the little sachets of soy sauce.we even had a few dusty chopsticks in the kitchen drawer which we played with for a while before giving up and getting a fork.

And there was something which she called Chinese Soup – watery chicken broth with sloppy noodles, elusive little blighters which sank to the bottom and had to be chased round the bowl with your spoon.

One of the absolute joys of cookery is adapting and borrowing recipes from others. You go abroad or to a restaurant and try to copy what you eat. You call it cultural appropriat­ion, I’d call it paying a compliment.

Mum’s plucky efforts in the kitchen all those years ago coincided with the boom in foreign holidays when

CARL REINER – the writer, actor and director – has been called “the rare untortured genius of comedy”. Even his death last week was as cheerful as anyone could reasonably expect – aged 98, of natural causes and peacefully at his home in Beverly Hills. Part of that gang of incomparab­le funny men who included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Sid Caesar, he created The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961, about a TV comedy writer (Van Dyke) with his wife played by Mary Tyler Moore, above with Reiner and Van Dyke. It was really about Reiner himself and one of the most genial, funniest shows ever. No matter how often I watch that opening scene when Dick Van Dyke comes home, is greeted by his wife and falls over the pouffe – it always makes me laugh.

Britain learned that there was more to food than fish and chips and that taramasala­ta wasn’t to be used like Germolene.

It was the cooking of an optimistic, outgoing era when we were keen to embrace new things.

Of course, terrible crimes have been committed as dishes travelled the world, sometimes changing out of all recognitio­n. Pineapple on pizza for instance. Unspeakabl­e things are done with pasta, often the default dish for anyone who doesn’t want to cook at all.

But the sharing of food as it’s prepared and eaten is surely something that brings us all together. To turn it into yet another thing that drives us apart seems terribly sad.

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