N cooked me dinner the other day, it was a million miles from anything I normally eat. So far from the simple food that I normally cooked, but he called it simple, our definitions of simple are, perhaps, different. I think N means easy when he says simple, for me that description applies to flavours, and by my definition, this was complicated. He cooked a chicken stew, with onions, tomatoes, ginger, honey and cinnamon, which we ate with rice and leeks. It was rich, sumptuous and absolutely delicious, but like nothing I’ve ever cooked or would chose to eat. I must admit that while I trust his cooking, there was a little voice whispering ‘sacrilege’ in my ear as I watched him take out the chicken followed by a tin of tomatoes, a jar of honey, and some cinnamon, needless to say, I was a little apprehensive; but when I took my first bite everything suddenly made sense. I was standing in a foreign country, transfixed in wonderment and awe.
This combination of flavours is something my father would turn his nose up at, he doesn’t like cinnamon in food in general (he’ll eat apple crumble which is cinnamon-y, but that’s about his limit), the flavours that you like, the things you enjoy eating, think are normal, usual, are influenced so much by your upbringing. That’s something I’m realising more and more, especially through what I am writing here, but it was never clearer than last week, when A and I were deciding what to eat for dinner. We settled on roast chicken, and it then seemed obvious that we should have lemon roast chicken with salad. I’m not sure I know that many people who would think the natural thing to have with roast chicken and potatoes is salad. But A and I come from a similar background, Greek fathers, English mothers, and we both (though her much more than I) spent formative parts of our childhoods in Greece. It is the Greek influence that puts salad on our tables.