Friday, 13 April 2007

So What Do We Eat The Other Three Days Of The Week?

A couple of weeks ago came the shock news that Brits cook just four different meals over and over again. This is one of them, being cooked by my dad the other night. Do you know what it is yet? I'll give you a clue. He still likes to cook retro dishes in-between his attempts at haute cuisine.

Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble

These four "comfort meals" are roast beef (go on you French, laugh your heads off), stir-fry (that surprised you, didn't it?), shepherds pie (which we make with beef, because we think shepherds look after cattle for a living) and... (drum roll)... this...

Great, traditional, British spag bol

...or something like it.

Not a great deal of resemblance to any ragù Bolognese that ever came out of an Italian mamma's kitchen in Emilia-Romagna. For starters, dad served his sauce with spaghetti, which most British cooks do, but which those in the know would consider culinary blasphemy. If you've been paying attention, you will know which pasta should it be served with by now.

No sign of Parmigiano Reggiano (not because dad's a ragù Bolognese purist, but because he doesn't like it). But knowing dad, I'm sure he would have added some of that well-known Italian herb mixture, herbes de Provence. And, worst crime of all, not only did he fail to start with a traditional soffritto, he also added garlic. I don't care what 10,000 hyperlinks on the internet say, there's no garlic and no herbs in ragù Bolognese, not even Italian ones.

So there was not much in this "classic dish" that one could call either Italian or authentic. But it was, in a funny sort of way, really quite nice. British comfort food at its very best.


Richard said...

Tee hee - so what does your Dad's taste like?

I personally have a 'thing' about all the other additions - diced carrot, peppers, bacon... anything else you can find in the fridge.
My recipe is very similar to Carlucio's (probably came via him in the first place, but I've been cooking it so long I can't remember) with I'm afraid the addition of garlic. And parmesan when serving. Sorry :(

Interestingly, if everyone's already cooking it, who are the people who search for it online? It's my most visited recipe on my blog site by a country mile...

Trig said...

That's a very good question, Richard. It sounds like we are a nation of bears of very little taste and of very little memory.

Interestingly, I talked to my local Italian deli owner this afternoon. Being from Tuscany, he laughed at the strange people from Emilia Romagna as if they were Martians, rather than from just next-door. "How can you eat Bolognese without garlic and parmesan?" he asked. And then the worst bit of all: "I like mine with spaghetti". So there. That shut me up alright.

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say good luck for the future

ros said...

Right, I just read the Independent article you linked to and I'm detecting another case of severely dodgy survey questions.

It sounds like they're judging people's culinary ability by how many meals they cook regularly. That possibly puts me in the category of the 'worst offenders' since there's nothing I cook regularly.

Trig said...

I was hoping I'd get some debate going with this one, but I wasn't expecting to hook you, Ros.

I was just having a bit of fun with this post. You know that I'm far from being a food purist - it would be very hard for me as I never cook from recipes! You make a spag bol with wine, garlic and herbs and invite me round and I'll eat it. Better still, I'll help you photograph it and write up a new recipe to replace the one you lost.

Trig said...

Anonymous - thank you.

Joanne said...

Sorry if this is changing the subject a little but I love roast beef.

I have heard that there is some way to baste joints using an 'injection' technique and I can find injector basters, like this one:

But how exactly do you do it, when, where, how?

ros said...

Darned interent and its potential for misinterpretation! That'll teach me to not read though my comments before posting.

No way was I accusing YOU of being a food purist, Trig! I know you're really open minded about food in the best way. I just happen to be sharing a flat with a semi-Italian at the moment and he tends to go off on one whenever pasta and any kind of meat sauce are being cooked simultaneously. It has become one of this year's pet hates so I vented a bit on my first comment- definitely NOT aimed at you.

Also that last sentence on my first comment wasn't supposed to sound angry at all... I just meant to point out common experience with Richard.

Whoops, sorry, hope that cleared that up! I should know better than to write comments as I'm on the way out the door!

ros said...

In order to make myself look like less of a pillock, I deleted that firt comment of mine and now I can write what I actually meant to say.

I have a semi-Italian flatmate who can be a damn nuisance because he's a bit of purist. If any meat sauce is being cooked at the same time as pasta, there'll be an uproar because it isn't the same sauce his great grandmother cooked in Tuscany 100 years ago.

His attitude really irks me. Frankly, I don't care whether I'm cooking a bolognese or not. I know I'm cooking a dish I've tried tested and liked and bugger him if he thinks his grandad wouldn't approve. Unfotunately I encounter too many people like that.

And to Richard - I also think it's weird that people will choose to visit a really mundane recipe when you do so much exciting stuff on your blog. My spag bol recipe was my most popular one until a hard drive crash erased it. I actually never put it back because I didn't feel that was what my site was about. Sadly, my most popular Google search is still 'beef mince recipes.'

Trig said...

Relax, Ros. I bet your Bolognese tasted great and my offer to come over one day and help you make another one still stands.

Anonymous said...

My bolognase i make with diced carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Oh and i prefer it with linguine. i will go and hide in a corner now ;-)

Trig said...

Actually I prefer mine with farfalle or orecchiette. So you can come out from the corner now.

Jeanne said...

How funny! I do think that although as a nation the Brits are buying more foodie mags and watching more foodie TV, cooking habits in the majority of the population have remained less adventurous. And although all surveys are by potentially subjective and dodgy, I do think there is some truth in the idea that most people tend to find a few dishes and make them endlessly. Part of this is lack of a culinarily adventurous spirit, part of it is lack of time, part of it is the fact that for some people, cooking is neither relaxing nor creative - it's merely a way of keeping the body going. It's very easy to forget here in the foodie blogosphere that there are in fact people who do not know what fleur de sel is, cannot throw together an experimental new recipe for muffins and do not view cooking as a leisure activity!

That said, I am generally not in favour of foodie purists. My "bolognese" sauce usually has garlic, red wine and rosemary in it - and sometimes also bacon and (gasp) mushrooms! It depends what's in the fridge and what I feel like - I'm not trying to recreate an authentic Italian recipe, more like a riff on one. But having said that, when people put e.g. goat's cheese or bacon in a salad and call it a Caesar salad, it makes my break out in hives. Go figure... ;-)

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