Posted by whensummercomes on May 23rd, 2016
In our first blog, we contemplated the wonderful sensations evoked by summer. On a similar note, one of the rare benefits of getting older is the rich neural database of songs which do much the same thing. Decades later, they are still connected to our memory and indelibly linked to people, places and seasons. Think about the music that meant something to you – for whatever reason, as far back as you can remember. For me, this is ‘theatre of the mind’ on a grand scale and far better than a time machine.
A long time ago, when I was a kid, British rock band Mungo Jerry released ‘In the Summertime’. Remember that one? This bango-jangling, foot stomping ditty was all over the radio and went on to become a number 1 hit around the world. From Argentina to Sweden, this happy little tune topped the charts with sounds that were great fun and just so ‘summery’.
But it was the catchy, laid-back lyrics that really struck a chord. Complete with grunts and whistles, lead singer Ray Dorset and his gang exhorted us all to ‘have a drink, have a drive, go out and see what you can find’. Life was different then.
Fast forward to the 1980s and Don Henley (vocalist and drummer with The Eagles) released ‘Boys of Summer’. The lyrics were more grown-up, as were we. The lyrics were more about questioning the past (a recurring theme in much of Henley’s work). ‘The summer’s out of reach, empty lake, empty streets…’ No matter, the world was still at our feet.
For me, as an amateur foodie, certain foods have the same ability to call back the past. I can still remember the first time I had mushroom soup, chicken liver pate, risotto and more – the people I was with at the time, the things I was doing. Of course, its not all food. That would be bizarre. I’ve asked numerous people over the years if food affects them in the same way. Their answers have always been vague at best. So, maybe it is just me.
I remember diving off the coast of Mozambique many, many years ago. On the beach was a wooden shack that doubled as a restaurant. No menu, you ate what they had, if you wanted it. It was as simple as that. We ordered chicken peri-peri (better than Nando’s could ever do) and a bottle of red wine. The bottle had no label or identification of any kind. With one or two exceptions over the years, it was the best bottle of red wine I’ve ever enjoyed. Whenever I discover a truly outstanding red, I subconsciously compare it to that unidentified bottle – sitting on a lonely beach at sunset.
Not that long ago, I walked past a delightful French bakery in Lille and chocolate éclairs were on display in the window. Suddenly the dots were joined up again, as clear as runway lights at night, with memories of the first time I tasted a chocolate éclair. I couldn’t resist buying one and sitting on a park bench enjoying this wonderful little pastry with an expresso coffee, watching life pass me by. It was so good I went back and bought another one. Everything tastes better in France.
Time moves on and today Oscar Peterson’s sublime ‘When Summer Comes’ does the same thing. Our alfresco dining has changed as well. From the boisterous abandon of barbecues 30 years ago and enough food to feed an army for a week, it’s a lot smoother now. A bit like the ‘delicate’ bass solo in ‘When Summer Comes’.
Salt marsh lamb, which comes into season about now, marinated with juniper berries and herbs and slow cooked outdoors on a warm sunny day. Fresh organic vegetables and fruit handpicked by the family on some of the wonderful farms we have in the West Midlands. Alfresco dining doesn’t get much better than this. Years from now, I know I will remember these occasions with a great deal of fondness.
But there is one memory lurking in the far distant realms of my subconscious mind I have spent my life trying to rediscover. A sweet my Grandmother bought me when I was about four. It was so lip smackingly gorgeous, so tongue curlingly delicious, so mouth wateringly outstanding, I was rooted to the spot. Sadly, nothing I have tasted over the years even comes close…
PS: June 22nd is world chocolate éclair day. They have a day for just about everything these days, but this one is really important. Don’t forget!