So I have been a deli owner for just four weeks now, but a cook and food lover for forty years.
It is such a pleasure to talk with customers about ingredients, what they are cooking and more about life, family and the future and yes, even the B word. For me food has always been about touching, tasting and knowing – whether it’s British, organic or European – where did it come from? Provenance is so important. Where food is produced, by what means and of course how it tastes, is fundamental to the pleasure of cooking, sharing and eating.
Contra to the supermarkets’ over-packaged offerings and a marketing executive’s dream together with some pointy-shoed graduates who wouldn’t know the difference between pesto and a porcupine, food is something to touch, feel and discover. We should celebrate where food is from: its regional identity and heritage, traditional methods and special status earned through hundreds of years of family tradition. The UK is not alone in the supermarkets’ quest to dictate to us what food should taste like, as factories across countries pump out bland, over-engineered ideas. How many variations of pesto can we have? I thought basil, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil was great, just as it is.
And the B word of course. It worries me. We import Tanche olives from Vignolis, a producer co-operative in the south of France. Our relationship is special. We have been to the co-operative. The olives are superb, the partnership with de la Torre’s has been developed over time and our customers just love being able to enjoy something so distinctive. These small supply chain relationships are fragile but none the less important as we seek to build longstanding relationships with quality trusted producers.
In a world where the microwave is king and scratch cooking involves peeling back yet another cellophane wrapper, what will become of the skill of cooking, the pleasure of talking about food, and will the enjoyment be lost? I do hope not and if we all buy local and ask questions, then perhaps definitely not!
Meanwhile back in the Drôme Provençale, Tanche growers await the first frosts which cause the olive skins to wrinkle and then it is time to harvest this exquisite fruit…this is food!