Passover food as depicted on the Passover seder plate

Food memories. They’re possibly the most powerful memories we have. There’s some science behind it – our perception of food is primarily streamed through our nasal olfactory system, a region of the brain closely associated with long-term memory. But beyond the biology, food memories form such a large part of our own life story, they cannot help but evoke a potent sense of longing and reminiscence. The weekend roast. Our first sip of wine. School pudding. (I didn’t say all memories had to be good, mind you!)

When we recollect a food memory, we are remembering a time in our lives that food made meaningful. Alternatively, food memories may emerge because of their association with a particular person, place or time. However they became, whatever their provenance, they’re then woven into our tapestry of experience and assimilated into our own life story. And there they remain, little nuggets that we stumble upon again and again.

For me, my fondest and most indelible food memories relate to the week-long Jewish festival of Passover. There’s a myriad of reasons for me why Passover food elicits such an emotive reaction, all of which inter-connect like an intricate dance. View Post

Tonga, where I visited back in 1999 as a keen-eyed medical student, has roasted pig as a delicacy.

The year was 1773; Captain Cook, the esteemed explorer of yore, stepped ashore the fabled island of Lifuka in Tonga. So enamoured was he with the locals and their exuberant entertainments, copious feasting and general revelry – the like of which he’d ne’er seen before back in Blighty – that he graciously bestowed on them the title ‘Friendly Islanders’.

Somewhat ironic – for his hosts were actually planning to chop him into bite-sized portions and serve him up as pre-dinner canapés. Luckily for Cook, the scheme foundered when they couldn’t agree on the finer details, such as whether Englishmen go well with ketchup, or whether they’re best served as a small-plates sharing concept.

Nevertheless, the term ‘Friendly Islanders’ has stuck forevermore. And indeed, it’s been gratuitously appropriated by the most unlikely local services (like Friendly Islander Vasectomies – ‘we snip with a smile..’) But despite their panache for canny marketing slogans, underneath lies an irrefutable generosity, something I increasingly discovered during my med-student placement on these fair isles. View Post

Yom Kippur is a Jewish fast day, and so there is no dish for the road today!

Well today’s dish for the road is.. nothing. Nowt. Nicht. Nada. The big zero. An empty vacuum. An event horizon. Infinity minus itself. There’s no cronut, hopper, or shakshuka to review. No flavour, aroma, or presentation to report. The ‘score out-of-10’ is not even nought: there is no score out-of-10. For on Wednesday is Yom Kippur, a Jewish fast day, when one reflects on the past year and atones for all the bad stuff.  View Post

Kricket, where the diverse ingredients in this thoran has me reflecting on diversity more generally.

Religion. Do I go there? What is to gain? What could I lose? And yet here I am. And here beside me is the territory of ritual, history and God. And here’s me stepping into it..

I think most of us have our stories of religion. Whether we grew up with it or not. Whether it was found or it was lost. Mine begins in a Jewish family, quite Orthodox in fact, until I discovered I was possibly atheist, but let’s call it agnostic, but always felt connected to Jewish culture if not belief, now living in and raising a mixed-faith family, rewarded by the richness and challenges that brings, living in a city that’s probably the most diverse on earth. I love that my neighbours are also mixed-faith; in fact between our two houses there are four religions, a fifth if you include our other neighbours. In our local neighborhood, there’s a friendly Sikh gurdwara, a serene Buddhist temple, a vibrant synagogue, the oldest mosque in London, churches from myriad denominations, and probably lots more besides.

I’m constantly intrigued by religion. I revel in its rituals, its festivals, its music, its community, and of course the centrality of food. It can transcend the individual, traversing time and space, helping people in their search for meaning. But as for dogma, division, rigidity and intolerance – well, who needs those unfortunate bedfellows… View Post