That’s good. It demonstrates a growing confidence. Looking back has – arguably – helped build a new foodie future. All too evidently, other countries don’t have that luxury. War-torn Syria, for example, finds its great and ancient food culture shattered as its people flee and disperse to safety in other countries around the globe.
But two young women have seen to it that all is not lost. Syrian-born Itab Azzam, a London-based film-maker and theatre producer, has joined forces with Dina Mousawi, a British-Iraqi actor who grew up in Baghdad and fled during the Iraq war, to produce a collection of recipes given to them by Syrian women now living in tents, bedsits and on the street, and those now living in the UK who have developed an intensifying yearning for the food from home. The authors spent months with these women cooking with them, learning their recipes and listening to stories from home, and in the process re-learned their own culinary roots.(Continues below photograph...)
And so we read about the bedrocks of Syrian cuisine. Tahini, pomegranate, flatbreads, cumin, red lentils. Omelettes seasoned with Aleppo pepper; freekeh, labneh, smoked rice, grape molasses, sugar and caffeine. About flavour and smell and colour and community.
These women’s food memories aren’t from the far and distant past, as Scotland’s may be; they’re actual and under serious threat for reasons other than our own infamous (if fading) cultural cringe. Which only heightens the power of food to comfort, unite and strengthen.
* This column first appeared in The Herald (heraldscotland.com)