The decline of seasonality in food should be celebrated, not lamented. It's only when you have strawberries all year round that you realise how much can be done with themby Alex Renton / August 1, 2007 / Leave a comment
Foods for all seasons
People who worry about their food—which means just about everyone nowadays—deplore the loss of the seasons. Not just because the production and transport of raspberries in December and asparagus in January are a carbon-pumping sin, but also because we’re upsetting the clock of our own palates, the pleasure of the stately march of the fruits of summer—rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, figs, blackberries, apples—arriving in their right order.
But this is useless nostalgia. We should cheer the year-long abundance of fruits and vegetables, because it is pushing our cooks to have more ideas. Just as countries with a lot of oranges or mangoes expand their cuisine to deal with the bounty, so having too many strawberries has led our cooks to realise there is more to do with them than make summer pudding.
Thus, all summer I’ve been asking friends for new things to do with fruit. The best tip I got was from Francis Bickmore. He’s just been to El Bulli, the Catalan kitchen-laboratory of the inventor of “molecular gastronomy,” Ferran Adrià. Francis sent me a photo of Adrià’s fondant de frambuesas con wasabi y vinagre de frambuesa, which he’d eaten. It shows a single raspberry-shaped object topped with a bright-green speck of green Japanese horseradish, next to a teaspoon of brown-pink liquid, all posed on a sheet of silver foil. It looks like pudding in a smack den. You eat the raspberry fondant in two bites, glugging the spoon of vinegar between them—”an uplifting mainline rush of flavour,” says Francis.
I got a clutch of tales of Heston Blumenthal and others of the “Boo! Got you there!” school of cooking trying weird things with berries and acid. But that is not so very new. Auguste Escoffier marinated strawberries in orange juice and Curaçao, calling them “fraises romanoff”; Jane Grigson wrote in Good Things (1971) of Venice restaurants serving strawberries with lemon juice, while in the Vendôme she found them sprinkled with red wine vinegar. She goes on: “In England, we’ve eaten strawberries in claret for centuries.” On those lines, the chef Simon Hopkinson suggests marinating chopped strawberries in beaujolais and a little triple sec: I have done and it’s good. In Bristol, I found a little café in Clifton, the Rainbow, which mixed strawberries with pimento-stuffed olives, capers and brined peppers. It worked. But there’s not much I found that beats strawberries with a…