Thursday, 19 July 2012

Oxford Sunday

Sunday dawned wet and dreary and after a substantial full English breakfast we were treated to a talk by Barbara Santich about Aboriginal cooking in Australia.  The native Australians wrapped fish in banana leaves or paper bark, covered with thick mud and then baked on hot stones.  Wallabies were killed and gutted and hot stones placed inside to cook from inside as well as being wrapped and cooked from the outside.  The British felt they had a duty to "improve" the life of the Aboriginals and replaced the paper bark and mud with cooking pots.  Paper bark was also used to make canoes.

The next item consisted of the unveiling of a Joselito Iberico ham which was placed on a special carving stand, different knives were shown us - a boning knife for working around the bone as the ham diminishes and a flexible thin ham knife for carving slices.  The best way to carve is upwards from the foot towards the bone and it requires a lot of practice to become an expert.  The ham we watched (and later ate) was taken from a pig born in 2006 in Extramadura and had been fed solely on acorns and chestnuts.  The pigs' teeth have separated during evolution and they manage to eat the nuts and expel the husks through the gaps.  Our pig had been slaughtered in 2008 and hung at Salamanca for four years in the air, the first year in a dark cellar to enable the flora to develop.  The flavour was superb.

After coffee there was a round the table discussion on The Art of Table between Theodore Zeldin,  Elisabeth Luard, Claudia Roden and Paul Levy.   Some of the points made give much thought for the future; conversation is the art of life; we never know what is going on in someone else's head; food is a form of communication; empathy comes when food is shared; twitter and facebook have taken over and many people no longer sit at tables. 

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