I was in Bill's looking at those shelves of wonderful cooking ingredients and wondering what exactly it is you are supposed to do with wet tamarind. Lewes is awash with exciting things to cook with. When I grew up in 1970s semi-rural Newbury, there weren’t many exotic ingredients to be found on the aisles of Liptons. Plenty of Brains Faggots, Frey-Bentos Pies ‘no pieces of fat or gristle guaranteed’ (why would you want to make people think of that when they looked at your food product?), packets of Smash and tins of processed peas. My mum’s family considered her cooking pretty extreme because she used garlic.
So when I met a lad whose family had an entire greenhouse dedicated to growing basil, my culinary life changed forever. His first gift to me was a garlic crusher. He arrived at a party once with all the ingredients for a fresh Pina Colada and a blender and proceeded to make me a glass in one of the bedrooms. It was an unconventional courtship, but very effective. I became Pavlov’s dog, salivating at the thought of what food he would give me at our next meeting. I remember asking him how you should eat a mango (I’d never even seen one). He told me to take all my clothes off and stand in the bath with a sharp knife. I should slice it open, he said, and gobble the flesh. Then I could rinse all the juice off. Nigella and food porn? Not a patch on this. Maybe it’s a shame all these ingredients are so easy to get hold of these days.