There’s something exciting happening in the world food aisles. However much we Brits might have disagreed with each other in recent months about the ideal nature of our relationships with the EU and other countries, we are united in our feelings regarding the desirability of exploring and enjoying foods from these places.
Our appreciation of food from around the world has been widening since the 1950s, of course, but these days there’s seemingly no limit to the scope of what will sell in grocery stores’ world food aisles, and no end to the stream of new products coming into the UK from different places.
Partly it’s down to tourism, with cheap jet travel opening up remoter parts of the world as holiday destinations and brave Brits discovering new tastes along the way. Partly it’s down to the movement of people in the other direction, coming here to work and bringing their cuisines with them, and then importing the foods and ingredients needed to make it. And partly it’s down to our celebrity chefs, who have been boldly embracing interesting and unusual flavours in their recipes over the decades.
As we went to press, we were in the middle of the UEFA Euro 2016 tournament. Love the beautiful game or hate it, there’s an intimate bond in the British psyche, particularly the male one, between football and beer and curry. The pop anthem ‘Vindaloo, vindaloo, vindaloo’ celebrated it back in the 1990s. In the nigh on 20 years since Fat Les was in the charts, it’s been well documented how Indian is established as Britain’s favourite cuisine, surpassing our beloved takeaway treat, Chinese.
One aspect of our enduring love of curry at all levels of society is that it has fired up our taste buds about food generally and made us crave hotter and hotter tastes, whether it’s West Indian pepper sauce, Mexican salsas and enchiladas or, closer to home, piri piri from Portugal.
World food is in a perpetual state of flux, as different cultures and cuisines collide around the globe and inspire new dishes.
According to the informative Chilli World web site, with its tantalising promise of ‘From mild to wild,’ it was probably the Portuguese who introduced the chilli pepper as we know it to Europe and the Far East, sparking a major world food trend that is still continuing. They were probably also the first to use peppers to create a hot sauce. As popularised here in recent years by Nando’s, in Chili World’s words piri-piri may not be hot by today’s standards, but nevertheless it is the original, proving what goes around comes around. Like the world itself.