We ate a truly international meal the other evening. The main course was confit de canard (a French dish made with the leg of the duck) with hasselback potatoes (Swedish roast potatoes), broccoli and French beans. The duck actually came from France - no, not on its own; I brought it back in a tin - while the potatoes came from Scotland, the French beans from Kenya and, I think, the broccoli from England. Dessert was baked bananas, baked with lemon juice and soft light brown sugar. The bananas came from Colombia, the sugar (I assume) from the West Indies and the lemon juice was 'produced' in Belgium. Yes, that's what it said on the label - although I'm not at all sure how lemon juice can be 'produced' other than by squeezing lemons, which don't grow in Belgium.
Here in the mist-enshrouded, dank area known as England ("this scepter'd isle. This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars. This other Eden, demi-paradise." Shakespeare must have been on the mead when he wrote that.) Here in England, this is the time of year for comfort food. A good, steaming Lancashire hotpot; shepherd's pie; steak and kidney pudding. Food for the gods! One of my favourites is toast and Bovril.
One of the things I like about Bovril - other than its unique taste - is that the bottle in which it is sold has stayed the same shape and colour for as long as I can remember. The label has changed only a little.
I don't know how widely available this very British product is, but there was a scare only last week in Canada when it was reported that Bovril, Marmite and other British foods were banned because of some of their ingredients which are not allowed in that country. A later story tells that these products are allowed in Canada, provided they are made to a Canadian specification. I have to wonder what the changes in the ingredients do to the taste of the products.
And how to describe the taste of Bovril? Well, that's quite a tricky one. Bovril is essentially a beef extract with yeast and has been made in England since the 1880s. It does have a salty flavour, but I'm not at all sure that I really want to look at the list of ingredients which probably include a whole lot of chemicals.
Bovril is not only scrumptious on toast, but it also makes a very tasty hot drink. Just a good teaspoonful in a cup of boiling water is all it takes.
And while we are on the subject of peculiarly British foods (such as Gentleman's Relish) I was astonished to read this week that Marmite Easter eggs are to be sold this year. Now that really does sound disgusting!