One of those drinks that you either love or loathe. Or love despite the one-dimensional aniseed taste, because it reminds you of Parisian bars and the prospect of a fine meal. Or because it turns intriguing cloudy when you add ice or water, thereby turning l’heure apéro into a kind of chemical experiment.
Starter: Potato Soup
The first time I ever left England was when as teenagers a friend and I hitch-hiked to Provence. Actually we got fed up with hitch-hiking by the time we got to Paris and caught the overnight train to Marseilles instead. From there we resumed hitching to Arles, and booked into a lovely little hotel where Madame served soup on the first evening. This meal is branded into my memory for two reasons: (a) it was served outside in a warm flower-garlanded courtyard, which seemed delightful and exotic, and so unlike a Yorkshire pub garden; (b) the soup was made of potatoes, and was delicious. It had never occurred to me that you could make soup from spuds. How provincial I was.
Main Course: Tripe and Onions
Mum would make this when I was young, and I consumed it eagerly. It was tender and fragrant. Only in later years did I discover that it had comic dimensions, being referred to by southerners as a kind of joke northern meal, and being made from a cow’s stomach lining, which was meant to render it repulsive, rather like sheeps’ eyes and brains. Cravenly, I allowed this prejudice to put me off tripe – though I also put myself off it when, in a fit of nostalgia for East Yorkshire when living in Canada, I tried to cook it for myself and produced (at the end of many man hours) a kind of frilly pale leathery substance, totally inedible.
Dessert: Apple pie with cream and Burgess’s ice cream.
Homage to Mum again. Nice light crust with a little crunch of sugar, just-flowing syrupy Bramley apple filling, cream dribbling over the top, and a scoop of Burgess’s Ice Cream, available only in Beverley, East Yorkshire, made to a secret recipe there by the Burgess family and acknowledged by every single inhabitant of that town of 15,000 souls to be the best in the world. The first time my wife-to-be Jill visited us and blinked at the addition of cream and ice-cream, we couldn’t understand her amusement. Didn’t everyone have this triple combination?
A waft of fermenting apples, redolent of a Norman farmhouse, with an illicit still in the back of the barn.