By Richard Morley
We all have our rituals. One of mine is to start each Saturday with coffee, toast and Marmite and to listen to either the News Quiz or the Now! Show on BBC radio channel 4. (They alternate.) Both programmes give a satirical slant to British politics. Why should I be interested in British politics when I haven't set foot in the country for five years is a good question, to which the answer is that one can never really escape your home country.
I mean, did you notice the reference to Marmite. In the UK this foodstuff divides the nation. For the uninitiated, it is a dark, salty, almost black, paste made originally from the grunge found at the bottom of brewer's vats. You could almost describe it as industrial waste! And we eat it. No one would ever say, “Well, I sort of like Marmite”. You either love it or hate it. But in the rest of the world that thick, gooey paste is almost universally despised. I remember some French ex-colleagues throw several jars in the trash because they sniffed it and assumed it had gone bad. When we Brits explained it's meant to taste like that the look that passed over their faces was one of relief that they had eventually won the hundred years war, otherwise the perfidious English would be forcing it down their throats as a form of heinous torture. (Much like they do to geese!) My Spanish landlady asked me for a taste once. She's never asked again! It follows then that if you like Marmite you will, probably, be British. The opposite does not apply – it divides the Nation, remember!
All nationalities have their own tastes. US residents in Madrid make this plain with their own store called, openly, “A Taste of America”. Us British tend to be more subtle, so the shop that caters to our food predilections is called, “Things you miss”. This shop sell everything from Frey Bentos Steak and Kidney pies to Sherbet Fountains and Wine gums, Tetley's Teas to Branston Pickle.They don't seem to have updated their website recently, hence the archive link, but you can find the shop in the Calle de Juan de Austria, 11. Nearest Metro is Bilbao.
Spain has a wonderful cuisine. Those of us that live here permanently, as opposed to the ten day holiday-makers on the costas, learn to appreciate and embrace the tastes that the country has to offer, but from time to time it is natural that us guiris want a taste of home. Just last Saturday I was asked if I knew where one could buy porridge. I have no idea as I am not fond of the stuff. Perhaps one of my readers could enlighten us.
But the Spanish are very chauvinistic about their food. For them, all other cuisines are at the least, suspect, and at most, horrible. I have a friend who when visiting Ethiopia, lived on sandwiches and completely missed the delicious, spicy dishes of that country. Another, who while telling me she liked foreign food, back-tracked quickly when I suggested an Indian in Lavapies. And when I first arrived here, just six years ago, a taste of anything British usually came in the form of food parcels sent by concerned relatives.
Parsnips - You can see why one of the assistants in Gold Gourmet calls them "Zanahorias Blancas" or "White carrots".
That, I am happy to relate, has changed, but not by a lot. When I posted last year on Facebook that I had obtained Parsnips I was inundated with requests asking me from where? I have to admit I was of two minds whether to pass on the information. Suppose I went to the shop and found some earlier Brit had cleaned them out – on my advice? The shop, GoldGourmet, (actually shops – in the plural, forming as they do a short high street of their own,) can be found at Calle José Ortega y Gasset, 85. Don't worry about that address – it's the cheap end of JOyG. Not anywhere near the Diors, Jimmy Choos, Burberry etc at the posh end. Nearest Metro is Lista (L4).