I little background first, my love of food and cooking comes from two places, my mum, and my travels.
I left home at the age of 17, I took with me the knowledge and skills I had learnt from my mum and being brought up in a pub and restaurant in Morecambe, I regularly cooked for my housemate and friends, I made fresh soups, casseroles, quiches, pasta dishes, Sunday lunches were second nature to me, the food I grew up with watching and helping my mum making tea most days and hanging around with the chef’s in the pub kitchen.
In the summer of 1988, the year ‘Voodoo Ray’ by A guy called Gerald, my friend Andy always reminds was the year we both joined Princess Cruises as bar stewards, this was the beginning of eight years travelling the world.
We never took anything for granted working on the ships, it was an experience like no other, especially when it came to food, I was quite tactical with my ship choices for each contract as I wanted to see as much as I possibly could in the years I would stay at sea, I managed to cover the Baltics, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean, Black sea, Transatlantic, Caribbean, Panama Canal endless amount of times, South America, Mexico, West coast of America, Hawaii, Alaska also endless amount of times, the entire pacific rim covering China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, to name a few, plus all the islands in between such as Bora Bora before ending my travels at the other side of the world in Australia and finally New Zealand.
I have very little regret in my life, there was no social media back then but had I known then what I know now I would have for sure kept a food journal, for now I just have my memory, a young man from Morecambe on a culinary tour of the world. Who would have known I would be eating borscht and caviar with vodka shots in an underground club on Nevsky Prospect in what was then St Petersburg, freshly made Caesar salads made at the table in Cozumel, handmade pasta in backstreet restaurants in Rome, the most memorable mole poblano in Acapulco, street food from local sellers in Manaus staring out along the Amazon river, dumplings in Odessa, Wagyu beef in Kyoto, fresh salmon in Alaska, banquets of food I couldn’t even name in Beijing, the list at times in my mind is endless.
I finished my cruise ship days in New Zealand, I stayed there for a week and on my return moved home back to Morecambe, it was not long before I moved to what is now my home, Manchester. I shared a flat with my then boyfriend and his friend, I remember them having a few Delia Smith cookbooks which I used often until I bought what was to be the first cookbook that I owned, Nigella Lawson, How to eat, this was 1998, this was the beginnings of my cookbook habit and indeed my pleasurable interest in cooking and all things food related
A few books later and along came Tessa Kiros’s debut book Twelve, into my life and into my heart. This was the first book I had which was more than a cook book of recipes, it was a celebration of time, a story, a memoir set over 12 months in Tuscany, reading it made me feel like I was there, cooking from it made me wish I was there again reminding me of the many visits I had made to Italy on the ships, in particular docking in Livorno and visiting Florence, the penne strascicate my friend Debbie and I ate somewhere near the cathedral on our afternoon off, followed by a pistachio gelato walking around the many streets before our inevitable return back to work. Ragu alla Tosacana from Twelve is still my go to ragu, regardless of how many connotations of ragu further cookbooks provided, it still has my notes on a post it note stuck on that page, must use Italian sausage, works well with the Pinotage from work, use Sainsburys creamed tomatoes as an alternative to passata, don’t skimp on the time to simmer.
The opening page of Twelve, says, “To wanderlust – and the joy that stepping into new territory and finding wonderful things brings”. This pretty much summed up my life on the ships, the moments when I visited a new country and I experienced something new, especially when it involved food.
Along came Falling cloudberries, a world of recipes, in her own words, “these are some of the memories I carry with me from a life in many countries and a family who have loved many kitchens”, pictures, words, memories, recipes from Finland, Greece, Cyprus to name but a few, my family when I worked on the ships were my fellow crew members, together we enjoyed so many meals from so many kitchens all over the world and this is why I simply adore Tessa’s books, they bring out emotions and feelings within me, happiness, sadness, excitement, liberation, gratitude often loneliness, always hunger.
Whether Tessa’s books have taken me to Greece, Portugal, Venice, South Africa, Provence to Pondicherry and many place around and in between I feel like I have travelled with her every step of the way, if I was to ever relive my years on the ships back then into books then Tessa’s books would be mine and for that I thank you Tessa.
So here we are, book number 11, Now & Then, a collection of recipes for always, more memories, more recipes, more pictures, more reflection, more food, more reading with more emotions, we are off again, this time to Italy once again, New Orleans, Mexico, Thailand and many more, I’m off on another cruise, 20 years after the first one, and I’m very much looking forward to it, bon voyage.