Life: Hormones, Hastings and a Mythical Duck

Food is a glorious thing, and not only to Dickensian orphans.  After a mini break to warmer climes last week, with permanent access to a lavish buffet 3 times a day for 5 days, the one thing I don’t want to focus on, in the run up to an indulgent Easter weekend at my sister’s, is food.

I’ve still not shifted the half a stone I put on over Christmas and we are now in March. Hormones or mince pies, one of them is to blame for the subtle snugness I’m starting to feel when I put on my comfy knickers. I feel virtuous writing this whilst sitting on the train sipping a black coffee with added coconut oil, but I do have a suitcase full of fizz, chocolates and hot cross buns at my feet, and it won’t take long for them to relocate to my belly.

One of my clients this week is a proper foodie, a pioneer of vegetarian food in the UK and the most incredible chef.  It doesn’t take us long to get past the pleasantries and straight onto food. The main topic of discussion, the curry supper menu I’d devised to cook for Big Sis and my brother-in-law on Saturday night. Easter being what it is, mainly lamb, cake and chocolate, I wanted to make something cleansing and light, see above reference to elusive weight loss.

Proper Foodie loves a curry and put the seal of approval on my cauliflower pakoras and coconut dal combo and suggested I throw in a few Ajwain seeds. New to me and deliciously aniseedy, they also had a familiarity about them, I couldn’t put my finger on it until the Proper Foodie said Bombay Duck! OMG! Yes! Bombay Duck!

I was swept back to Hastings and the mid-1970’s to a curry lunch. Every year Doreen and Ivor Jacobs opened up their home to the expat friends they had shared many years within the desert of Aden – now known as Yemen – and my parents were two of those friends. I remember a huge long table weighed down with silver tureens of curry and big glass bowls of rice. Trays of pickles and chutneys lined up alongside the pile of mismatched cutlery and paper serviettes, and at the end of the line a plate of Bombay Duck.

As well as being overwhelmed by the smells and the quantity of food on offer, I was never quite able to get my head round the fact that Bombay Duck was a fish, not a bird. Were they just trying to mess with my mind?? The taste was not unpleasant, salty and slightly pork like, with the texture of a soft twig. After a long day of eating and listening to adult conversation, mainly about who hadn’t turned up that year because they had died, there was the car journey home and the payback for inhaling the curry buffet, throwing up into a Sainsbury’s carrier bag in the back of my dad’s Toyota.

The mythical ingredient that is Bombay Duck was, for many years, a banned substance under EU Law. Not because it got you high, but because it stunk, and the traditional method of preparation, drying it in the sun on the beaches of Mumbai was deemed unsanitary. But one man, David Delaney from Hereford, took on the EU commission single handed and got the ban lifted.

Once again curry lovers in the UK are permitted to crumble this pungent delicacy all over the curry of their choice. No longer classed as contraband, there is no need to smuggle it into the country after a trip to the sub-continent and thanks to David Delaney, one less reason to #Brexit?

This article appeared in The Huffington Post

Follow: