“Memories of Oxford Food Symposia” – how does one disentangle them? Even though I have only attended two symposia, it feels like twenty because of the richness of the environment, both in terms of ideas and in terms of people. Others will have memories of ideas shared and friendships made. I also have such memories, but my two primary memories are of panic.
The first panic was when I arrived with champagne jelly as my contribution to the Saturday lunch, but with the ice in my cold box running low. I was very proud of this jelly, which was made from undiluted champagne by what was then my secret process to preserve the fizz (Heston Blumenthal has since published the recipe in his Guardian column). The jelly was a success, but the real success was in finding a surreptitious means of access to the college refrigerators. Unfortunately, this is one secret process that cannot yet safely be divulged.
My second memory of panic concerns the talk that I gave with Fritz Blank on the best way to serve and eat smoked salmon. Fritz came to England early from the USA, and together we spent three days in my Wiltshire kitchen planning the talk and preparing the materials. Then it was on to the “The Fat Duck” for a premature celebratory lunch before proceeding to Oxford. Only when we had reached the seventh or eighth course did either of us think to enquire whether the other had put the smoked salmon in the car. The rest of the day took on the character of a Mack Sennett movie as we raced from Heston Blumenthal’s supplier in Bray to Le Manoir at Great Milton until we were finally able to obtain a replacement supply with the help of Le Petit Blanc in Oxford. At no stage, you might note, did it even occur to us to buy our salmon from a supermarket.
The Symposium participants seemed to enjoy their salmon, bought at such nerve-racking cost, but being of the very highest quality. Which is rather like the Symposium itself, when one comes to think of it – long may it continue.
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