19 April 2012

Culinary Rivalries

Many a food war has been won and lost in the name of gustatory glory throughout the years of our culinary history.  Here are some of the foodie battles that still simmer today.


Ahh, truffles, the earthy delicacy, beloved of foodies all over the globe, who’ll break the piggy bank for a sheer nibble of this wild fungi. Speaking of piggies, it takes the keen nose of these beautiful animals to sniff out these valuable morsels and dig them up for our extravagant consumption. The astronomical prices they can fetch, thousands of euros per kilo, make them a prime target for thieves and spark many rivalries as competing trufflers try to crush the opposition. The white truffle is native to northern Italy, while the black truffle is primarily found in the southern part of France. Both varieties are highly esteemed and truffle rivalries abound throughout each country. The 18th century gastronome Brillat-Savarin called them ‘the diamond of the kitchen.’


The Lebanese and Israeli hummus fight is about more than just seeing which country can make the largest serving of this chick-pea based delicacy, it’s about culinary glory and the pride of a nation. Both the Lebanese and Israelis claim hummus as a national dish and the battle between the two has been well documented throughout the globe. Lebanon claimed the latest victory in the culinary bought with some 300 chefs creating a huge 10-tonne vat of hummus in Fanar to take the guinness world record.


In the UK the mighty fry up is the breakfast of kings, we love it so much that we created an ‘all-day’ version, freeing this meal from the shackles of the morning hours. W. Somerset Maugham did say, ‘To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.’ Hot buttery toast, eggs sunny side up, crispy bacon, a fat plump sausage, mushrooms, baked beans and a good liberal dollop of ketchup if you’re partial to it. All washed down with a cup of tea, this is the quintessential English Breakfast. But on the continent they do it a little differently, they don’t consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day, they nibble on croissants, bread rolls and pastries with butter, jam/marmalade and tea or coffee. Who can say which is the superior breakfast?


Quintessentially english cream teaClotted cream, then jam, or jam then clotted cream? This question, though it may seem quite banal, has been at the fore front of the Devon vs Cornwall quibble over the correct way to assemble the most quintessential of British culinary escapades, the cream tea, for decades. Devon argue that it is cream first, then jam, while Cornwall vie for jam first, then cream, condemning the Devon method as nigh on sacrilege. This is a creamy, calorific war that is likely to go on forever. We think jam, cream, whatever, if they’re both spread in between a fluffy scone, everyone’s a winner baby.


The history of French fries fuels the long-lasting rivalry between France and Belgium. Lots of Belgian people claim that the potato was first fried in the late 1700’s in the region of Wallonie, where the people traditionally ate small fried fish, but were forced to turn to other food when the rivers froze in the winter. French people claim that the fried potato was invented by Parisien cooks under the bridges that span the Seine river.  This is a culinary rivalry that will no doubt never be resolved.


Take another Pinch...