Old pal Philip and his partner David are cheesemongers in St Margarets, Southwest London, just across Old Father Thames from Richmond. Their pongy shop is called Yellowwedge Cheese and it’s weathering the recessionary storm remarkably well considering. If you’re in the area pop in and sample their smelly wares. Philip also writes an excellent food blog called What’s for Tea Tonight, Dear?
Yellowwedge was voted best new retailer at the British Cheese Awards 2008, named in The Times Top 10 cheese shops in Britain for 2010 and 2011, and listed in the top 5 cheese shops in Britain in 2011 by lovefood.com. Gongs are good. It’s a great way to raise the profile and earn a wedge. Now they’ve entered their cheese emporium into the Great Exhibition Awards with Greats of Great Britain. They need all the votes they can get so why not do them a small favour?
My Blighty life friend Philip is a treasured old soul and the Imelda Marcos of scarves (the wrap-around-the-turtleneck kind, not the bad hair day kind). He never travels by open top car for fear of being strangled like Isadora Duncan. He and I worked together for donkey’s years. I managed him for a while, though I was always left wondering who really worked for whom. His innate intelligence is beautifully blended with creativity, wit and style – and the ability to drink me under the table. He’s one of two guest bloggers that I actually know in person (Karyn is the other). How sad is that.
Whenever I think of Jack and Liam’s great adventure, and once my envy of their chosen life subsides, I often think of what I’d miss if I were to similarly uproot myself and transplant to pastures new. And being the glutton that I am these thoughts most often turn to food. Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel and a large slice of that affection belongs to the opportunity to try new foods and even whole cuisines. A trip to Cambodia last year for instance was quite an eye opener – from the fragrant markets all the way to the fried tarantulas! But these are usually just holidays, and knowing that my familiar comforts will all be waiting at home makes it all the easier to go native, culinary wise, with gay abandon. I’d be lying if I said I’d never eaten a “full English” on some hot, hung-over morning somewhere round the Med, but if that’s all you can think of when travelling abroad then stay at home with a tin of baked beans, a packet of sausages and a sun ray lamp, I say. Eating what those around you eat, sharing that most basic daily form of what defines a people or an area (i.e. their food!) is the quickest, most accessible and often most enjoyable way of beginning to understand your local culture, however temporary the arrangement.
But for the long-term emigrey (to borrow Jack’s term), however much you immerse yourself in the cauldron of your local cuisine, there must always be tastes of home for which you hanker. For years now It’s been something of a running joke with the Shopkeeper and I that as soon as we buckle our belts on an outbound flight we’ll turn to each other and say “Ooh, I can’t wait to get home and have a decent cup of tea!”. I’m a bit of a fussy tea drinker at the best of times and, after countless (and why always glass?) cups of lukewarm water in which a helpless bestringed bag of Liptons struggles in vain to radiate even the smallest tentacles of its brown beauty, I have entirely given up on drinking tea whilst abroad.
Cheese on toast is my other immediate must have just as soon as I’ve paid the taxi driver from Gatwick or Heathrow enough to replicate the holiday from which I’ve just returned. Having a cheese shop takes care of one principal ingredient, I’ll usually call ahead to make sure we have supplies of the other. And within a week, whatever exciting recipes, ingredients and ideas have come home with me, I will always be found making a roast dinner with all the trimmings.
So I wonder, for those who have taken the plunge, what foods do you miss the most? And how do you manage to fill the voids? Trips to the mother land with an empty suitcase just for food? Insistence that any visitors bring necessary supplies in exchange for board? Or maybe even local supper clubs where you can huddle over the latest import? I’m dying to hear you stories.
A few days ago I posted a tale of two cheese shops. What I shamefully failed to mention is that Yellowwedge Cheese (the shop) and What’s for Tea Tonight, Dear (the blog) are hoping for a gong from the Observer Food Monthly Awards. The shop is owned by David and his partner Philip and caused quite a stink in 2008 by running away with the British Cheese Award for Best New Cheese Retailer. Not bad for a couple of old reprobates.
Philip is a treasured old soul and the Imelda Marcos of scarves (the wrap-around-the-neck kind, not the bad hair day kind). He never travels by open top car for fear of being strangled like Isadora Duncan. He and I worked together for donkey’s years. I managed him for a while though I was always left wondering who really worked for whom. His innate intelligence is beautifully blended with creativity, wit and style, and the ability to drink me under the table.
Philip sent out a begging letter a short while ago. He wrote:
Voting in this year’s Observer Food Monthly Awards is open now and will close on 24 June. There are several categories which might be of interest (you can vote in as many or as few as you like) but I’m shamelessly trawling for votes in the categories:
Best food blog (UK based)
Best independent local retailer
My humble recommendations for your consideration in these categories being:
I’ll leave you to work out which is in which category!
I’d be grateful for any support you’re happy to offer so if you have friends, family, colleagues, schoolmates, children, parents, students, tutors, parishioners, customers, clients, readers, editors, drinking buddies, PAs, personal trainers, hairdressers, naughty bits on the side or anyone else you think may be interested then please feel free to GO VIRAL and forward freely!!!
There are a number of food obsessions that often preoccupy the everyday emigrey life. We’ve attended many a Come Dine with Me soiree where the conversation inevitably turns to bacon, ham, pork chops and cheddar cheese. Visa hops to the Isles of Greece are a regular excuse to stock up on pig products and emigreys return from Blighty with trunk loads of larder essentials. Coming to stay? Bring a few bricks of mature cheddar with you. It’s a precious gift worthy of the Three Wise Men.
The French are amused by our national love affair with cheddar which they consider to be an insipid, mass produced atrocity that doesn’t even have to be made in Somerset and is indicative of our immature palate and dreadful cuisine. This Gallic jeer is not without merit but is hardly very entente cordiale. We all know our continental cousins can be insufferably smug, eat anything that moves and speak English behind our backs.
The British are gradually waking up to the glory of cheese in all of its infinite varieties. Small independent cheese shops and delis have sprung up in recent years spreading the word and the pong to the masses. It’s a noble, if smelly, cause that deserves to be supported, particularly during these days of austerity.
Old pal Philip and his partner David own a cheese shop in St Margarets, across the Thames from Richmond in Southwest London. It’s called Yellowwedge Cheese and it’s weathering the recessionary storm remarkably well considering. If you’re in the area pop in and sample their goodies. Philip also writes a food blog called What’s for Tea Tonight, Dear? Liam tried his southern fried chicken recipe and it was finger lickin’ good.
I trudged across half of old London Town to take tea with Philip. He and his partner, David, run a fancy fromage shop in Twickenham which is doing brisk business judging by the brigade of chattering class Guardian readers queuing around the block. Unfortunately, they just missed out on the EU contract to supply Parmigiano Reggiano to the Irish needy. I managed to extract Philip from the pong for an all too brief catch up.
Philip writes a fabulous foody blog called ‘What’s for tea tonight, dear’ which is a beautifully crafted, chatty read full of mouth-watering recipes. His innate intelligence is beautifully blended with creativity, wit and style. All this pales into insignificance when compared to his astonishing ability to drink me under the table.
The European Union’s plans to distribute cheddar to the needy of the Irish Republic in the run up to Christmas must be causing a stink. It’s gratifying to know the poor children of the Emerald Isle will not go to bed hungry. Would you like pickle with that? You couldn’t make it up.