It was a chunk of feta that made me realise that sometimes we can be a bit hard on the British.
I’m lucky that I can get feta in my local supermarket, especially as it’s exactly the same brand that’s on sale in Greece. That was until recently. It looks as though the real feta has been replaced by two pale imitations; one Danish, one German. This provoked a diatribe about why on earth I’d want to eat German, or Danish feta; feta is Greek, simple as that; its flavours come from herds of goats wandering through olive and lemon groves munching on rosemary, thyme and oregano and, as far as I’m aware, neither Germany nor Denmark are renowned for their olive groves ergo their so-called feta tastes nothing like feta.
So why am I subjected to inferior feta? I can only reach one conclusion, that some German and/or Danish residents in the area have requested brands that they’re familiar with (of course I could be way off base here).
The British are always accused of being conservative in their culinary tastes and I’ve been as guilty as everyone else of bemoaning the fact that when some Brits go abroad, they still expect to eat British food. I’ve always assumed this is a trait that we Brits alone are guilty of, but I’ve realised recently that it’s simply not true. German bars are full of Germans; Scandinavian bars are full of Scandinavians.
The other week a Finnish friend was complaining that most of the Scandinavians who came into the bar where she worked were only interested in eating gravadlax and rollmop herring;
“They’re in another country, for God sake,” she exclaimed. “Why don’t they try some local food?”
When I was learning Spanish at the Cervantes Institute in Manchester, the Spanish tutors would take us to an atmospheric little Spanish restaurant, El Rincón. Guess what nationality most of the patrons were – Spanish. Not once did we look down our noses at them and make comments about the Spanish only wanting to eat the same food as they did in their own country, quite the opposite, we thought they were exotic and cool.
Recently I was in Poco Loco, a great Mexican restaurant, and was amazed to hear a Spanish couple ask the waiter what chili con carne was; chili – a meal that has been a staple British pub meal for decades.
Here, on Tenerife, every village has two or three restaurants, but outside of the main towns, nearly every one of these serves traditional Canarian food. Great when you’re on holiday and want to try another culture’s cuisine, but think of it this way. What if every town in Britain only had restaurants serving British food? It hardly demonstrates an adventurous culinary nature does it? And that’s the point; the British aren’t that different from everyone else; every nationality has its share of people who only want to eat the food that they’re familiar with. In the end we are, after all, the same animal.