It's been a little while since my last Wednesday Forum.
This week's column in the Armidale Express (it will come up next week) is on New England food. In this case not the broader New England, but the New England, the Northern Tablelands. The the is always added, in part to distinguish the Tablelands from the broader new state New England.
The post was triggered in part by Sophie Masson's The best French-style cheese outside of France, a hymn of praise for Tasmanian food. There Sophie said in part:
But what was also an unexpected revelation was the discovery of just how much good food there was in Tasmania, and how they've already developed a real regional sense of produce, much more than anywhere else in Australia. Tasmanians are actually developing that real understanding of 'terroir' which to my mind is what so characterises French food and makes it so exciting and distinctive and authentic. Even though it is something that is slowly growing in the rest of Australia, I think Tasmanians are way ahead when it comes to that, perhaps because of the very compactness of the state, they are much better able to co-ordinate efforts, so that from well set up farmgate sales to markets to specialist shops, you can try all kinds of regional specialities, from excellent charcuterie to gorgeous seafood, home-smoked fish and farm-fresh oysters to organic ciders and the best cheese outside of France.
The post made me say, well, what about New England? Now there is a problem here.
In my column I wrote of the foods that I had known as a child, all heavily influenced by local availability. This was cold climate food, very different from that found on the coast.
Since then, two things have happened.
Older dishes have dropped out of favour, replaced by new trends - that misnomer modern Australian cuisine effectively summarises the trend. This has created uniformity.
The second and more positive trend is the spread of new and speciality foods across New England. An example is pasta based on Western Slopes speciality wheat. Another is the spread of olive trees to the point that the phrase feral olive has entered the Australian vocabulary. I actually love the idea of a feral olive tree - it's sort of a base for a bad horror movie! While this trend is positive, it's yet to knit together into anything coherent on a regional basis.
I don't think that you can have a broad New England cuisine, the place is much to varied. But the different regions within New England do, had, their own varieties.
All this got me thinking and made me ask the question that is the topic of this forum, what is your favourite food?
You needn't answer with broader New England specific examples, although I would love some of those for that we help me flesh out my thinking on New England food. I just think that it's a nice topic.