Well I have been watching the BBC 2 series about Chinese School “Are our are kids tough enough” – despite it’s infuriating editing making it seem a disastrous experience it does illustrate very well the differences between ours and their cultures.
This was also brought home to me following a recent visit of a young 15 year old Singaporean lad who spent two weeks staying with my family for some culinary mentoring.
His very polite and respectful nature for such tender years was refreshing – his eagerness to learn was also commendable – unlike some of the 15 year olds on the TV programme.
It was however the visit we made together to France for an eating and shopping fest that also illustrated to me how different our cultures are with just twenty plus mile of water between us!
We paid visits to some French hypermarkets… he was in awe of the 50 plus checkouts/tills and the range of produce on sale. We then paid a visit to a weekly market in the village of Etaples where the range of fresh seasonal produce was breathtaking. Fresh peaches apricots and nectarines were cheap and great quality alongside an amazing array of fresh tomatoes.
Stalls selling just cheese, fresh fish or one selling a freshly made Paella or another a spit roasted chicken all seemed quite exotic. We had also visited earlier in the week the farmers market in Tonbridge and whilst the produce on show was good the price differentials were eye watering. It seems that twenty plus miles of water has a great deal to answer for.
We also paid a visit to the local fish market after having had a wonderful fish based lunch at Perard in nearby Le Touquet – a hugely popular and busy restaurant that seemed ever popular (it had been many years since my last visit) their infamous fish soup still as good as ever! The range of fish on offer at the Etaples fish market was stunning and so fresh looking – we succumbed to a purchase of three large John Dory at an eye watering forty plus euros. Worth every penny when we the next day filleted them and cooked them for supper.
It all illustrated very well how different our cultures are and respecting this is key to ensuring we appreciate what is on offer. It never ceases to amaze me how we expect to be able to eat an out of season strawberry at Christmas or an asparagus spear imported from thousands of miles away instead of only consuming when in season and more locally sourced.
We should all embrace cultural differences and what they can contribute to our daily lives and not treat them with suspicion or fear…