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About A Week: Eating All Over The World

Peter Hinchliffe's appetite spans the globe.

I was reared on good old-fashioned Yorkshire cooking. Roast beef, with carrots and mash. Ham salads, including home-grown lettuce and spring onions. Generously thick apple pies, splathered with golden custard.

And, of course, Yorkshire pud. Served as a first course, with lashings of onion gravy. Served as a pudding, spread with jam. Or, as a delicious novelty, with vinegar and sugar.

My mother would no more have added garlic to her dishes than she would arsenic. She was taught to cook by her mother, who was taught to cook by her mother, who was taught to cook by . . .

Cakes and pies were her speciality. Custard tarts. Angel cakes. Coconut macaroons. Pies containing imaginative combinations of fruit. A paradisical Victoria sandwich, layered with home-made raspberry jam, served with a whipping of cream

Mother's delectable desserts were fit for any king. But if any king sampling them lacked self control, he would have ended up weighing a ton.

There was only one book of cookery instruction in our house. Mrs Beeton's Household Managemen, bought for my parents as a wedding present. It was never consulted. My mother knew that her mother knew better than any Mrs Beeton.

Even if my mother had looked up garlic in Mrs B, she would not have been persuaded to use it. "In Spain, Italy, and other parts of the Continent, garlic is highly esteemed, but unless very sparingly used, the flavour is disagreeable to the palate. Sufficient flavour may be added to any dish or salad by simply rubbing the vessel containing it with half a clove of garlic."

And now I welcome liberal additions of garlic in my food, not to mention hotter spices. I have become an international muncher. Mrs Beeton and my mother would have shuddered at the sight and smell of some of the things I eat.

My introduction to "foreign" food was a Chinese caff in Leeds. When I was young and single, Saturday nights followed a predictable pattern. Two or three pints of Tetleys bitter. All right, if you insist on the truth, four or five pints. Then into Leeds for a Chinese supper at the Hao Wah.

We always ordered curried prawns. "Make 'em hot," we would say, passing ourselves off as experienced eaters, but only demonstrating that we weren't. Demanding a hot Chinese curry is as ridiculous as going to work in Bermuda shorts on a snowy January morning in the West Riding.

My mate Hudson took me the next giant step on the international road of gourmendising. He got a job in Harrogate. One day he phoned me, wildly excited. "Come over here, quick. An Indian restaurant has just opened. It serves genuinely hot curries. Hotter than hot!"

That was my introduction to poppadoms and chapattis. To the fiery flavours of Madras and Vindaloo. A glorious exploration ensued. An investigation into the delights of bhuna, dopiaza, korma, methi...

Since that first fine discovery of Indian cuisine, my taste has become entirely liberated. I've eaten couscous in Tunis. Squid served in its own ink in Hermosillo, Mexico. Roast goat in the deserts of Kenya. Fried rattlesnake in Texas. Birds' nest soup in Hong Kong. Frogs' legs in Montreal. Pigeons coated in icing sugar in Casablanca. And lived to tell the tale.

Now, I am an enthusiast of Italian cooking. I'm a pasta fanatic. One glance at the menu of a good Italian restaurant is sufficient to set the juices flowing. I have here before me one from Huddersfield's Alia Scala restaurant.

Tortellini alia Panna ring-shaped pasta filled with meat, parma ham, cheese, cooked
with cream, white wine, nutmeg and black pepper.
Tagliatelle del Povero noodles cooked with smoked salmon and fresh cream.
Penne alia Gorgonzola . . .

What treats!

For me, the Italians are the monarchs of the table - top of the culinary tree. What a marvelous bonus that medical experts now assure us that pasta dishes are the best of healthy eating.

I've chewed my way round the world, but that doesn't mean I no longer relish honest-to-goodness English food. Fish-and-chips, pork pie and mushy peas... But the world is now my oyster. Also my lobster, shark, skate, herring, red snapper, swordfish...and much more besides.

I still possess my mother's copy of Mrs Beeton's Household Management. It sits on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in our dining room. Often, while eating a garlic-ladened takeaway, I glance up at the book's broad, red-leather spine.

Then I grin. Pat my tum. And continue to tuck in right heartily.

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