I am often asked where my passion for food and wine came from and how my interest in it developed and my automatic answer has always been that it started with helping my mother in the kitchen when I was a boy, followed by heading off to university with some of my mother's recipes tucked in my bag. In the late 1970's refectory and cafe food in the UK was nowhere near as good as it can be today so my ability to make a spaghetti bolognese or a risotto made me very popular with my fellow students.
Recently, however, I have had cause to think again about that and realise that my father was a huge influence too. In the last ten years he had little chance to show what he could do in the kitchen as the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis gradually eroded his mobility and eventually forced him into a wheelchair, but actually he was the one that experimented with new and exotic flavours and ever more complicated and grander dishes. My mother cooked during the week and my father cooked at the weekend when he had the time to do so. He travelled extensively with his job and brought back exciting food and wine discoveries which he was keen to pass on to us.
All of this is relevant because my father passed away a month ago. It was an awful year for him. A kidney infection brought him close to death in April. Thereafter he was bed bound and in a lot of pain as his body slowly shut down due to the effects of the MS. He was in and out hospital and all through the Spring and Summer I dreaded a telephone call telling me his condition had worsened again.
It was difficult living in France with my parents on Guernsey with no direct easy route between the two and clients at 42rvh and the kitchen almost every day. The news of his passing away reached me at about 11.30am on the morning of 4th October. I was taking a coffee with Carcassonne Kitchen clients in the Place Carnot in the middle of a buzzy market. No matter how much one is prepared to hear bad news, it's actuality is no less shocking. I don't know how but I managed to hold it together and finish the tour and cooking day with my clients unaware of what had happened - one of the hardest days of my life.
As Christmas approaches, there is a picture that keeps popping into my head. It is probably 1976. We are in the dining room in Guildford around a table laid with the best china and glasses. The hostess trolley is keeping the vegetables warm. My father stands at one end of the table wearing a ridiculous paper hat and holding an orange and white electric carving knife in his hand as he contemplates attacking the huge roast turkey before him. Happy days.
Thank you dad, and goodbye x