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  • Tanya Louise

Food: Sicilian oranges and the worlds most endangered foods

Food can conjure up so many memories. 

For example, I can't see a Fray Bentos pie without thinking of caravan holidays as a kid. Waiting hours for the small flame in the oven to heat through the tin.  The smell of it's crisp golden pastry mingling in the sea air with that of wet sand on a flip flop. Parents desperately trying to open a tin of potatoes with the customary blunt tin opener.

Maybe you reminisce about things you had that are no longer around, like Toffoes or fruit polos. As part of the Food for Thought weekend at the School of Artisan Food, Journalist and broadcaster, Dan Saladino talked about the world's most 'endangered foods'.

Dan,who produces the BBC Radio 4 Food Program, spoke first about Sicilian oranges which played an important part in his childhood. 

The Food Program was originally presented by Derek Cooper. They were initially given six episodes, which went down so well with audiences that more were commissioned.  At the time the producers wondered what more there was to say  about food. Ironic now considering the nations love of food programs. 

The series, A taste of Britain talked about food items disappearing.

Dan revisited Yorkshire food traditions which were captured on film in 1974 by Derek. From Yorkshire puddings to tripe, Dan discovered how the food from this region was formed by the Industrial Revolution, hard labour and fuel.

He is not alone in his search for forgotten food. Minwel Tibbott also went into people’s homes and encouraged them to talk about what their parents / grandparents had cooked. 

Dan went on to develope the arc of taste. A catalogue of endangered food - what it taste like, its history, and why we care. There was something about flavours and disappearing skills that interested him.

He spent his childhood based in the UK but also spent time with his grandmother in Ribera, la citta delle arance. The difference he between the two he describes as going from black & white to colour in The Wizard of Oz. He recalls how what he he thought was argument  was in actual fact just animated discussion of the differences between food. He remembers the life and culture there as being very different. The Citrus Grove in particular was very important as all of his family seemed to grow.

During a visit to Nongtraw in India he met group of students spending time there in search of the story of citrus. Thanks to agriculture, every citrus fruit could have originated right there.

Dan also went to Elizabeth in New Jersey where a lot of people went to employment. Where he’d lived in Sicilia they were growing the Washington navel orange which had been taken over there. 

The first program he made was about the 'Moro' the most colorful of the blood oranges, with a deep red flesh and a rind with a bright red blush. The flavor is stronger and the aroma is more intense than a normal orange and so he tried to understand this web of a story that traveled all over the world.

The point of Dan's talk is why does the history of food matter. Well, ultimately  food is about identity and belonging.

Dan was also fortunate enough to spend some time in Tanzania with a small tribe called The Hadza. The Hadza are well documented because of their diet. They  are one of the last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes in the world. It is thought that they have lived on the same land in northern Tanzania, eating berries, tubers and 30 different mammals for 40,000 years. Dan went to watch them foraging and hunting, and to ask whether their diet holds lessons for everyone. 

Tests have been done on microbillia of the tribe due to the diversity of their diet.  Their Baobab soup for example is very nutrient dense and is used for weening. The tests revealed microbateria that is becoming extinct in our own guts.

So tell me, what food brings back memories for you and what foods do you miss?

Love T xx

For more details of the School of Artisan Food visit: https://www.schoolofartisanfood.org