We haven’t had much of a summer in the Lakes this year, so yesterday when I woke up to a blue sky and a warm breeze, I took myself out onto the fells. After a hard week, it felt good to be anchored in this incredible landscape again. The gorse pods were crackling in the heat, the cows were lolling in the fields, August scents hung heavy. My whippet, Billy, was tearing around in his lovably demented way, from time-to-time half-disappearing down a rabbit hole, the white tip of his tail stuck up in the air shaking like a tambourine.
At one point, walking along a narrow lane, I spotted some leaves in a hedgerow, which I recognised to be wild strawberry plants. Sure enough, I soon saw deep red spatters in the greenery. Now, I love strawberries, and I adore wild strawberries even more. I picked the first one and palmed it in my mouth. It was tart with that distinctive iron aftertaste and it took me back to my childhood in the Lakes, when I would gorge myself on wild strawberries on the way to picking blueberries with my brothers. I picked a good handful and gobbled them all down. Fantastic.
I’ve always appreciated the taste of food that lifts itself above the mediocre. The memorable meals and drinks have been the very simple ones - I remember an amazing pasta in Venice in a restaurant that could have been mistaken for an old woman’s front room, a dish in Thailand that cost pennies and a 15-year old white wine that we intended to keep for a very special day, but that we opened one ordinary evening with friends and one which has never been surpassed.
There was no marketing to persuade me how good these things might be, just amazing ingredients and great craftsmanship to combine them into something delicious. I like that. It makes sense to me. And that artisan attention to detail and pride in producing something excellent is what makes work a joy.