"Ingenuity and incongruity always cheer me up." Terry Pratchett
So there I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room, not exactly feeling down, just trying to think of something to write about today as I waited for the nurse who was going to syringe out my ears - blocked with wax. Trivial, tedious and not very appealing I know. I had sort of decided on a topic but wasn't very happy about it. And then I had one of those wonderful moments of - no not inspiration - that's too grandiose - but of an idea forming in my head. And it made me smile a little.
In the waiting room there is a large television screen - to entertain us whilst we wait. Normally I pay very little attention to it because it's generally tuned to some mindless daytime television show. But today it was tuned to the SBS Food channel. Besides I do normally bring a book and read it whilst waiting but on this occasion I was going to walk back home and so I hadn't wanted to have to carry the book with me. It's mostly uphill all the way. So I too watched the screen.
And this is where the incongruity comes in - on two fronts. First of all the waiting room contained myself and four middle-aged to elderly men who looked either tradesman-like, or intellectual, but they were all watching the cooking show with apparent interest. Now they were probably only watching it because one does, doesn't one? Watch a TV screen when it's functioning that is. It takes a lot of willpower and something else to do, not to. Although they, of course, all wore masks, nevertheless they did indeed look interested. Well this is what I told myself. Incongruous right? And cheering too.
Secondly - and this is where real, not imagined incongruity comes in. The program that was showing was Kitchen Hero, which stars a bright young Irish cook called Donal Skehan. Here he is in this particular program looking ridiculously young. Well he might have been. I don't know when it was made, but not recently I think and he is only in his early thirties now. The series apparently has him touring Ireland with that food truck cooking food for the locals wherever he might be. Rediscovering the Irish Kitchen is the subtitle of this particular series. So what was he cooking? Jerk chicken with mango salsa - as shown at the top of the page! Now if he had been a Jamaican - Ainsley Harriott for example - then all would be explained, but no he is very Irish. He speaks with a thick Irish brogue - and he has an Irish name for heaven's sake - both Christian and surnames. So why on earth was he cooking Jerk chicken?
I actually couldn't hear much of what he was saying - well I was there because I had blocked ears - so I have no idea how he came to be cooking this particular dish. He was visiting a town, called Portmagee in County Kerry which is one of those craggy coastline bits in the south-west corner of Ireland.
As you can see it is rather beautiful, and one of its claims to fame is that one of the Star Wars episodes was filmed here - or near here. The cast and crew stayed here. Prior to the recipe demonstration on the TV though a gentleman dressed in eighteenth century garb was telling a story about someone - a successful smuggler - who lived there. But as I say I couldn't quite hear what was said. And then up popped the title of the dish - Jerk chicken with mango salsa, and we were into a demonstration - and very delicious it looked too. We have a couple of mangoes in the fridge, I was going to do something with chicken and I have most of the other ingredients as well - so yes - that's what we are having tomorrow. So two problems solved with one serendipitous visit to the doctor - well the nurse.
But it was the incongruity of it all that did indeed cheer me up.
Because look it shows how even down there in the bottom corner of Ireland - which some would call a bit of a backwater - they are eating dishes like jerk chicken. I know jerk chicken is fairly popular here, but not overwhelmingly so. Well maybe I'm wrong there - I see that Coles has jerk marinaded chicken already for you to cook on your barbecue. In the UK though it is big - well they have a very large West Indian descended population over there. Everybody has a recipe, so I'm not going to bother you with any here, other than to say that Felicity Cloake does her thing of extracting the best elements from a few different sources.
Oh and poor old Jamie got a roasting for creating a product for, I think, Waitrose, called Punchy jerk rice. It created an uproar in the British press from people of Jamaican descent, including an MP, because it basically wasn't 'authentic'. Oh dear. And I do admit it very probably isn't - it's the kind of thing I would never buy - a microwavable quick 'dinner'. It's probably not even very nice. But again on the good side - isn't it great that this kind of product can have such a multicultural origin?
Rambling again, sorry.
Well maybe not actually because the thing that made me smile was the incongruity of men watching SBS food and a young Irish guy promoting a dish from the West Indies in a program about Irish food. The aim being to introduce the 'authentic' food of somewhere else (it looks pretty authentic) to the Irish. But I have to say it seemed hugely incongruous and strange to me. Maybe there was a meaningful link to do with that smuggler, that I didn't hear.
"Incongruous - not in harmony or keeping with the surroundings or other aspects of something" Oxford dictionary
Of course what happens eventually is that the 'home' culture then takes and adapts and creates something new. Indeed Jamie demonstrates this is his British Food book, and particularly in the chapter on New British Classics - which does include Jerk-dressed Bristol Pork - in which the roasted pork is finally tossed in a sort of jerk marinade. Sort of fusion food. He does have a pretty authentic looking recipe for jerk chicken on his website though.
People get excited about Jerk seasoning. I think I wrote about it some time ago, because I vaguely remember pictures of the Jamaicans cooking it on the streets. Robert Carrier discovered it for his New Great Dishes of the World and raves about it:
"On a recent trip to Jamaica ... I discovered a wonderful seasoning mix called 'jerk' which vies in excellence with the other great international 'dry' marinade for grilled meats, fish and poultry: Morocoo's famed Chermoula." Robert Carrier
And Felicity Cloake says:
"this is the only chicken recipe you should bother with on the barbecue – there's not much else to touch it."