Europe Day is today, Sunday 9 May, and the pubs are now open for us to have an outdoor, socially distanced, and probably chilly celebration of what it means to be European in a quintessentially English hostelry. But will it do? A pint and a pie is all very well, and fish and chips, with or without vinegar, can always hit the spot, not to mention a traditional British roast for Sunday lunch. But given that our membership of the EU had, among its many advantages, introduced us Brits to a range of cuisines and ingredients that we could only have dreamed about in the 1960s, my group of Europhile foodies will not choose to party at the pub.
As EUnity Seahaven processed our grief about leaving the EU in January 2020, prevented by Covid from even enjoying the last year of free movement before the end of the Brexit transition period, and coping with the extra disappointment of cancelled trips and holidays, we nevertheless gained consolation from our weekly dinners together.
Each Friday we visited a different European country and Covid could not stop us from continuing to dine together – linked by video conferencing – in each of the remaining 27 EU nations. As we ate, we talked of rejoining, we looked to better times, we swapped recipes, and those of us who could only manage pommes frites or a garlic bread marvelled at others in our group who produced full-scale feasts, such as a properly laid table and confit du canard, followed by crêpes and crème brulée, washed down by a bottle of fine Burgundy. But whether it was a complicated bouillabaisse or just a glass of Château du Plonk, these evenings worked their magic and not even coming a pitiful last place in the after-dinner Euro quiz could dim the mood.
Our gastronomic pilgrimage has resulted in some delicious recipes, which we intend to make into a cookery book, with each country page also featuring interesting facts and quiz questions. So if you feel like journeying with us, do look out for the launch and join us in comfort-eating around Europe as we strive to stay positive in the face of the inevitable unravelling of Johnson’s Brexit deal. Maybe a shortage of extra virgin olive oil, prosciutto crudo and French cheeses can’t be classed as a tragedy, but it is definitely part of the collateral damage!
Nevertheless, we remain hopeful, and we are marking 9 May with a European-themed picnic whilst listening to the streamed concert from St. John’s Smith Square, and looking forward to that great day when our star shines once again at the heart of the European Union.