Thursday, 9 February 2012

2012: The Year of (the) Orange

The Year of (the) Orange

In a conversation with my friend Juliet, who works in PR and is required to know such things, I learned that orange is the colour for 2012. (Tangerine Tango, to be precise. Pantone 17-1463 to be very precise.) Apparently a bold and spirited colour is required to lift us all out of the economic doldrums. This is either a bit of marketing nonsense or a very good omen as I begin a blog about marmalade. And it will be the first time (and certainly the last time) that I can claim to be on trend.

Marmalade is a curiosity. Impeccably British but invented by the Portuguese, it is adored by some, yet largely ignored by many quite sensible, food-loving nations who make orange jam and call it marmalade, when it isn’t the same thing at all. So my mission is to find out what makes it so appealing, and to celebrate it in all its quirky loveliness as the Year of Orange unfolds.

I chose marmalade as a subject because: 
a) I like to eat it, 
b) it is, surprisingly, not written about as much as you’d expect, and 
c) whenever I bring it up, everyone has something to say about it, in a way that they don’t about, say, strawberry jam. This intrigues me.

For example, while eating dinner with a friend last month, I mentioned that I was writing about marmalade and he immediately recalled a heated debate that he had had with his sister about whether marmalade should be eaten on hot toast or cold. From my notebook I read out a snippet of research, copied from a newspaper months earlier, which concluded that it was best on cold toast. (See full snippet below.) ‘Damn!’ he said, ‘That’s what Lou said!’

Two days later, Lou, who I hadn’t seen for several years, emailed me. ‘Ha!’ she said. ‘I knew I was right about the cold toast!’

My point is - would you ever have a reaction like that to a conversation about strawberry jam? 

I chose marmalade also because it’s hard to be too pretentious about it. Other foods, such as chocolate or tea or olive oil, attract a lot of foodie jargon, with descriptions of tobacco, toffee and tarmac on the palate, which is no use to me, as I don’t have a sophisticated palate at all. But marmalade at its simplest is just oranges, sugar and water. You can’t be that pretentious about it. You can only be enthusiastic.

So my mission for the Year of Orange is to have as many conversations about marmalade as possible and report back with my findings. I’ll also be making marmalade (and eating it and cooking with it) and reporting on that, too. With any luck, the results will be interesting to everyone and not just to me.

And now the snippet:
In March 2011, various newspapers reported an amusing piece of research by the Manchester Food Research Centre at Manchester Metropolitan University regarding the best way to eat marmalade. The study concluded that marmalade was best eaten on cold toast.

They explained (poetically if unscientifically), 'The initial resistant crunch of the cold toast provides the ultimate contrast to the velvety, yielding marmalade as the zingy orange flavours explode across the palate releasing endorphins in the brain.'

They went on to stipulate that the bread should be white, 0.9 cm thick and toasted for one minute at 220C. The toast should be left to cool for 10 minutes and then spread with 7.1g of lightly salted butter and 11.2g of fine-cut marmalade. The rate of thickness of bread to butter in marmalade is expressed as 9:1:2.

So now you know. 

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