Pass the salt Mozart
As far as institutions go, there can be few with more pedigree than the BBC’s Desert Island Discs. It is a radio show that has been playing weekly for more than 60 years which invites a celebrity to imagine themselves castaway on a desert island, having to choose eight pieces of music, a book and one luxury to accompany them. It is a game we all play in Britain around the dinner table, on long journeys or at the office. And, of course, we change the rules from time to time. Which eight films would you have? Which books? Which paintings?
I thought it might be fun to consider what the show Desert Island Dinners might be like. Naturally there are two components to a meal: the food and the company with whom you eat. The show would need to reflect this. My Desert Island Dinner would be this.
I would start with steamed scallops prepared in the way Michel Roux might at Le Gavroche. He creates a hint of flavour from ginger and spring onions, perhaps a little soy sauce. The scallop is sealed in its shell. You open it and the flavours explode, first in your nose, then on your tongue. Scallops for me are the most regal of shellfish and this is a dish for kings.
A bottle of young Sancerre with the Scallops, I fancy.
I would then have Janey Soup cooked by my grandmother when she was at her pomp. Indeed, the soup would need to be served in the black glass bowls she used. Somehow I think they contributed to the experience. (As much as I and other members of my family have tried to re-create her soup, none of us have managed to make it quite like she was able.)
Totally out of keeping with the meal, I would then give my guests the option of some Peking duck from Hong Kong… just the skin in melt-in-the-mouth pancakes.
The duck would be washed down with a decent Californian Pinot Noir. I am a recent convert.
The main course would have to be a rib of beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, the works… England’s finest contribution to world cuisine.
A couple of bottles of 1982 Lynch-Bages with the meat.
Pudding was the toughest part of the meal for me. I found it hard to narrow down the choices. But, in the end, it had to be rhubarb crumble and custard, with the rhubarb coming from my father’s garden.
Perhaps a 2001 Sauternes with the pudding.
Obviously, we would then finish with some fine cheese, among which there would have to be an aged, English Cheddar, something French, runny and smelly, a blue and perhaps a Goat’s cheese to round it off.
I would skip the Port and move straight on to the whisky. Make mine a Lagavulin.
As far as the guests go, Mozart would be my first choice. He is the paragon of genius to me and, apart from what I imagine would be excellent repartee, he could entertain us between courses on the piano. I would sit Frank Sinatra alongside Mozart. I think they would hit it off, and Wolfgang would doubtless come up with a mean arrangement of Strangers in the Night for Frank to sing along to. I couldn’t decide between Pythagoras and Albert Einstein for a bit of cerebral banter so in the end opted for Steve Martin whom I know to be smart and funny. And, finally, I would sit next to Audrey Hepburn (circa 1965). Has there ever been anything more lovely?
So, that’s it. It’s a desert island dinner of self-indulgence and wishful thinking. I mean, can you imagine having Peking duck and rhubarb crumble at the same meal after all?