I have recently had the pleasure of attending the Bumble Bizz Food Writing Workshop at the Cow Hollow Hotel. The workshop is hosted by Bumble, an app which allows you to connect the others in three different way. Bumble Bizz relates to the networking aspect of the app.
The workshop featured amazing speakers who gave much insight into their favourite food writers and challenges faced. We also had a free-writing session where we were asked to write what our last meal on Earth would be.
As a blogger who predominantly writes about food, I have been hesitant to include my own personal experiences in my reviews. Who can possibly be interested in my life! The workshop then reminded me that for many of us, talking about food is storytelling. For foodies, it is near impossible not to talk about your personal relationship with it.
When we were asked to talk about our last meal on Earth, my brain went into overdrive. My first thought was that I have asked this question to some of my interviewees, but have never once really thought about it for myself. The panel had moments before answered this question and a lot of them related their choice back to family favourites.
I apologise, dear reader, if you’ve read this far expecting a simple menu. If you just want to know and then leave, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this article. If you are otherwise more inclined to find out more about me and my decision for what I’ve chosen, read on.
Starting from the beginning
My grandfather immigrated to the UK from Hong Kong, following on from the British Nationality Act 1948. He worked in many Chinese takeaway businesses across the whole of the UK, focusing namely in the North West. This is a story that isn’t just mine, it is also shared by many immigrants. He chose to settle in Belfast, Northern Ireland where my parents then followed suit, as business was good (the Troubles didn’t affect them much). My parents would then start their own takeaway business in nearby Holywood (one ‘L’!), a medium-sized town just outside of Belfast.
It was in Northern Ireland that my sisters and I were born, first-generation Chinese. We are commonly known as British Born Chinese or BBCs. We are all foodies and indeed you can say, food is our life since it is exactly where our parents earned the money needed to feed, clothe and pay for our education. There have been many days where we have had to do our homework and play on the floor above the takeaway, as my parents could not find anyone to look after us.
Growing up with food
The food we had was a mixture of School canteen food (my parents didn’t have the time to make us a packed lunch, working 4pm – 1am at least) and quick Chinese food. If we were lucky, the latter would be home cooked food similar to what traditional Hong Kong families had. The evening meal was sometimes late as mum had to tend to customers first before us. During busy times, it was not unusual for us to eat from the standard takeaway menu that we were serving our customers. After all, making sweet and sour chicken for four people is just as easy as making for one.
My childhood is a mish-mash of Northern Irish and Hong Kong cuisine, mixed in with whatever my mum could make quickly at home (cheese and broccoli pasta, anyone?). It’s been a weird food journey in retrospect, dotted with being ashamed of eating some of my favourite foods during the School lunch break along with the occasional (what I saw as) exotic foods when we visit Hong Kong to see the rest of the family.
Making a swift jump to the present day, I’ve since made Manchester my home and what a home it is. I find this amusing since I’ve gone back to roughly where my grandfather first started. Nearly every type of cuisine is on my doorstep and my food encyclopedia has only grown since coming here in the early 2000s. It’s a wonder what I would choose given such a wide repertoire, but here we go (at least for now)!
I think for starters, I would choose a well made scotch egg, with good sausage meat and a runny yolk; not too heavy on the breadcrumb. I’ve not traditionally liked scotch eggs, but Manchester has many places which serve them well and has sparked a new found joy for them. It is essentially a brunch in one compact ball and brunch is one of my favourite things to do in Manchester. It is for this reason I’ve chosen this to start my meal. Just the one, mind you, for as much as I love food, I cannot actually eat a lot!
For mains, I choose my mum’s mixed meat curry. My mum made a damn awesome curry at the takeaway back in Northern Ireland, and she made it spicier for me too because I can take that heat! She used to make a large vat of the sauce and her recipe for this equates to what will fit in that large vat; seriously, the recipe uses three (of her small Asian) handfuls of star anise, 13 bags of flour and took two days to make. She can’t do this now since the quantities don’t quite scale down as neatly to make a small batch of it. I used to take tubs of this stuff back to Manchester when I was studying here. My parents have since retired from their takeaway business and so has my favourite meal.
For dessert, I’m going to go with a tofu dessert from Ah Por Tofu-fa (亞婆豆腐花) in Tai Po, Hong Kong. It’s a place that’s a staple in the area my mother grew up in and both my grandmother and mother have enjoyed eating tofu dessert from this very shop over the years. Any tofu dessert brings back this joyful connection of my family back to me, but Ah Por’s definitely do the best version of this dessert.
And there you have it! My last meal on Earth, something from the three parts of the world I am happy to call home.
Many thanks to the ladies of the panel for inspiring this post. Hopefully, there will be more of these in future.
- Angela Clutton, Co-Chair of the Food Writers Guild and On Hot Buttered Toast
- Abbie Moulton, Freelance Writer at Suitcase, Instyle and Easyjet Traveller
- Sophie Elizabeth Bratt, Founder and Blogger at Sophie’s Scran
- Sarah Tarmaster, Food Writer and Founder of North West Nosh
- Hester Lonergan, Founder of Haver pop-up Porridge and Comms Assistant at Co-Operative Food