À la recherche du temps perdu
The news that Maple Syrup has joined the list of so-called 'superfoods' caused me to have one of those Proustian moments that sometimes sneak up on you (or me anyway). I can remember a time and a place far, far, away - but not quite in another galaxy when maple syrup was considered the most exotic of foodstuffs that wasn't called coconut.
I hold the Little Chef wholly responsible for this. Back in the days when the motorway connections between the south and anywhere else in the country didn't make much headway west of Basingstoke the Little Chef's on either the Hogs Back (A3) or the Winchester By-Pass (A33) were the acme of experimental cuisine. Here you could try waffles, hash browns and best of all pancakes decorated with a scoop of ice cream and, what is now referred to in cooking circles as a drizzle, a squirt of maple syrup. You knew it was exotic because the bottle didn't have a lion on it like that stuff from Silvertown it had a red leaf, the symbol of Canada.
Of course whilst the world moved on Little Chef stayed resolutely in the past for decades. Shunted onto the hard shoulder by a combination of ever expanding motorways and a dilettantian pursuit of exotica, personified ironically by the likes of Heston Blumenthal, a man apparently named after a service station, it had little to offer beyond the standard fare of the all-day breakfast, Britain's last great gift to the world of whatever the opposite of haute cuisine is.
So there you have it maple syrup is now up there with red wine, dark chocolate, yoghurt, green tea, broccoli, artichokes, cranberries etc as super foods. Of course, much like the list of so-called friendly countries, the list is subject to change and whilst crab may be today's super decapod crustacean it can only be a matter of time before prawns elbow them aside.