As I write, the birds are singing and the blossoms are heavy on the trees. Bees and butterflies meander aimlessly across azure skies, and the warm rays of the sun hint almost too optimistically at the summer to come, like a trailer that gives away all the best bits of the film. With this sudden turn for the bright and glorious has come that most mouth-watering of summer’s harbingers, the smell of barbecues wafting over neighbourhoods throughout the land. Indeed, it seems that if we want to celebrate something, our first instinct is to fête it with food.
Wakes and weddings, partings and homecomings, high days, holy days, and rainy days at home all feature food and drink as an essential ingredient to proceedings. What would birthdays be without cake, leaving without drinks, or dates without dinner? Sad and unsatisfying, that’s what. But why is feasting such a universal language? The obvious answer is that it’s essential to life. Our everlasting battle against our oldest enemy, the proverbial wolf at the door Mr Starvation, compels us to spend much of our lives either earning our food (whether by hunting the mammoth amid the frozen taiga or by hiking the margin amid the frozen assets) or consuming it. Indeed, the average UK resident is estimated to spend an average of 31,200 hours eating and drinking in their lifetime. If it takes a mere 10,000 hours to completely develop a skill, then no wonder humans are, as a species, are the ancient Shaolin masters when it comes to the art of food-fu.
Collectively, we are a hungry Paganini playing a Stradivarius made of delicious grub. Whatever the cause of its appeal, food’s been a big focus this month at the Albany, with a grand sprucing-up of the main café, a swathe of delicious new treats for every time of day at the Deptford Lounge, and, last week, Selina Thompson’s moving and hilarious show about our relationship with what and how we eat Chewing the Fat. We’ve also just had the first round of our very own Great Albany Bake-Off, which has already resulted in some truly spectacular creations that, after the judging was completed and the winner declared, were demolished almost as quickly as the loser’s pride. With summer barbecues, brand new dishes, and the inimitable work of pioneering foodie group In A Pikkle all on the Albany’s agenda for the coming months, we and all our visitors will be eating, drinking and making merry to our heart’s content. Oh, and one more thing – just in case the summer turns out to be as good as the trailer, here’s how to make the best cooler ever.
Tropical Iced Smoothie (serves 4)
1 medium pineapple, chopped or 1 tin pineapple chunks
1 large mango, chopped or 1 tin mango pieces
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
200ml orange juice
Vodka or gin (optional)
Method: 1. Peel and drain the fruit. Place them in a bowl and freeze overnight. 2. Take a blender and pour in the fruit juice and optional spirits. 3. Add the yoghurt. 4. Add the ice. 5. Pour warm water over the fruit to separate the chunks, and add them all to the blender. 6. Blend thoroughly, pushing the frozen fruit right down into the blades, until the mixture is perfectly smooth. 7. Pour into glasses, garnish with a pineapple slice and cocktail umbrella. 8. Sip, trying to avoid crippling brain-freeze while imagining yourself languishing on a tropical beach somewhere.
Justin Stathers, Cafe Supervisor, Deptford Lounge