The food in question was not the spice saffron. A pound of saffron takes 50-75 thousand flowers to produce. One pound of saffron costs anywhere between 500 and 5,000 dollars. Expensive but cheaper than birds nest soup. Nests made by cave swifts from their saliva, one pound would set you back between 910 and 4,500 dollars. Not bad for spit! Or how about some white truffles. Impossible to cultivate, a rare item found in the wild in Italy and Croatia, again it doesn't come cheap. Unless you're very rich , then I suppose a price between 1,360 and 4,200 dollars per pound is quite affordable. (Highest price ever paid for a truffle was 330,000 dollars.) Caviar, anyone? Eggs from the Beluga Sturgeon courtesy of the Caspian Sea; as far as I know there is only one place you can buy it in London, at the aptly named Caviar House. Expect to pay between 8,000 and 15,000 dollars. Mind you, that is the price for a pound; you won't be offered a pound, you'd be sick. Mind you, at that price you'd probably be sick anyway!
Talking of being sick, do you fancy a coffee after your meal. Kopi luwak coffee to be precise. Before being ground the beans to make this coffee must have passed through a civet (a tree cat.) I hope they wash the beans well before they grind them!
So what did my wife find that caused her 'deep joy', in of all places, Ripon in Yorkshire. My wife is a coeliac; she has an allergy to gluten. This means that if she eats anything containing gluten, she is violently ill. She was diagnosed many years ago and has in fact probably been allergic since childhood. Thus, like you and I, she ate food containing wheat in her younger days. The point I am making is that many of the foods she now strictly avoids she enjoyed in her younger days (without of course realising than some were the cause of her ill health.) It is a tricky business, finding gluten free foods although better than years ago. There is more choice for coeliacs today, but life can be complicated. Some types of crisps for instance contain flour, some don't; it depends on the flavour. At one stage large Mars Bars did not contain flour, small ones did. (Presumably the small ones from the 'bumper packs' contained flour to 'bulk up' the product; and you thought you were getting a bargain!)
What was the 'deep joy' my wife found in Ripon, and why the surprise. Long term followers of my blog might remember a previous visit to Ripon. (9th May 2008) My wife requested, in a fish and chip shop, chips and a fish minus the batter. The result was astonishing. The man behind the counter rudely ridiculed my wife for such a fatuous request. 'A fish without batter, how silly." Which is interesting, as we have had this request granted all over the country, with good grace I might add. I was not asking for biryani, sushi, dosa or pepian; or for that matter, elephants testicles on toast. Mind you this particular idiot would have probably run out of bread!
What a rude, arrogant, ignorant, sexist, loud, unthinking individual. What an advert for a place that needs every tourist it can find. Remember, this was our introduction to Ripon, not typical I hope.
Fast forward to 2012. My wife has to avoid many foods. But that does not stop her buying me food that she misses greatly, for instance, oatcakes That's one reason why we have been married for forty two happy years. So what made our recent visit to Ripon special. We found in a little shop, only recently opened by two delightful ladies a selection of gluten free food. And the one than gave the most 'deep joy'? Gluten free pork pies!
Well done the ladies in Langton's, my wife's expression when she sampled your pies was a joy to behold. After our previous visit to Ripon a most pleasant surprise; a visit that this time will be remembered for all the right reasons. Which begs the question, what is the food you would miss most if you were no longer allowed it?
Just to round off this post, memories of Stanley Unwin, the originator of the phrase 'deep joy are in order. (Stanley died in 2002 aged 90.) Click on the link to hear Stanley mangling the Queens English like no other!