Or the last straw. I’m not sure which is more relevant to talk about on this sunny Saturday morning in London, as Britain wakes up to the reality (no, it wasn’t a dream) that we are, indeed, leaving the European Union.
I spent most of yesterday under a cloud, wondering just what it is that has happened. And why I suddenly felt that part of my identity had been compromised. Until yesterday, I don’t think I’d spent much time thinking about my identity, because I’ve always thought, culturally, that there wasn’t much to it. But I felt overwhelmingly sad when I realised I was being told to stop thinking of myself as European.
When I think of Europe, and of being European, I think of the times when I was little, when my Grandad was still with us, and we would all pile into the car and my Dad would drive us to France for the day; first on a ferry, and then on a train, through a tunnel that made our connection to Europe even stronger. We would have trolley races along the wide aisles of the hypermarket, eat huge slices of French apple flans, and wave to the white cliffs back across the channel, in Dover.
I think of travelling by coach to Switzerland on an adventure with the Girl Guides, and seeing the landscape of so many new-to-me countries; of my first taste of asparagus, in Strasbourg. Touring the WWI battlefields, walking in a trench, through vast wartime cemeteries and under the arch in Ypres. Seeing the Lion Gate in Mycenae; eating churros con chocolate with my big sister in Madrid, in a cafe near to her student flat. Watching a game of cricket with my mum in Liston Square, Corfu, while drinking ice-tinkling glasses of gin.
Convincing the border official at Eurostar Waterloo that he should let my Dad onto the train to Belgium with me and my middle sister, even though his only ID was his Xerox staff card, because he’d somehow forgotten his passport. Eating tapas for the first time at university, with my new best friend, who was both Spanish and English.
So, if it’s ok, I’d like to still hold on to all of that, and be European. Because I don’t think you can separate culture, experience and identity so easily.
Would you like a savoury snack to go with that thought?
Here’s a really simple way to make a gown-up version of cheese straws. Think of these as a cross between cheesy pizza and bread sticks: the perfect accompaniment to a lovely glass of wine or beer. A little European influence in a British childhood classic.
They’re super tangy and rich with cashew cheese, popped through with fresh basil and crisp underneath with a simple spelt dough.
- 185g spelt flour
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- Salt & pepper
- 90ml water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 3 tbsp Tangy Spreadable Cashew Cheese
- 4 sprigs fresh basil
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
- Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
- Begin by making the dough. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, together with the other dry ingredients. Stir in the wet ingredients to combine, then use your hands to make a dough. If you need to add more water, do so a tiny drop at a time. The dough should be smooth, but not wet.
- Roll out the dough. I do this on a silicone baking mat (it makes less mess, because you don't need to flour the surface), but do what works for you. Roll it out to 1-2mm thick, and about the size of a large pizza.
- If you're not using a baking mat, transfer the dough now to a parchment-lined tray.
- Tear up the basil leaves and put them onto the dough. Spoon the cheese over this, then spread it out evenly across the dough. At this point, you should have a big cheese pizza!
- Slice it into 1cm wide straws. If you want them to be shorter, cut again horizontally through the middle.
- Sprinkle on the nutritional yeast and bake in the oven for 20m.
- Leave to cool before eating and store in an airtight container.
- Because the cheese used in this recipe is wet, these are best eaten on the day of making, when the dough is still crisp.