One of my main discoveries as a French living in England is the astonishing engagement of British citizens for quality in food. You can find organic foods anywhere, and there’s a wide offer of products and services, from food boxes to special deliveries. Thanks to Peerindex, I’ve received a box of Peppermongers “Javanese Cubeb pepper”… A mysterious story that I wanted to explore…
Peppermongers comes from a very interesting story: after diverse trips and projects, your write that after a subsequent visit to a small organic pepper plantation in the Western Ghats you realize how little we knew about something that we used almost every day back home. Can you tell us more about this genesis?
Pepper is the king of spices. We use it twice a day most of our adult life and yet we are totally ignorant about it!
If St.Exupery in le Petit Prince was to ask instead of ‘s’il te plait dessine- moi un Pepper Plant’ (instead of a mouton) who would be able to do that?
Like 99% of the population (chefs included) we don’t know where it comes from, the quality, the botany or even the flavour profile. Why is that? Are we ignorant or stupid or both?
We are so busy dealing with the complexities of life that we forget the simple things. Things that give us pleasure every day. For us the exploration of pepper was a journey of culinary and self discovery (how little we know!). Did you know there are hundreds of varieties of pepper and many peppers that aren’t peppers at all – Sichuan, Pink etc). With no pepper there is no world trade, no age of discovery and above all, no flavour.
On the packaging, “out of this world” is written: what does it mean?
The copy on our packets is tongue in cheek- humorous and intriguing.
For example the Long (lost) Pepper is a reminder that in the 1750’s the only pepper imported into Europe was Long Pepper. In England at train stations we have Lost property – in France you have Objets Trouve… I guess we have found it – or more precisely re-discovered it. It was there all along. Waiting for us.
The Piper Cubeb (Cubeb Pepper) is often known as Comet tailed pepper because of its shape. Comets are out of this world. Something that is ‘Out of this World ‘ is Great. It’s an English expression that doesn’t exist in France -like the ‘2012 London Olympics’! (joke)
There seems to have a growing interest for DIY activities: do you think that we’re going to experience more and more “back to basics” attitudes, with kids learning again to cook, with the development of a certain awareness for “eating good”?
Yes. There’s a huge movement in England about food education – led by our Jamie Oliver and co. changing the very low grade school meals. Food left to economic forces is always a race to the bottom; cheap price where quality is sacrificed.
There has been a huge interest these past 10 years in provenance and quality; from organic veg boxes, to cookery programmes. In the UK we were obsessed with housing on TV. Now since the crash we are obsessed with food programmes.
The challenge of course is to change peoples ingrained habits. We have a generation of bad eaters (and bad food companies) which won’t change – they just die and get replaced by youngsters who have always recycled, exercised regularly and eaten well.
There is still a lot to do but the revolution has started.
Where do you find your inspirations?
We find our inspiration in all sorts of places. The interest in food categories has exploded here; Olive oil has it’s own aisle in the supermarket, so does coffee and chocolate. in the 70’s the only wine for sale in supermarkets was Blue nun and Piat’dor. terrible choices. Now we get wine from around the world – we have a better selection than most french stores… One day you will be able to buy Pepper with it’s own terroir…
Being half Breton I also get inspiration from French cookery and the French respect for food. Olivier Roellinger and his amazing spice stores in St.Malo are fantastic. British writers like Christine McFadden and Fushia Dunlop are also great inspirational spice cooks and writers.
Where can we follow you?
What can we wish you?
A good harvest! And some French stockists like Fauchon so you can taste our wares… For now you can only dream!
Thank you Lilzeon – it’s a pleasure.
The Queen says hi.