January comfort foods like fondue are newer than we think

When the dark, wet misery of January comes around, the temperature plummets, and the realisation sinks in that it is six months until the summer holidays, it is always tempting to turn to time-honoured old foodie favourites to give ourselves a lift. What could be better – and more traditional – than a cheese fondue to provide comfort on a cold winter’s evening, perhaps followed by that age-old Italian , tiramisu?

Well, if it’s tradition and ancient culinary customs you are looking for, then neither of those dishes fit the bill – nor do many of the so-called historic foods which we tend to turn to when seeking that warm, fuzzy feeling of familiarity.

You see, cheese fondue and tiramisu are among many dishes which fall into the ‘chicken tikka masala’ category – invented in recent times, often either by accident or by marketing people desperate to increase consumption of whichever foodstuff they are tasked with peddling.

Most people know that chicken tikka masala has nothing to do with the sub-continent, and was in fact invented in 1971 by Ali Ahmed Aslam, owner of the in . When a customer complained that his chicken tikka was too dry (as it authentically should be), Aslam returned to the kitchen and concocted a sauce from some spices, a dash of cream, and a can of condensed tomato soup.

Aslam sadly died just before ; however, he left behind a dish which has become one of the most popular in the UK, a foodie legacy which few of us can aspire to matching.

Another culinary pioneer who died recently was , who passed away in October 2021, aged 93. He is widely credited with creating another dish which is generally thought of being much older than it is: tiramisu.

In fact, it was Campeol’s wife and a chef in their restaurant in Treviso near , , who came up with the idea, believe it or not in 1972, just a year after the birth of chicken…


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