When I was a small child, in the 1960s, people spoke about “The Continent”, meaning mainland Europe. A person, a foodstuff, an attitude, was described as “continental”, in a sligtly disapproving tone, meaning unusual and a little racy on the one hand, but “not quite what we do around here” on the other.
From an early age, I was fascinated by “The Continent” and all the treasures it might hold, approved-of or not. I blame Caroline and her Friends. For those who’ve never had this delight, Caroline was a bossy little girl accompanied by a menagerie of dogs, cats (domestic and Big) and a lone bear. This motley crew got into all kinds of scrapes, going camping, on ski holidays, or touring around “The Continent” - stuffing themselves with spaghetti or Belgian Frites, hurling Dutch cheeses around or playing Alphorns. I have imitated much of this behaviour throughout the course of my life.
Some of my earliest food-related memories relate to finding unusual brands and products in slightly obscure places. There was this cafe and health food shop just down the road from us, for example:
Deborah’s was a vegetarian cafe and sold Birchermüsli as well as breakfast products such as Frugrains - which I can still taste - datey.Alpen in 1971. Ski yoghurt - another “continental idea” which took a while to catch on, had been launched in the 1960s.