Hello, and welcome to the first snippet of Are You Going To Eat That? Here is where we, by which I mean I, look at rare, controversial and out and out weird foodstuffs.
Today, it’s Bara Lafwr, Welshman’s Caviar or as it’s widely peddled, Laverbread.
On a recent trip to Wales, my other half voiced an urge to try some ‘actual Welsh food’. Being a many time visitor to the biggest county in England (I jest, I jest) I am aware that we already eat some of the best Welsh produce frequently at home in sunny Essex- you know, leeks and Caerphilly cheese and Welsh Lamb. But now here is this Laverbread. You don’t get that every day.
Laverbread is not bread. It is, however, Laver, or porphyra umbilicalis if you prefer- a single cell thick seaweed which is plentiful on the Welsh coastline and easily tinned.
Concern number one was that despite being plugged by many as a ‘Traditional Welsh Delicacy’ we ventured into many fooderies in the costal town of Aberystwyth and couldn’t find any Laverbread until we happened upon a small healthfood shop, where we quickly snapped up the last dusty tin on the shelf for a bargain £2.49.
Concern number two was that this stuff is plugged as the aforementioned ‘Traditional Welsh Delicacy’. I’m all for delicacies, but get suspicious if they are defined as traditional as this suggests that you eat it because your granny and some other people now older than her and likely dead ate it back in the day so now you have to too regardless of how evil it tastes.
But I put aside my concerns and took my little tin of seaweed and, well, did nothing for a week. Because I didn’t know what to do. Google told me to make a pate with cheese and cockles, or to fry it with eggs or to cook it with a bit of orange juice (no, really) and slather it all over my roast lamb. Logic demanded that I contact a friend who has A: Never served me a bad dinner and B: Is violently Welsh. We’ll call her Ange (because that’s her name) and Ange instructed me that Laverbread is a breakfast food and that I was to fry it in the bacon fat and serve alongside, but not mixed into, my eggs. Ok, I can do that.
So, it went in the bacon pan, was cooked through and served.
It is now that I am going to take a moment to tell you that Laverbread is rich in vitamins A, B, B2, C and D not to mention magnesium, calcium and iodine. Expert types speculate that it could also have anti viral properties and even protect your tummy from the effects of radioactive poisoning. In short this gunk is good for you. And you know it’s good for you when you taste it, because that can be the only reason people have been eating it for generations.
The taste is hard to describe, it’s mineraly (not a word, I know) rather than just salty. It certainly tastes of the sea, but the bits of the sea you go looking for dubious mutant crab creatures in, not the fresh bracing surf you’d like to take a dip in or use as a romantic backdrop.
As a single foodstuf on the end of my fork, I couldn’t manage it. The overpowering taste was worsened by the texture which is exactly the sticky gunk you would expect to result from boiling seaweed for hours on end before mushing it up and canning it under high heat and pressure. Speaking of heat, it got worse as it cooled. Determined to persevere, I spread some over a nice chunk of baguette, topping with a thick slice of bacon, and attempted to ingest it once more. Adding the texture of the bread and the flavour of the bacon, it became a billion times more palatable, maybe as it stopped being the chief flavour. In this fashion, I managed to consume my half of the laverbread without further incident, or sadly enjoyment. But I felt stocked up on vitamins and nuclear fall out protection so hey, small win there.
To quote my breakfast companion, who’s need for going native induced this whole episode ‘I wouldn’t really call it nice’.
So there you have it. Laverbread. I wouldn’t really call it nice, and I am not going to be eating it again.
thanks to wikipedia and http://www.laverbread.com for some useful reference material.