There was a poster for a lemon cordial that I still clearly remember from my childhood. It was an illustration of a lemon with a humanoid face that was puckered with the sharpness that we associate with lemon juice: “Idris when I’s dri” was the memorable strap line. The hollow cheeked, yellow face, rebelling against the tartness of lemon, was an unusual device for promoting the sweet taste of lemon cordial, or squash as we called it then, but it must have been successful as I not only remember the poster but also the shape of the bottle. Lemon squash, as my drink, gave way to lemonade which in turn was mixed with beer before taking on the minimalist look of a slice of lemon in a gin and tonic. From that point on lemon was closely allied to “falling down” water. This period, let us call it my yellow period, included my short love affair with the vodka Martini. It was short because so am I and the stools in the Zanzibar were very tall. My regular falls from grace meant that I was suffering the same sort of damage as a serious sportsman whilst simply enjoying the odd Martini or ten. The final phase of my lemonism took place in Positano where I self harmed with Limoncello. I had to call it a day, but I couldn’t as it had too many syllables for my critically citrically impaired mind and then it all went dark.
Today, lemons and I have a more stable relationship: I only eat them. The lemonism remains as I still can’t get enough of them. Tarte au citron, lemon cakes, lemon sorbets, lemon granitas, lemon bars: lemon has the ability to position itself as a real competitor to chocolate. But lemons rise up into a higher realm when used as a seasoning or flavouring influence, introducing a sweet sharpness that is singularly seductive. Preserved lemons set me on this course today. On opening the preserving jar I’m mesmerised by the the scent. How can the simple addition of salt, water and paprika transform the simple fruit into a palate hallucinogen, the ne plus ultra of conserves? I find I’m dipping my spoon into the liquid and sipping it like a delicious cocktail. Oh God, lemonism is upon me….I’m sure a Martini might benefit from a drop of such an intense…stop it, stop it now….