It is part of my job to identify food trends – something I simultaneously love and loathe. I must visit the hot new restaurants, yet at the same time I enjoy spending time in old favourites, places I’ve been visiting for years, which feed the soul as well as the belly.
There’s a lot of talk among Food People about what should and shouldn’t be enjoyed. For example, one should apparently enjoy eating rare old clams that have been quietly minding their own biz for 200 years, but when it comes down to consuming them, perhaps you just don’t. Those links point to my mates’ reviews of a meal we ate at Noma that was 50% brilliant, 50% a bit disgusting. I never got around to writing about it because… I just didn’t, I dunno. It’s also okay to eat things and not write about them.
Then, there’s the stuff that shouldn’t be liked, the ‘guilty pleasures’ I suppose they’d be called in today’s language. This is where the food police like to stick their oar in. Yes, there are important issues like sustainability and environmental impact. I care about those issues and try my best to do right, but sometimes I just want to eat a Filet o Fish and not feel bad about it, you know? Or maybe I just can’t stick a trendy ingredient. See: brains. Totally disgusting.
So, I decided to write some food confessions, since I’m feeling sufficiently grumpy. There just happened to be ten that came to mind – it’s an entirely accidental round number and I may well write another list soon.
1. Bone marrow weirds me out
This is a perfect example of something that everyone is supposed to enjoy. Ever since it appeared on the menu at Fergus Henderson’s St. John restaurant all those years ago, the sawed bones standing up like neolithic rocks next to a parsley salad and a pile of salt, people have gone crazy for it. I dutifully ate it along with everyone else, but to be honest I find the really wibbly bits gross and I’m now prepared to admit that. I don’t mind it mixed into things like a pie for example, but I associate marrow with transplants and hospitals. So there.
2. I will eat pineapple on a pizza
Yeah okay so I don’t, but I would. Deal with it. For your information, I spend much of my time in the finest Neopolitan pizza restaurants in London eating their carefully cultured dough, San Marzano tomatoes and Bianca la Bufala, but I would also enjoy eating a filthy pizza with pineapple on it and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do about it. I do draw the line at most ‘experimental toppings’ however. Fire and Stone for example – total clown shoes.
3. One of my favourite sandwiches comes on processed white bread
When I am sick or feeling sorry for myself only one sandwich will do. Start with processed, sliced white bread and fill with a mixture of mayonnaise, grated cheddar and grated onion (yes, that is as painful as it sounds). Add a tinkle of malt vinegar, salt and pepper. The softness of the bread is something that cannot be achieved by haughtier loaves, and it comforts me. Combined with what is effectively a very pungent sandwich spread, plus a heavy element of nostalgia, it’s the one I will come back to for the rest of my life. Thanks Dad, for that recipe. I still can’t make them as good as you do!
4. I really struggle with tripe and intestines
Not that unusual, you might think, but in the world of Food People, one is expected to enjoy these bits. They started out as something I’d never touch, until I discovered pigs’ intestines in Sichuan dishes where they come fried up with lots of chilli and peppercorns, chewy yet crisp in places – totally something I could get into. And then it happened. Once you have had a musty, faintly poo-laced piece in your mouth, you will never eat them again. Tripe has that slippery honeycomb texture that doesn’t so much glide over the tongue as give it a flappy tickle and you know what, I’m calling it a day.
5. I enjoy a cup of instant coffee
Yep. Die inside, coffee people! I recently found myself in a situation where there was only instant and I got right into it. Nostalgia involved again here of course. Youngsters – freeze dried coffee was once an exciting thing. Nescafe lead the way with adverts featuring close-ups of interlocked fingers clasping red mugs, wafts of steam heading for aesthetically perfect noses.
6. I think arancini are crap
Don’t get them. Risotto is a lovely thing, and I admire the whole repurposing leftovers business because if there’s one thing that deeply upsets me, it’s wasted food. Arancini however are mushy, the crisp coating is never enough to combat the slimy interior and they just sort of flop in the mouth like they can’t be bothered. Well neither can I.
7. I think matcha tea is disgusting
Apparently everyone else thinks matcha is the dogs’ danglies but I think it tastes like someone squeezed a vegetable until it really hurt, then took the bitter juice from its imaginary plant spleen and distilled it into a drink. Matcha is angry, guys. Matcha is angry at you with your little brushes and bowls and your green, green tongues. Sorry to my friend Gergely, who bought me a lovely matcha bowl because he doesn’t yet know I can’t stand the stuff. I actually use the bowl for soup.
8. Foie gras really upsets me
I have eaten my fair share of foie gras over the years, including one particularly gluttonous plateful at Le Gavroche which involved a seared lobe served, inexplicably, with a fried pancake containing confit duck. Rich, much? This was a course which followed a cheese souffle baked in cream, FYI. Yes, we did feel sick. I have eaten foie gras since then, but over the years I’ve become increasingly upset by gavage, or force feeding, which is what they do to the geese or ducks to make their livers so fatty. I will no longer be a part of that because it’s cruel. Animal cruelty keeps me awake at night, and I’m not just using a turn of phrase there, it does. I am selective about the meat I eat now, eating much less, and only if I know as much as I need to about where it has come from.
9. I think the food in Paris is balls
Sorry. Food in Paris really isn’t up to much. People will tell you that you can just find great little bistros on every corner and that, frankly, is bollocks. A decent bistro is hard to find now in my experience and that of my partner/boyfriend/insert more satisfactory word here, who used to live there. It’s either super high end boring frippery or tinned vegetables. Merde.
The pastries, bread and cheese are still world class, obvs.
10. I love vol au vents
To which French people will now scoff and say hah! No wonder she thinks our food is shit, the woman eats the 1970’s! Vol au vents can be brilliant however, and I kind of even like the bad ones (those you see above contained garlic snails funnily enough, and were fabulous). We’ve all been to a ‘brown food buffet’ (weddings, funerals), and I bet we can all say that there is some pleasure to be found in those Campbell’s soup flavoured blobs and crustless triangular sandwiches. But when is it okay to go up for seconds?
Come on then, what are yours? This is the time to get it off your chest! Also, this is partly the point of me posting so er, don’t leave me hanging, guys…