Thursday, 16 February 2012

Full English Cous Cous

A fantastic foodie row has broken out in Stoke Newington, where the "poshing up" of a cafe  menu has got grease lovers weeping into their quenelles of blanched quinoa (or whatever). http://tinyurl.com/7z4rfh4
Local newspapers reported that Clissold Park cafe regulars were furious that instead of chips and chocolate pudding, they would now be fleeced for the delights of couscous and roasted carrots with cumin.
The affair got me thinking about Britain's vile food culture. A culture where you can be judged on what you eat to the same extent you are judged on how you speak. And a culture so in thrall to food fashion, people barely have time to down their duck fat-roasted potatoes and polenta chips before they are horribly out-of-date.

For example:

Kentucky: Officially The Food of the Proles.
Homemade beetroot pie: Middle class boho (possibly Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fetish)
Roast grouse: Posh, but becoming less so.
Sundried tomatoes: So nineties.
Any kind of flan: 70s tasteless opulence.
Prawn cocktail: so much maligned and hated it is now officially in fashion again.
Hummus: Was posh, but now very popular in Asda so officially plebeian. Possible trendy resurgence circa 2030.

How on earth does one send out the right message? How on earth does one keep up? How do you manage to eat "neutrally," without sending out a vast illuminated streetsign with your social status all over it?
Can I safely eat a humble bowl of porridge, safe in the knowledge that it doesn't "say" anything about me? No. Porridge eaters are clearly show-off health-freaks afraid of the chocolate muffins.
Is it safe to eat a plain ham sandwich? Probably not, depends if you are eating it ironically.
The trend towards inverted snobbery is an interesting one. The young posh and middleclass won't shut up about their passion for their "local greasy spoon", as if they are some sort of gastronomic trailblazers with a penchant for fried eggs.
Pop into any dubious cafe in London and it will be bristling with boatie-shoe wearing graduates lapping up the oil. Chances are they will be braying about how they would much rather a bacon sandwich and an overfilled mug of builder's tea than the latest from Heston Blumenthal.
It's somewhat of a shame, as there's very little space in the cafes for the old ladies  who simply like fry-ups in an uncomplicated, un-postmodern way.

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