LIFESTYLE These days the menu is caught between Mother Earth cuisine and bizarre takes on tradition
Yet another heated debate on the merits of – yawn – cupcakes. Yet another competitive cooking programME. Yet another Antony Bourdain-wannabe determinedly displaying his overly-earnest tattoos.
So, what are the food trends most likely to make me want to stab myself with a fork? Just off the top of my head…
Weeds and seeds, roots and shoots. All this Mother Earth cuisine is getting out of hand. Parties of people in designer wellingtons wandering around with picturesque baskets to collect flowers for dinner. Chefs taking morning jogs to collect stinging nettles, wood sorrel and dodgy looking mushrooms for dinner. Classes — yes classes — dedicated to teaching people how to identify edible weeds. Thanks to Chef Rene Redzepi, recently named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” foraging is now fashionable. Sure, it’s interesting. But how much deep-fried moss can a person eat. Maybe we should try chewing on the lawn. At least it’s cheap. And fresh.
Food that looks like mud
Also, food that looks like moss. And weeds. And pebbles. In fact, let’s go out on a limb here and say food that looks like anything but food is annoying. Do I even have to explain why? A flower pot filled with edible earth made from “malt crumble’? ‘Mushroom soil with charred onion ash’? Pebbles made from frozen foie gras? Apparently it’s ‘grounded geogastronomy’. Get a grip! Do potential customers switch off their computers at the end of yet another exhausting day and say, “Hmmm. I feel like some mud.”
Vexatiously virtuous vegetables
Yes. I believe in organic food. Yes, it’s reassuring to know my cabbage is chemical free. And yes, I like supporting local farmers. But do they have to be so self-righteous? All this farm-to-fork philosophy can get tedious. Especially when, in the end, the produce ends up in stores looking battered and exhausted. Being good for the earth is no excuse for selling overpriced vegetables that died a week ago.
Smear, smudge, squiggle, sludge
Pretty food is nice. But not when the chef spends more time decorating the plate than creating the food. Busy executing Picasso-like swirls and whorls in balsamic on porcelain? Don’t add random components to the dish, just to make it look good. I want my food to be delicious.
Micro desserts and small plates
Who thinks these are cute? Anyone? They’re irritating. In a nauseating, ‘look at me lisp’, kind of way. A micro dessert is just a shrunken dessert. Two bites of chocolate? I don’t think so. As for the small plates. A good idea in theory. Especially if you’re a big group and want to try a lot of dishes. Unfortunately, the pricing seems to be designed to always cost about 50 per cent more than you expect.
Salmon from Norway, ocean farmed, thrives in cold water. Oh for heavens sake, it’s just fish. What’s with new-age restaurants and their unrestrained menus? Each item seems to require a paragraph listing the family history of every ingredient, and then going on to explain its hopes and dreams. And while we’re at it, I might as well point out that ‘homemade’ jam is, by definition, jam that is made at home, which makes it kind of ridiculous when we see them stirring up vats of it in your restaurant kitchen.
Celebrity chef wannabes
Get over it already. Nail biting finales were interesting when there was just one show on air. Now you can’t go anywhere without stubbing your toe on an amateur chef. Let’s face it. Most of them are terrible. Besides, nobody cooks like that in the real world. Buying molecular gastronomy starter kits? Sous vide equipment? Liquid nitrogen? Are you cooking or welding together a park bench?
This has to be the most exasperating dining trend of all. Pretentious restaurants serving only mineral water. That too at a premium. Ironically, the same restaurants will serve local, organic, ‘home grown’ vegetables on their overpriced menus.