Recent Snippets of Significance from the Press
Farming the Future
Over the past few years there’s been more and more column inches given over to just how unsustainable the meat farming industry is. The Independent reports that Californian chef Anthony Myint, founder of Mission Chinese Food has just been awarded the Basque Culinary World Prize of £91,000 for the Perennial Farming Initiative (PFI) project he has launched with his wife, journalist Karen Leibowitz. Instead of advocating a shift away from eating meat, like many are calling for, the PFI was established to encourage good farming practices with minimal carbon impact. By adopting these alternative methods of production Myint believes that we can create a renewable food system that will still allow us all to farm and consume meat in the future.
Should a salad contain meat and if it does is it still actually a salad? According to Zoe Williams in her article in The Guardian, meat most definitely has a place in salads, especially when it’s something like the Ivy’s classic Duck Salad or perhaps a Vietnamese chicken and cabbage salad. Williams point out that although salads have historically been viewed as a side dish of self-denial, these days they come in all shapes and guises and have been embraced by the health-conscious Millennial generation are now more than likely to be eaten as a filling main course in their own right.
Living Life on the Veg
In his weekly FT column, chef Rowley Leigh relives the experience of making his first recipe, a watercress soup, as a novice chef at Le Gavroche, which taught him the all-important lesson that when it comes to ingredients, less is very often more. Drawing on this early revelation he argues that when it comes to modern vegetarian cooking, the same principle should apply and if the ingredients used are the best quality (not mass produced, out-of-season in a polytunnel) then the resulting food will not only be full of flavour, but also full of joy.
The World of Vegetables
Although the well-documented trend for vegetarian and vegan eating in the West is a relatively new development, in some parts of the world such diets are the established norm and have been adhered to and eaten for centuries. As such it seems odd that much of the focus of these movements seems to be on trashy street food, modern wellness and meat replacements such as the bleeding burger, with very little seeming to draw on the tried and tested meat-free or meat-light dishes of countries such as China, India, Ethiopia and even Italy. This interesting article in The Guardian delves into some of the vegetable-based delights to be found in these cuisines.
The New York Times has a report on the rise of virtual restaurants, a subject we covered in detail in a previous blog piece. With the all-pervasive spread of smart phones, dinner is now no more than a click away through a delivery app from the likes of Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub, and now many restaurants are also opening virtual kitchens – kitchens set up purely to cater for home delivered food, or even virtual restaurants, that only exist online. Although this rapid growth in home delivery can dramatically increase a restaurants turnover, there’s also a worry that the effect of these so-called ‘ghost’ kitchens may be far-reaching, potentially accelerating people’s turn toward order-in food over restaurant visits and preparing home-cooked meals.
A New Restaurant Revolution
This opinion piece in The FT by John Thornhill covers similar ground – that is, how technology is driving a restaurant revolution in which online delivery companies will dominate the global eating out sector. As Thornhill points out, running a bricks-and-mortar restaurant has always been a precarious high-churn game but traditional eateries are increasingly being challenged by high rents and wages and near-instantaneous exposure of their failings on social media. On the other hand, high-tech delivery companies are able to adapt quickly to changing consumer tastes, and use their vast pool of data to accurately match supply and demand and so better exploit the growing demand for convenience and affordability, something traditional restaurants will struggle to keep up with.
How we used to Eat
Bee Wilson, writing in the London Review of Books, gives an in-depth and thoroughly enjoyable synopsis of The London restaurant 1840-1914 by Brenda Assael – a book which gives a fascinating insight into the Capitals pre World War One dining-out landscape and delves into its rise and subsequent fall. It turns out that back at the end of 19th Century London actually had a remarkably diverse and thriving restaurant scene – there was even a restaurant in 1885 serving breaded veal cutlet with curry sauce, a dish not that far removed from today’s on-trend chicken katsu curry. All in all, a fascinating glimpse into London’s not so distant past.
A Meal to Die For
In this short but touching piece in The Guardian, prompted by an email from a terminally-ill reader wanting to spend some of his remaining time eating a few decent meals, Jay Rayner lists some of his favourite restaurants – not temples to high gastronomy, but rather ones in which he would like to eat were it one of his last meals. As Rayner puts it, his recommendations are based around places that don’t provide meals to be captured and pinned to a board like so many butterflies, stiffened with rigor mortis, but rather are about life lived firmly in the present tense. Regardless of what the future may hold, sometimes, if you can afford it, a good meal, in a restaurant engineered to feed rather than impress, forces us to appreciate the here and now.
You Can’t Beat a Breakfast Buffet
In this short piece in The Evening Standard Magazine, Laura Craik proclaims her love of the classic hotel breakfast buffet. From joining the inevitable queue, to piling your plate high with far too much food, just in case anything were to run out, there’s nothing like a well-stocked breakfast buffet to get your summer holiday off to a good start.
The Changing Tastes of British Diners
It seems Brits tastes are changing when it comes to choosing what to eat when dining out, with Italian, Indian and Chinese cuisines losing out to Middle Eastern, Caribbean and specialist vegetarian food, according to most recent CGA and AlixPartners report on the UK dining sector. The report, as summarised in The Guardian, also highlights the fact that overall the sector has shown its sixth successive period of decline, with restaurant numbers falling by 3.4% this year to the end of June. It’s interesting to see this shift in dining preferences, but overall the report paints a worrying picture of current state of the industry.