Recent snippets of significance from the Press
My Pet Hate!
Josh Barrie, writing in The Prospect gives this short history of one of my most hated condiments – balsamic glaze. This thick and overly sweet gel, made by adding sugar to balsamic vinegar and reducing it down, first appeared in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that it really took off and came to be viewed as a mark of menu sophistication. It quickly became ubiquitous to the extent that it seemed that every aspiring gastropub chef of the time was using it to add ‘creative’ squiggles on their plates or drizzling it over their food. These days though the food world has moved on and it’s appearance on a plate is more likely to seen as a lack of confidence in the cooking – although you can be sure there’s still plenty of home kitchens that still have a bottle of it lurking in their cupboards.
The Zagat Zeitgeist
The article in The FT provides an interesting insight into the role that social media and the internet in general now play when it comes to reviewing and promoting restaurants. It charts the rise of the now influential restaurant blog The Infatuation and how it came to be so successful, to the extent that it has now purchased the Zagat – a brand with a long history of publishing respected restaurant guides. Part of the success is down to the fact that The Infatuation has firmly pitched itself to a younger generation of media-savvy, experience-hungry diners and has recognised that in dining, context is king – so how customers experience a restaurant has everything to do with who they are with and what they need from that experience, beyond just a simple review of the food itself.
And the Award goes to…
It’s that time of the year again – the announcement of the Observer Food Monthly Awards for 2019, and this year the award for Lifetime Achievement has been given to cookery writer Claudia Roden. Roden has been collecting and writing about Jewish and Middle Eastern recipes since the 1960s and her writing has inspired not only a generation of chefs and cooks, myself included, but can also be credited with introducing Britain to the exotic flavours and ingredients of the Levant and the greater Middle East. A truly worthy recipient in my opinion.
(Image courtesy of The Guardian)
As the world seems to be turning more and more towards plant-led and vegan diets being a committed carnivore is increasingly being viewed as an irresponsible dietary option. With this in mind, in this piece in The Telegraph, William Sitwell muses on the pleasures of eating meat and how it can be justified given the current climate crisis the world is facing. As he points out, there’s still plenty of people who enjoy eating everything from chicken to steak, but we should be moving away from relying on mass-produced, factory-farmed meat towards eating more locally and ethically produced animals. In fact Sitwell recommends that we should view meat as our grandparents did – as a luxury product to be eaten occasionally, but when we do eat it to choose the best quality we can afford.
The Vegan Wars
In this well-written lengthy feature article in The Guardian George Reynolds asks the question ‘why does veganism still provoke so much anger?’, and takes a taking an intriguing look at some of the reasons behind this hatred as well as the history behind the movement itself. Once a niche group, the number of people identifying as vegan has grown rapidly over the past few years but despite this, and the growing realisation that eating less meat is beneficial, if not essential, to both individual health as well as the health of our planet, vegans still seem to be the focus of much unwarranted animosity. But as Reynolds concludes ‘the war on vegans is the act of a doomed majority fighting to defend its harmful way of life. Vegans might well be vociferous and annoying, holier-than-thou, self-satisfied and evangelical, but as their numbers grow…perhaps the worst thing they could be, is right.’
Chef Neil Rankin has made his name at meat-centric restaurants Smokehouse, Pitt Cue and Temper, but, as reported in The Evening Standard, his newest opening is Simplicity Burger – a wholly vegan restaurant on Brick Lane. Although Ranking has not turned vegan himself (although he has cut down on his meat intake) he spotted a gap in the market for really good vegan burgers that would be as satisfyingly tasty and textured as any meat equivalent. The restaurant will serve a limited range of burgers with the patties created from a secret mix of ingredients including fermented vegetables and Japanese miso.
Bringing Home the Bacon
Writing in The FT, Tim Hayward take a light-hearted look at how what we eat is influenced by a never-ending succession of recommendations or warnings based on scientific research and studies. Over time everything from eggs to butter and bacon has been ruled unhealthy by various Government bodies, but although it doesn’t usually stop most people from eating these things, it does cause a certain amount of guilt, especially to Hayward himself, a committed food lover who also cares about his overall well-being. As he points out – it shouldn’t be too much to ask, to be able to enjoy our food without feeling guilty, but all these studies are making it impossible.
A Flight too Far
In these days of increasing environmental awareness and the ever-growing impact of climate change many of us are reviewing how often we fly, but maybe, as this spot-on article in The FT points out, we actually need to be looking at how far our food has flown. Our hunger for exotic foods continues to grow – from Mexican avocados to Alaskan black cod and Italian burrata – and all this food has to be flown or shipped in to us, often leaving behind a considerable carbon footprint. In fact in the UK we actually import over 50% or our food. However there’s already been some backlash against this, with many restaurants now using and highlighting their local, UK sourced ingredients – a direction we should all be thinking of considering when it comes to choosing our food in the future.