This week, it’s the contentious subject of foodstuffs. Practical solution to the endemic crime of celebrity chefs also included at no extra cost, along with convincing dystopian alternative for those who prefer their lunch to take three minutes and come from a pot.
A little while back, I wrote a short piece about food on another blog platform when I was attempting to find my voice. It was deliberately confrontational and probably a touch derivative, the main thrust being that food is, in essence, merely petrol to keep us all alive in order to do far greater things than the act of eating itself. This would have been apposite if written in the 1970s (or indeed earlier), when the greater irony may well have been appreciated by frequenters of those appalling trattorias, nascent curry houses and stick-in-the-mud bastions of public school cuisine. But it wasn’t.
Over the last twenty years or so, we have morphed into a nation of foodies. Suddenly, every man and his dog has developed a palate that subtle, it would leave Abigail and her guests floundering like jetsam at one of her soirées. We demand choice and quality as standard (despite having come through the worst recession since WW2) and, more than ever, we require affirmation that our opinions are justified. Why so?
Because our newly-found appreciation of all things gastronomic is nothing more than the emperor’s new clothes. We food snobs, like wine snobs, know deep down that our honed interest in the ephemeral is pretty low down on the pecking order of things that actually matter. Consequently, in much the same way that our current government operates, we surround ourselves with like-minded sycophants who will be the first to forgive us for thinking that it does. So when the bill payer clicks his/her fingers at a chain restaurant minion and they come running, no-one from either camp dares question the validity of the challenge. Money talks, deafeningly when there isn’t much around, and putting an opinionated Herbert to rights is probably not worth losing your job for.
But it is a wafer-thin confidence, to be annihilated absolutely in the not too distant future by global events, the seething aficionados of packaged goods, and common sense. I predict a time when all celebrity chefs are dragged by the hair from their culinary idylls, thrown into the stocks and pelted to death with every last leaf of kale, lollo rosso and organically-farmed, locally-sourced cucumber that inevitably ended its days in the recycling bin. When coffee houses, like televisions in the 1950s, only offer black and white as an option, and if anyone with a manicured moustache demands anything with more than one syllable, they too will be executed on-site in the manner of Charles I and their remains fed to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pigs. And when the beasts of Smithfield, at the point of their bloody departure from this world to the restaurants of St John Street, are given the option to turn the tables, they do so on the sole condition that they feast exclusively on their perpetrators.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the future.
I’m sitting in the soon to be opened Moroccan Room in Idle Hour Barons Court, waiting for Nibs to show up and deliver his verdict on IE4, a witty yet savage take on the perils of middle age. It’s a blinder, of course, and I’m expecting voluminous gratitude and hopefully a free pint of Harveys. All around me are tasteful hints that I am in a better world, where I can relax after work with my friends/business colleagues on a pastel pouf or two, sipping on a tension-busting cocktail or two and let the evening wind itself down slowly to its Tangiers-inspired conclusion. Nibs, however, is late. Not that late, but late enough for me to be side-tracked by my admittedly fabulous imagination:
I’m snuggled up over there, on the crimson sofa beneath the clock, with someone you’ve just read about in the Metro who earns more than you do. She caresses my face gently and throws back her hair in a devil-may-care stylee. And she actually thinks I’m really funny: That’s why she’s laughing, see? Then, slowly, but quite deliberately, she…
‘Alright Bro?’ Balls! It’s Nibs. Blasting away at the cobwebs of my fantasies just like he used to in our shared bedroom in Godalming.
‘Ahem. Nice one, Bro.’ I deliberate on the correct level of small talk required before I can fish for compliments but he goes in for the kill before I have a chance to get my house in order.
‘It’s the blog, Bro. Big no no. Sorry, man, don’t think we can use it. Way off base.’
Way off base? I have to counter with something but I’m reeling from the patois. Does he think I work for Radio 1? Or worse still Channel 5? I decide to appeal to his sense of reason by going for the artistic integrity approach, something he knows little about and therefore will give me the upper hand:
‘I know where you’re coming from, Bro. It’s just, well, I think we have to allow our character to have a bit of breathing space outside the pub, no? Otherwise we get stuck in a product placement kind of thing.’ I’m thinking Harrison Ford in Witness, reluctantly reciting ‘Honey, that’s great cawfee’ and inadvertently launching a host of vulgar imitators.
‘Yeah, I know. But I need you to big up the Moroccan room. The punters don’t want to know about you getting old and fat. And anyway, I don’t get it.’
His beard twinkles in the rooms’ candlelit glow (ideal, incidentally, for Christmas parties and functions) and I realise this boy isn’t quite the pushover he was when I made him jump off the roof with an Action Man parachute in Marbella. And it occurs to me contractually that this soft, sumptuous space, with its metallic fire surround, original 50s portraits and subtly decadent aura would lend itself perfectly to any sophisticated West London get-together. But I don’t tell him that.