Food. It’s so basic and essentially simple; the nutritional components of it are why we need it and the fact it tastes relatively pleasant is why we enjoy it. So why then, do the chefs and marketing meddlers of this world need to complicate things so terribly with frilly words and superfluous descriptive piffle?
I know this may seem odd coming from one who says in a thousand words what another person might scribe on the back of a daisy petal, but I’m a fully qualified stage 4 hypocrite with a badge and certificate to prove it. Anyway, I’m crafting flouncy words for my own (and your, if you’re lucky) entertainment, so I’m allowed to apply superlatives with wanton abandon. Those in charge of writing menus, however should try to exert a little restraint.
Unless you’re the sort to eat exclusively at restaurants that ask if you want fries and a shake with your meal, you will have encountered what I’m talking about; ingredients such as “vine ripened tomatoes”. Excuse me for being a little naïve here, but last time I checked, all tomatoes grew on a vine, which is where they turn from green to red. Is that not ripening? “Topped with a hen’s egg”? Well, it was hardly going to be a cockerel’s, was it?! Come to me with a dish topped with a snake’s egg and then you can start bragging. It’s a tomato, there’s nothing wrong with that, tomatoes do a perfectly adequate job of being red, juicy and full of annoying seeds; they don’t need tarting up. As for eggs, well, it’s fine to just call it an egg, it really won’t get offended.
The same goes for how it’s been prepared. “Lovingly hand cut” – personally I would use a knife as they’re much sharper, and I’m not even going to suggest what sort of mental state someone would have to be in to “lovingly” chop anything, Lorena Bobbitt excluded of course. As for your “oven baked” goods, save that for the 5 year olds. That’s like me “leg kicking” you in the perineum for talking such poppycock, before I “fist punch” you in the chops.
Then we have the phenomenon where the regional accent of the farmer who wades through the cow’s dung before it’s sent to the giant mechanical slaughter house, is supposed to make it more delicious – “Hereford reared steak from the farm just round the corner from the Post Office on the road that’s a bit hilly. Owned by Farmer Bob”. Bob could be a horrible farmer for all we know. He could force the poor cattle to listen to The Cheeky Girls all day while he covers the floor of their cramped shed in loose Lego bricks and upturned plugs, but we’re supposed to be convinced that the meat is somehow more wholesome and tasty because it has a regional accent. Remember, even the rat meat in a doner kebab had to come from somewhere.
I am perfectly happy for foreign dishes to retain their original name – that’s culturally sound and correct, but why would calling mashed potato “pommes puree” make it taste any more comforting and buttery? It’s potato, mashed. Mashed. Potato. For centuries in the UK we have been pouring gravy over our sausage and mash, so why now are we being sold “jus” as an accompaniment to our West Yorkshire reared, acorn fed, had-a-penchant-for-scratching-on-the-gatepost-second-from-left, 100% premium pork select sausages and Roi Edwarde pommes puree? Sausage, mash, gravy. Simple.
It has reached a point where the mere act of ordering from a menu means you need the Rosetta Stone and a schizophrenic just to work out which are the starters and which is a desperate cry for help from a chef on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I was once presented with a menu that tried to convince me pollen was an actual ingredient and I’m pretty sure I heard the torrid weeping of a man in severe mental anguish from behind the kitchen door.
“For today’s specials we have the pan fried fillet of Cornish coast mermaid’s nipple on a bed of delicately wilted expectations and a foam of bitter regret, followed by the tickled loin of wistful bonnet de douche garnished with a bricklayer’s punctuation, and for dessert we have the poached pair of aces with breast ripened milk ice cream.” All this will of course be served on a roof tile or a piece of driftwood, as that (and the smear of baby food across them) is what adds £60.00 and a maitre’d’s sneer to each dish. Makes beans on toast look a whole lot more appealing, doesn’t it?
This level of pretension isn’t just confined to the realms of the fine dining eatery, oh no, the supermarkets have got in on the act and even your basic ready meals now read like the literary works of Keats. Well, Keats if he had access to a microwave. What used to be a meat and two veg meal for one is now a “rustic chunky lamb melange served with tumbled seasonal garden produce, seasoned with the sigh of a lonesome sparrow and a reduction of buxom wenches’s winks”. It’s a lamb stew, stop being a prat.
As much as I love words and the magical way in which they can transform basic communication into an artistic melody of thoughts, sometimes a melody of thoughts is just a brain fart. All this convoluted nonsense being used to try to sell you your lunch is bordering on the sublimely ridiculous. At worst it’s misleading, at best, laughably redundant and tiresome, so why not just cut the claptrap and tell people what they’re eating without the use of a thesaurus and a poet laureate?! Sometimes an egg just needs to be an egg.