Food: Completely fed up

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The Independent Culture
I'M BORED. Bored, bored, bored. Never did I think I would reach the day when I was bored with the idea of eating out, but right now it's plain old dullsville.

Why would you do it to yourself? First, you spend three days on the telephone trying to get a table, which you can never actually get on the night you wanted it or the time you wanted it.

"Well, we could fit you in at 6.30, but then you'd have to be out by 7.45 - we've got someone who really matters coming in then." "Well, I was hoping for something a little later." "Not a problem, how does 11.45 sound?" Then you get all dressed up to impress - who? Then you struggle through the traffic in order to get in the door just in time to stop them giving your table away. Then you reel at the prices, you try to find something you want to eat, and you settle for something you recognise. Ditto for the wine. Finally, you turn your attention to your companion, only to find you can't hear each other talk.

So you hit the booze, smile wanly at each other, and go home three hours later, 80 quid poorer. Do you know what else you can do with 80 quid? You could buy a very decent pair of shoes with it. Or, if you were my wife, an indecent pair. Or two cookbooks and enough food to feed yourself for a week.

Not that this is a money thing. I have never, ever complained about spending money on anything that brings me pleasure. But the nature of modern dining is such that I don't know, as I head out of the door like an eternal Pollyanna, whether the dining experience will bring me pleasure.

It's getting more miss than hit. In the past week, I have sent back two entrees, waited an hour and a half for a main course, been served two oxidised wines, and just generally not liked much of what I have eaten.

Even if everything had been spiffing, though, I would still have been bored. Because it doesn't change. Every other industry has evolved and moved on, but there's little that is new and fresh in the world of dining.

It's the same old food, the same old flavours and the same old format, every time. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Entree, main course, dessert. If the fate of nations depends on the way they eat, as Anthelme Brillat-Savarin suggested, then, let's face it, we're in a rut.

And have you been to a function lately? They're painful in their conservatism, deadly in their lack of imagination. The first course will be a seafood terrine, the second course beef, and the dessert a round, moussey thing.

Why can't they put out loaves of bread for us to carve at the table, or big bowls of French stews, peas and potatoes for a main course? Why can't they skip the stupid entree, and give us a truly great dessert that isn't made six hours ahead of time? Why can't they think about it?

That's what is really missing from all these fancy restaurants. Lateral thinking. Freshness. Imagination. Anarchy. They're so bloody conformist. They think they're revolutionary if they stick a revolving disco ball in the ceiling, and ironically post-modern if they do sausages and mash. They think they're ahead of the pack if they have a website, for heaven's sake. What has that got to do with food?

All the cookbooks, the salsas, the memorabilia, the T-shirts, the television programmes - they're just there to sell, not feed. Chefs are taking their eyes off the ball and their hands off the stove, too busy being multi- media stars or property developers. It wouldn't surprise me if they did a bit of arms-dealing on the side.

Commerical realities being what they are, our chefs and restaurateurs are actually too scared to change what they do or how they do it in case we don't like it. So they keep giving us what they think we want, which is what we used to think we wanted. Well, of course it is. How would we ever know to want anything different? Nobody will ever give it to us.

Everything is fried, because we want "crispy". Everything is beefy because we want meat. Everything is too big, because we want to feel full. Everything is exciting, and hi-tech, and groovy, and modern and cutting edge. So why am I so bored; so, so bored?

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