Burger and Lobster, London: A gnawing guilt after coming face to face with my meal-to-be
The consequences of our collective disregard for what we put in our mouths is disastrous
The lobster came steamed, halved and accompanied by a side of garlic butter. I was eating with two colleagues at Burger and Lobster – a restaurant that does exactly what it says – one of the new breed of posh fast-food joints that have been making use of the glut of lobster off the North American coast. And that oversupply has meant that I can afford to eat it on a Tuesday night without applying for a bank loan.
Not long after we sat down, it became clear that dinner wasn't going to be the unremittingly jolly affair we had imagined when we were drinking white wine an hour earlier – dinner came with baggage.
The waitress set the tone when she asked how we wanted our food. "You can have your lobster steamed or grilled," she said. "Obviously if you have it grilled we still steam it to kill it first."
My friend Will's face fell a little, his lip curled down, like a wilted rocket leaf.
And then we noticed them – the grim little tanks on the right-hand wall. They were full of lobsters, their claws bound. The lettuce wilted some more. You didn't need to be a member of Peta to feel a little bit sad for them.
We had come face to face with our dinner – and we didn't like what we saw. It isn't that they looked ill-treated, I'm sure Burger and Lobster is scrupulous about such things, it is simply that the consequence of our boozy hunger was there before us, separated by only a few millimetres of glass.
In Britain, as in America, most of us are disconnected from the food we eat. Farm and field, let alone abattoir and butchers, are far-off things, places that don't trouble the consciousness of the majority of us. One only has to look at the survey of 27,500 children aged five to 16 by the British Nutritional Foundation back in July for evidence. It found that a quarter of children thought fish fingers came from chicken or pigs. And a further 10 per cent of them thought tomatoes grew underground.
The consequences of this collective disregard for what we put in our mouths is disastrous. Our apathy breeds cruelty. Battery-farmed hens, pigs entombed in barns, intensive fishing – this is the result. And only education and a re-orientation of our whole eating culture will change that.
Having seen my own dinner close up, in a way I have not for many years, didn't make me want to throw away my leather shoes and become a level-2 Vegan – it simply made me appreciate what I was about to eat, more, perhaps, than I usually would after half a bottle of wine and a gin and tonic. The sense of reconnection didn't just mean some airy-fairy moral balm – it also meant my grilled lobster tasted twice as good and for that I am truly thankful.
The convenience of instant luxury crystals
I love the idea of the new Moët & Chandon vending machine in Selfridges. The contraption, housed on the fourth floor of the Oxford Street store in London, contains 350 mini art-deco-inspired bottles which have been adorned with Swarovski crystals and are yours for that taking if you have a spare £17.99.
All they need now is an ATM dispensing sheets of prosciutto and caviar on tap and they've got themselves a posh dinner party.
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