Harriet Walker: Winter food should be snuggly

 

Share
Related Topics

I very nearly ordered a veal's head in Paris last weekend. I couldn't help it – I've been conditioned by so many trendy new London openings into thinking that eating out should be an experience akin to going to a theme park, with the point of ordering like the slow ascent up the initial climb, and the presentation of the dishes that heady, brief pause before you whoosh into the om-nom-nomming of stuffing your face, as if your mouth were bagged open on the descent by G-force.

When I eat in restaurants, I'm often constrained by the guilt factor of choosing something I can't have at home – hence my almost ordering the veal's head. I very rarely let myself have pasta if I'm eating out, which doesn't make sense because I cook so little that even pasta dishes are beyond my ken if I ever do find myself in a kitchen, where the utensils stare at me like surly school kids.

Nevertheless, this is definitely something I will never make at home, I thought. Not just because I can't cook, but because even contemplating the act of toting a head back from the butcher makes me feel a bit funny, and I can't begin to imagine what my flatmate would make of the whole thing. It was at that point I realised that one should never order something that one can't even imagine carrying home. (This sort of logic is no doubt why kebabs, sausage rolls and Scotch eggs are so perennially popular – they all have an easily transportable, edible casing that a calf's head simply doesn't.)

But all these themed restaurants that keep opening – hot dogs; greasy pleb burgers; posh burgers made to look like greasy pleb burgers; menus that feature only samphire, wet polenta or two of the following in very specific combinations: beef and lobster, chicken and beef, lobster and chicken, a chicken dressed up as a lobster – they make you feel like you need to inhabit a certain personality as you eat, rather than just being a dumpy little person who quite likes eating crackers with salt on top and considers them to be a perfectly agreeable meal.

Like being handed a sombrero upon entering a particular type of tequila-slamming Tex-Mex affair, you put on the garb of the person who is supposed to be eating the poultrified crustacean. Or in my case, you imagine you must be a Parisian gourmande, and you end up nearly having to eat a baby cow's face.

I'm a big fan of eating like yourself, if I'm honest. I can't do it all the time because I'd get scurvy within a month. But sometimes – especially when it's a bit cold and a lot dark – it's worth listening to your id when it tells you to have Super Noodles for tea, washed down with a floppy pizza. Winter menus are all about ordering for your id: warm, stodgy and snuggly. The gastronomic equivalent of a double Slanket and cuddling on the sofa. Winter food props up the heartsore, shrouds those who are sad in a glutinous coating of comfort and of clag.

Clag is very important at this time of year, but is often maligned as filler, boringly beige, as not the right kind of food for foodies. Well, sod the foodies: pass me some batter and I'll eat it raw if I have to.

In the veal-head restaurant, I was pleased to see that the menu relied heavily on clag. It was a proper posh establishment, so it allayed any residual fears I had about the fact I eat as if rationing is still in effect. Most things came in pastry, and the pastry came with a side of mashed potato. When the quenelle de brochet – a dumpling filled with pike – came with a side of mashed potato too, the expression on my mother's face took in everything from confusion to ecstasy.

Back in London, I am faced with a foodie dilemma: I'm due to cook a Christmas-ish dinner for my sisters and their husbands next week. Given that my signature dish is either spaghetti-and-sausages-on-toast (from a tin, with a garnish of grated cheese) or a Thai green curry that owes more to Loyd Grossman than it does to my own efforts, I'm a little anxious about poisoning them. Or making them cry at the very least.

Still, I'm determined to make a go of it. I've just ordered a ham from the local butcher. Actually, what I meant was a gammon, as he pointed out. I was feeling pretty good about it all, until someone else, quite reasonably, told me I'd also have to think about starters and side dishes. And then somehow make sure they were all ready at the same time as the ham… sorry, gammon. With this in mind, I thought I'd just serve up mash (although I'll obviously be calling it fondant potato) in a big trough at the end of the table. Clag-tastic, and not a veal's head in sight.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jihadist militants leading away captured Iraqi soldiers in Tikrit, Iraq, in June  

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Robert Fisk
India's philosopher, environmental activist, author and eco feminist Vandana Shiva arrives to give a press conference focused on genetically modified seeds on October 10, 2012  

Meet Vandana Shiva: The deserving heir to Mahatma Ghandi's legacy

Peter Popham
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?