I like food. Good food. We mostly do. Though it can be hard to find.
Not hard as in the real old days: I don’t have to hunt, kill, butcher and cook a boar – I can just go and buy some – but hard in that finding quality ingredients isn’t easy. A lot of it depends on where you live. And the affluence of your locality.
At what used to be Safeway’s in Sydenham (and was once Sydenham Cinema many, many moons ago), the supermarket of my youth, the choice, or breadth of choice is focussed on nuggets, cheap snorkers, nukeburgers and the like. If you fancy dropping by to pick up the ingredients for maigret de canard avec jus de truffle then you’ll be disappointed. Worse is that if you’re dropping by for a breast of chicken, some lardons, chillies, shallots and shrooms you’ll still be disappointed. Even bangers and mash is tricky. It’s all shite on the shelves. And shallots? Yuppie. Free range? No mate but there’s a freezerbag full of diced breast for 50p. If you want a decent bottle of wine then just forget about it.
Unsurprisingly, this pisses me off. And I work at my anger, my malcontentedness, so I take it to another level. I watch Masterchef or some similar trite (though Masterchef really is the solid gold of telly designed to wind me up).
I ate at “Jamie’s Italian” in Guildford a week or so ago. Another branded resto in a town full of them. On entering we were greeted and given a pager, which would buzz when our table was free. If you are like me and believe that nothing works these days then this isn’t a good start but, a couple of beers at the bar later, it buzzed and we were led to the table a couple of yards away that had been sitting empty for at least one of those beers. Fair dos: maybe they were timing their covers.
We sat. A very groovy waitress told us about the specials as if she’d been on a “talk like Jamie” course, but she’d clearly missed the “totally annoying twat” part and it wasn’t that bad. Nor was the food. It was okay. The wine, a young Barbera, tasted (to me) as if it had been kept next to the oven for a while. I couldn’t be bothered to send it back: I got the impression that this would have to be signed off by THE MANAGER and some sort of procedure would have to be followed. In short, the mild disappointment involved in drinking a slightly knackered Barbera was the easier choice if the other one was trying to explain to some spotty idiot who’s been on an Excel course that it wasn’t right.
The bill was average, as was the experience. It was filling my stomach and passing the time. The grappa was pretty good.
The connections are all rather tenuous here, but we’re back to quality, and back to brands. The irony of Jamie’s Italian is that a supposedly gifted and imaginative chef gives us a very ordinary, and certainly unimaginative experience. This is not what eating out is for (save for KFC, the chippy, the kebab shop, etc).
The irony of that smug twat on Masterchef (come, on: you know which one) is that I’ll bet that half the viewers of said dross are sitting there eating TV meals: nuggets, pizza. It winds me up so much I can’t eat at the same time as watching (plus I have to swear at the telly a lot).
At least Michael Winner has some of his tongue in his cheek.