Friday, 11 April 2008

The revolution has been cancelled

Yum, yet another post about food!

In many ways I’m a staunch defender of the traditions of the English public house, but I would not lift a finger to defend traditional English cooking. All that gristly meat, thick gravy, soggy masses of spuds and veg and stodgy puddings blighted my childhood.

But salvation was at hand in the form of Mediterranean and Oriental cuisine, which typically offered a much lighter style of dish with more clearly defined ingredients, using pasta, rice and couscous as carbohydrate in place of the dreaded spuds, and an escape from the dreary “meat and two veg” style of presentation.

This has been taken up enthusiastically by the restaurant trade, so in any large town you will find a wide variety of establishments offering distinctive cuisines from around the world. But pubs have been much more cautious and half-hearted, and in general only gave a grudging nod towards this food revolution.

We have ended up with a situation where even supposedly up-market pubs offer a predictable menu of generic “pub grub” which reluctantly embraces the “exotic” dimension by including a poor-quality lasagne and a rubbish curry. On at least two occasions I have eaten curries in supposedly highly-regarded pubs that gave the impression that the people preparing them had never encountered an actual curry in an Indian restaurant in their lives.

The situation has been made worse by the “Jamie Oliver” approach which seems to dismiss much innovative international cooking as “junk food” and represents a depressingly successful attempt to rehabilitate the traditional English muck.

I have to say I increasingly avoid eating full meals in pubs as the food is so often second-rate and lacking in authenticity. As said in the previous post, I’d prefer it if pubs took a step back from the food trade and left destination dining to specialist restaurants. But, if pubs are to concentrate heavily on food, wouldn't it be better to specialise much more, so that one offered genuinely good Italian cuisine, another Chinese, another Mexican etc, rather than the “Jack of all trades, master of none” menus typically found at present?

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