Power to the pea

Power to the pea
Enough food faddism! It's time to form a gastronomic Protection Society.

Enough food faddism! It's time to form a gastronomic Protection Society. 

mike hutcheson idealog food faddismThere is far too much faddism creeping into the culinary arts these days, particularly in the realms of canapés and salads, and it’s my belief that the people who produce them should be taught the Law of Finger Food. This very fundamental law is the cornerstone of social gastronomy.

The Law states quite simply: “Food is consumed at a rate inversely proportional to the mystery of its content and cleverness of its preparation.”

The corollary of this law says: “The club sandwiches or cheerios with tomato sauce will be scoffed long before anyone touches the pumpernickel pinwheels filled with feta cheese, celery, sun-dried tomatoes and dates.” If you don’t believe me, ask any bloke.

A Gastronomic Protection Society should be formed to stamp out the insidious trend towards faddish food, before cucumber sandwiches and sausage rolls are lost forever.

The idea is that we appoint a designated ‘writher’ at every cocktail party, who, having taken a nibble from one of the filo parcels stuffed with chargrilled capsicum, pickled dates, goat’s cheese and barracuda spleen, will fall to the ground writhing and moaning loudly. An accomplice will then shout “It’s the food! It’s the food!” and call for an antidote of sausage rolls.

Once we have dealt with clever canapés, we can move on to exotic vegetables. Let’s start with rocket, or Lollo Rossa, for that matter.

Where did they come from? Our lives were once complete with good old iceberg or Webb’s Wonderful lettuce. Finely sliced, topped with quartered hard-boiled eggs, sliced tomato, grated cheese, and complemented with salad dressing made from condensed milk and vinegar served with sliced ham and mashed potato, you couldn’t have wished for a better lunch on a lazy summer Sunday.

You could at least eat the lettuce tidily. Ever tried to eat a salad of the fancy stuff and retain any semblance of dignity? You look like a living floral arrangement, with leaves and petals randomly protruding, while your tongue flicks around trying to stop too much foliage falling in your lap.

Next, broccoli – there’s a wee charmer. As far as I can ascertain, broccoli is a recent phenomenon, the floral head of a plant artificially cultivated by crossing cabbage with cauliflower. What a pedigree! Two of the lowliest and most banal forms of vegetable and their lovechild. Broccoli is not even a proper leafy vegetable, it’s a flower. Anyway, if it’s biologically engineered, it’s banned. End of story.

Then, the aubergine, quite possibly the most pretentious vegetable known to man. Formerly known as the eggplant, it shot to fame when some culinary snob figured it to be mysteriously aristocratic and therefore due some respect. Don’t believe it. Aubergines are bland and floury-textured mush, bought because they look pretty. Without exception, aubergines spend a few weeks occupying the darkest recesses of the fridge until they grow fur and have to be dealt with by masked men in overalls carrying long poles with claws on the end.

You might ask where Brussels sprouts feature in all this? You won’t find them on the menu at any trendy restaurant. You are more likely to get enough rocket to fill a silage pit, a fur ball of alfalfa sprouts, chickpea and cockroach tapenade, some carefully hidden coddled quail-eggs, a thin shaving of possum tongue, drizzled (I kid you not, that’s a word they actually use!) with something like hand-pressed dandelion oil and cherry blossom vinegar, on a roulade of aubergine, couscous and broccoli terrine.

Where, oh where can you get an ordinary ham, egg or cucumber sandwich with the crusts cut off in portions that you can actually eat without using a machete and a compass?

Are you with me here? Can you see how apathy is allowing clever food to sneak in by stealth? We must fight.

A good tip: never order a vegetable with a foreign name. Think of the pea – easy to spell, a nutritious, health-filled and sweet tasting legume that has never been seen in a restaurant since it came frozen in plastic bags. Paradoxically, because it is frozen it is no longer ‘cool’. We, who are subjected to the tyranny of the clever cooks, must rise up and make our feelings known. Power to the pea.

Mike Hutcheson is a former Saatchi & Saatchi grand fromage and a founding member of the Gastronomic Protection Society.