Friday 4 November 2016

You Are What You Eat 8

From oven to table

In August 2016, falafel and avocado are being used as markers for "utterly middle class". Like “latte sipping”. Latte has been around for about 15 years, we ate falafel at the Israeli café in Charing Cross Road (Gaby’s) in the early 70s, and my parents were trying to force me to eat avocadoes in the 60s,  because middle-class children must eat foreign and unfamiliar food. The haterz just need to bring their references up to date.

Jeremy Paxman made middle class friends at his prep school. When he visited a friend’s home, he was amazed to find “yoghourt” being delivered with the milk – whatever that was. His own father brought home an avocado one day. “We were all rather baffled by it.”

Now, apparently, we’re “obsessed with aubergines” and some chefs are using them instead of pasta sheets in lasagna. The young journalists who write this guff are too young to remember the 70s and Something Bake, particularly mozzarella, tomato and aubergine. It was a trendy version of Seven-Layer Pie.

Does anybody really like the kind of salad that comes in a cardboard box? And how do you eat them without chopping everything up small? And it’s hard to eat anything with plastic cutlery out of a cardboard box. They consist of rocket, grated carrot, grated beetroot, chunks of squash, chunks of pumpkin, all covered with chilli-flavoured dressing and a scattering of nuts and seeds. DIScomfort food.

Very upmarket food comes “plated” - ie it’s turned into a mini work of art with whole leaves of this and that lying on a bed of puree in a pool of coloured liquid. As soon as you start to eat it (and you have to cut up the leaves and the central thing to get them into your mouth), the picture is spoiled and the coloured liquid goes everywhere.

Upwards used to go on (and ON)
about how maaahvellous medlars and mulberries were, far superior to strawberries and raspberries (which you can get at any corner shop – or, in the olden days, at any roadside). Whereas with medlars and mulberries you have to own a tree, or know someone who does (and they’re bound to be posh). Ancient mulberries are probably left over from attempts to establish an indigenous silk industry.

The more middle class you are, the less you chop things. Lower-middle-class Teales chop food very small, so it’s easy to eat (thank you, Teales).

“Poshcorn” and “Proper Corn”
on sale in a corner shop? They’re not going to make many middle-class sales. And wasn’t gourmet popcorn a few food fads ago?

Prosecco peach jam has been spotted.

Rice pudding is the must-have dessert for 2016.  (BBC Breakfast)

You really can get a chicken tikka Yorkshire pudding in Iceland. (The shop, not the country.)

In many modern eateries the seats are too low.

Nobody eats vegetables in white sauce any more (very Mrs Beeton), which is a pity – the sauce stuck everything together and stopped it falling off your fork. I'm waiting for vegan comfort food. How about cauliflower with tofu, cocoanut and mushroom dressing?

I like to think that posh Stow Crats eat superbly cooked traditional roast and two veg.

From the 1894 White House CookbookDon't, when you drink, elevate your glass as if you were going to stand it inverted on your nose. Bring the glass perpendicularly to the lips, and then lift it to a slight angle. Do this easily.

Drink sparingly while eating. It is far better for the digestion not to drink tea or coffee until the meal is finished. Drink gently, and not pour it down your throat like water turned out of a pitcher.

I remember a type of woman from the 60s and 70s: smiley, brisk, in her forties or fifties, rather well off, with a second home. She had short grey hair and a tan from sailing, and dressed in big cotton jerseys, sailcloth trousers and deck shoes. She made vast batches of pies and casseroles and put them into giant chest freezers (one in each house) so that when her children and friends or guests came to stay she didn’t have to cook, but could just whisk something out and defrost it.

She had a modern kitchen with a lot of pale blue flowery curtains, trays and biscuit jars. (And "oven to table" casserole dishes.) She liked to sit at her (pale blue, wipe-clean) kitchen table drinking instant coffee out of a mug and chatting. She didn’t make a big fuss about laying tables, either. Food was served buffet style, napkins were paper. After the meal, everything was shoved in the dishwasher. It was the modern way, rational and practical when servants had departed.

It was much too practical for Upwards who were still trying to maintain their class position with Georgian silver, cut glass and linen tablecloths and huge amounts of fuss and bullying – but she tended to be a bit of a Stow Crat. They are much more practical and hard-headed, and also don’t have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses. They are also used to adapting what they’ve got (huge inherited houses) to changing times. Also you can’t fit chandeliers and Georgian silver into a sailing boat. And Upwards of the time didn’t want to sit around and chat – unpleasant home truths might have come out. And it was too enjoyable – bound to be bad for you.

When will we reach peak café? There always were cafés, but respectable people couldn’t go to them – they were full of working class people! (Respectable people flocked to tea shops – but could a MAN really drink tea in a tea shop?) No wonder the respectable people were so shocked by the teenage café culture of the 50s and early 60s, when “coffee bars” were trendy. As were outré sandwich fillings like bacon and banana, cream cheese and date...

More here, and links to the rest.

1 comment:

  1. Love the woman with the 2 freezers full of casserole, I knew just the type (some boyfriends' lovely mothers). Posy Simmonds very good on the type - there's a splendid strip where a tableful fins that the casserole is inherited from a dead aunt, and no-one's quite sure whether that's ok or not.