Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Food Fads Run Mad; Vegetables Weren't Peeled, They Were 'Embarrassed', 'Annoyed in Stock' (Simmered), Then 'Disappointed' (Drained)

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Food Fads Run Mad; Vegetables Weren't Peeled, They Were 'Embarrassed', 'Annoyed in Stock' (Simmered), Then 'Disappointed' (Drained)

Article excerpt


NEVER trust a thin chef," my old granny used to say, so I should have realised that the beanpole chef at the Villa des Lys in Cannes would provide me with the secondworst gastronomical experience of my life (since you ask, the worst was at the Arocaria in Crouch End, but that's for another time).

Monsieur Beanpole's fondant de loup resembled the unappetising mixture of shaving foam and stubble you sometimes see encrusted on a neglected bathroom sink, his wilting celery batons urgently needed an oil and Viagra dressing (or that stuff that Gary Rhodes used to put on his hair), his lobster was accompanied by what looked like a medieval medical contraption for simultaneously performing an abortion and extracting a tooth, and as for the main course, I found myself forced to utter the phrase, "Waiter, I have just seen a lentil with six legs".

Okay, I admit that I'm the man who once tried to order pageone from an Italian menu (it wasn't a pasta dish, as I'd thought, just a typo opposite page two), but nevertheless, some of us were brought up to read Brillat-Savarin before Enid Blyton, and we can recognise gastronomic bullshit when we encounter it. After all, here in Britain we have to eat it almost every day.

And nobody serves up gastronomic bullshit better than Simon and Minty Marchmont, the upper-class Richard and Judy clones who present Posh Nosh (BBC2). Played deadpan by Richard E Grant and Arabella Weir, they're the living embodiment of the pretentiousness that complicates the essentially simple art of eating well, and they've deigned to let a camera crew into their rustic kitchen to film them preparing "extraordinary food for ordinary people" (that's you and me).

Last night, they sneeringly decried the vulgar "builder's fish and chips" that the proletariat like to eat, and instead showed us how to design and construct "architect's fish and chips," sounding uncannily like those fashion-victim New Labour types who wander into northern chippies, see the mushy peas, and declare: "I'll have some of that guacamole." And true to their word, what they presented to us 10 minutes later was no ordinary "one of each", but the piece of cod that passeth understanding.

Central to the parody was the couple's-lexicon of absurd neologisms and euphemisms for various culinary practices, full of highfalutin terms for lowfalutin procedures.

Vegetables weren't peeled, they were "embarrassed", then "annoyed in stock" (simmered) before being " disappointed" (drained), after which you could "Matisse the oil" over them before roasting them in (what else?) the Aga. The Aga is, of course, the totem of Middle England, and the Marchmonts' blind worship of it reminded me of a couple of herberts I once stayed with who owned one, and proudly told me that it was "part of the English tradition, like the royal family. …

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