Little Kingdoms: Why fast food is wonderful.


It is Friday so I treated myself to a special lunch: home cooked Mallu feet with German beer, followed buy dark choc chip and hazel nut ice cream made to my own recipe with British strawberries on top. Let’s take for example my ice cream. It was home made. I made it from custard, double cream, sugar, dark chocolate, and hazel nut.

Think about 300-400 years ago. That’s only 12 generations ago. Who then would have been able to enjoy the kind of lunch I just made on a wim as a treat because it is a sunny day? Only royalty. So I would say that because of technological advancement many of us now enjoy a standard of living that past kings and queens of Europe would have envied.

I chose a meal that I have become accustom to eating on holiday in France and I quite like Belgos restaurant a chain of foe Belgium restaurants that “when we were courting” I used to take my wife Hayley to, to impress her.

We stopped going to Belgos so frequently when Hayley told me as much as I enjoy it, it really didn’t impress her. Sadly that was a mid 20’s repeat of my first attempt to impress Hayley by taking her to this amazing little Cornish pasty place on the Kings road. “It’s great” I said. Little did the 19 year old me from Worcester know that my quirky little pasty place in London was a fast growing chain that would soon be in every railway station: the West Cornwall pasty shop. You live you learn.

These chains are interesting to me. On the one hand they bring you pretty good tasting food at a very reasonable price. In my heart of hearts I am a scientist so I hate to hear snobbery about food out lets. When I work in TV it is pretty rare that a trip to the USA doesn’t mean at least one trip to a Red Lobster. Not a treat for the American crew, clearly they prefer to go somewhere in Maine for Lobster. Which I have done: But living in the UK where lobster is a very expensive treat, I am willing to be honest and say that I found the Maine Lobster a little disappointing.

I could see my American colleagues having an almost orgasmic experience, but to be honest I don’t eat lobster enough. I was lead to believe that I was about to have a transcendental experience. The truth was that it was ok. But I think to really appreciate it beyond acknowledging that it is well cooked and is a nice tasting crustacean, you have to live a little while in a food items “culture”.

You need repeated exposure to a food before you are indoctrinated enough into that food to have a clear enough taste expectation to make a sound judgement. Possibly you need to get indoctrinated in a food to form strong opinions on what are really trivial points that relate to the chemical composition of food molecules that you are smashing up with your teeth before swallowing.

That isn’t me saying that food can’t taste amazing. I love food production. I buy every food gadget going. And actually love to spend a few hours working out how to make a process food.  For example at some point I will take great pleasure in making knocky pasta from potatoes we have grown ourselves.  But I am sceptical about the food “appreciation industry”.

I wonder if the reason we have so many TV shows about food and so many puffed up buffoons on TV talking about food like they just cured cancer is that food TV is essentially pornography. Obviously Master Chef is not sexual pornography but I don’t think it’s your prefrontal cortex making you watch week after week of what is essentially the same programme.

It’s not the guy in your head that has to do the maths and add up the bill at the end of the meal. It’s the reptile inside that wants to have sex all the time and only eat chocolate that keeps turning over to see what Rick Stein is doing in India or why Gordon Ramsey is shouting at an American.  Food is one of the very basic animal needs just like sex and if you want an explanation for why food shows do so well and there are so many of them, then that would be my working hypothesis: Food TV is porn.

For me it is really funny to see people making grandiose statement’s about food. Food just like sex is great. But for the most part it doesn’t get exponentially better just because someone chooses to describe it in pretentious terms.

So to be honest, if you want a burger or some fried Chicken then actually I think it is ok to indulge in a dirty meal from one of those mega businesses once or twice a year. Personally I would argue against more frequent consumption on the grounds of health. But if you truly have a discerning palate you will know that fried chicken (for instance) tastes much better if there is high through put of customers, and you are getting it hot and freshly cooked.

My homemade ice cream uses shop bought custard. That is a compromise I am happy to make because I know I am about to add 2 table spoons of sugar to some double cream, and although I wander what crap has gone into making the custard, I am willing to risk it because I don’t want to wait for my own home made custard to cool before it can go in the ice-cream maker. That would be boring.

My view remains that there has never been a better time to be alive. Barely a day goes by when we aren’t exposed to some new and fascinating thing, or even some moronic and amusing thing.  YouTube is our court jester and is our Leonardo da vinci and what’s more the average British highs street is chock full of food from around the world for you to sample.

Rather than sneering at a chicken kiev I choose to see them for what they are: A tasty low quality item that exposes me to a wider food culture and challenges me to make that at home. Some culinary genius in Moscow thought that a breaded chicken breast, baked and filled with garlic butter would be delicious. Do you know what I bet they were right! We don’t have an obesity epidemic because fast-food tastes bad.

If you really want to stay healthy, enjoy your food on an intellectual creative and sensual level then personally I have found the only way is to turn the TV off, get on google and find a how to video that shows me how to make that thing at home.

At Wine Rides we keep it pretty simple, high quality, locally grown ingredients cooked simply with care, enjoyed in the surroundings they came from. As far as I am concerned, that’s all it needs and nothing could be better than that.