1 The word 'foodie'
Of course we applaud the relatively recent revolution in food culture in Britain, given that we are a nation whose staple vegetable was once the swede, with the occasional marrowfat pea thrown in when occasion demanded. But changing times cause unspeakable smugness, and nothing more so than the prevalence of the word “foodie” — a neologism that makes other new dictionary entries (“fap”, “photobomb” etc) look positively profound. As far as we can work out, it denotes a human being who is interested in food. Presumably these are clearly distinguishable from those human beings who are interested in breathing: “airies”; hydration: “wateries”; and the forces of gravity: “groundies”.
2 Food trucks
There comes a point in every man’s life — usually at university — when he has to start fending for himself, or at least make dinner. The menu? Spaghetti and Dolmio maybe, or a cheese toastie. Most of us, however, don’t rest on our laurels, or think that we have stumbled on a legitimate business opportunity. Sadly, the recent jones for food trucks has resulted in all kinds of Have-a-go Henrys with the minimum of skill and the flimsiest of concepts setting up four-wheeled shops offering bacon sandwiches, cup-a-soups and pasta with stir-in sauce called things like “Rasher Decisions”, “Ugly Mugz” and “Hey Pesto”. Portland has a lot to answer for.
3 ‘Internet sensation’ chefs
Remember those food-truck purveyors who got stuck at the “I just made myself a stir-fry!” stage? Well, they’re actually the good guys. The social-media-spherizoid is now full of scarcely pubescent teenagers whose culinary development has been arrested at the “Mummy just let me put sprinkles on my own fairycake!” stage. But what’s more, this being the internet age, these preternaturally blemish-free teens with cowlick hairdos and ad exec parents have got their own YouTube channels with millions of visitors and a range of cookbooks offering you recipes such as “Milo’s cheesy beans” and “Toby’s Nutella on toast”. Oh, and they’re also considerably richer than you (though they probably were to start with).
None of us likes to think of those lonely Braeburn apples huddled in the darkened hold of a Boeing 777 en route from New Zealand to Tesco, but there are times when the obsession with provenance comes at the expense of logic. Just because that marmalade with the psychotically handwritten label was stewed by Mrs Higgins in the next village, or those tomatoes are being sold out from a wonky box at the end of someone’s driveway, doesn’t mean they can’t still taste like shit.
5 Culinary DIY
Despite the comforts of modern life, as far as food is concerned we are now living in the Age of Inconvenience. Expect eyebrows to be lifted if you haven’t grown your own salad leaves, milled your own flour, panned your own sea salt, butchered your own pork chops, distilled your own gin, shot your own partridge, collected your own honey, strained your own yoghurt, fermented your own pickles, and whittled your own toothpicks for afters. It’s exhausting, and heaven forfend you have something else to do, such as zap your own ready-meal, watch your own telly and scratch your own nutsack.
6 Coffee prices
Remember when the price of a cup of coffee started creeping towards £2? “Two quid?” you spluttered, spraying chocolate flakes from the top of your cappuccino (because that was the fanciest coffee you could get back then). And you were right to be outraged: the real cost of a cup of coffee — as calculated in a study we googled — is approximately 16p (8p for coffee, 8p for milk). Now the price is edging up to £3 and we’re standing by blinking dumbly like the caffeine-addled bovines we have become. What’s more, the most expensive options on the chalkboard are things like Aeropress and V60, coffee-drinking options that don’t require milk — thus saving the vendor that additional 8p. Wake up and smell the markup.
There’s a particular joy in looking through those gadget catalogues that come free with the Sunday newspaper and contain things like egg slicers, watermelon de-pippers, and other niche-use kitchen gadgets, and wondering what kind of numpty would actually have the naivety and impressionability to spend money on them. Well, if you’ve purchased a spiralizer: that’s you, that is. The Japanese invention and “gadget of the year” can turn anything into long noodle shapes as long as that anything is a courgette, beetroot or celeriac. It’s beloved of health-obsessed lady cooks who are all peculiarly hot and will never sleep with you even if you provide the post-coital kohlrabi linguine.
Just when we’ve accepted baristas are not Mexican legal professionals but HIGHLY TRAINED people who know how to draw ferns in milk foam, there’s another ludicrous profession we have to take seriously. A “mixologist” may sound a little like a 17th-century eccentric with a knobbly cane and a cape who believed that he had the ability to turn mouse droppings into gold sovereigns, but it’s actually a 21st-century eccentric with a waxed moustache and suspenders who believes he has the ability to turn alcohol and juice into something more than alcohol and juice, but in a fancy glass. Time to reopen the pits.
The pioneering efforts of René Redzepi at Noma in Denmark, followed by Sweden’s Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken and Niklas Ekstedt of Ekstedt (to name just a smorgasbord), have transformed our understanding of Scandinavian cuisine. That is, as long as you can get a table. Otherwise, a trip to Stockholm or Copenhagen can be a dispiriting sequence of salmon on rye, meatballs and maybe some weird brown cheese, followed by the same again the next day. Of course, you could recreate the experience of high-end Nordic cooking at home, as long as you’ve got a good sea buckthorn juice supplier and know a man who can sort you out some grasshopper sauce. Meatballs it is then.
10 Small plates
The small plate trend won’t go away, and we’re not sure why. Or rather, we are sure why — because it lets waiters suggest “seven or eight dishes between two should do it,” with the misleading caveat that “you can always order more”, so that you find yourselves spending main-course prices on saucers of stuff no one wanted to order that you divide with your dining companion in ever-decreasing bites so as not to be the one to take the last mouthful until you’re politely fighting over sub-atomic particles of labneh and butternut squash. Make it stop.