So, that was a year, huh? 2016, or, as many have called it, the Dumpster Fire of the Vanities. Endless memes about how shitty this year was doesn’t even begin to touch it. I mean, in one year, I’ve had to face the following:
- The “what the hell do we do now” of Brexit and the *bites back vomit* political ascendancy of Farridge. I swear, we’ll look back on his light aircraft crash of 2010 less as a lucky escape and more of a missed opportunity.*
- Trump. I can’t even. I mean, what a hell, America?
- Getting engaged. The actual getting married bit will be awesome. But organising weddings? What a mindfuck. An expensive, neverending barrage of questions.
- All of the heroes of my childhood getting mown down by life. It’s true that frankly the death of people who were a) old, b) ill, or c) who absolutely caned it in the 80s and troughed a load of drugs is hardly likely to be a surprise, and coincidence works in a funny way. But man alive it’s hard to say goodbye to so many of them one after another. Tell you what though, 2017 had better leave Dame Judi Dench ALONE.
That said, there are some things which we should say goodbye to in 2017. This is a highly personal list but it seems fitting to ask that, this year, we lose some of the shit as well as things that we hold dear and precious to us (precious things like, for example, the free movement of goods and services across a united Europe).
So, in a top of the pops style countdown style, what HAS TO GO in 2017?
8. Over-hyped ferments
“Ooh, Koji is a Japanese wonder-goo which makes asian food taste super-asian!”
“I’ve been making my own kimchi for years”
“pickling at home is absolutely the best way to eat cabbage”
Ugh, I get it. You enjoy fizzy food. But when I do it in my fridge I have the good grace to admit it’s a frickin accident. I’ll admit I enjoy a nice sauerkraut as much as the next girl, and I have always considered it a great shame that home pickling isn’t as common as it used to be, not least because I’m a lover of anything you eat from the jar in front of the fridge. But it seems that the world and his wife has been dropping pickled veg all over restaurants plates in 2016, in that kind of “I’m so edgy I’ve shaved, pickled, stuffed and molested 4 varieties of beetroot over this plate NOW PAY ME £££ and tell me I’m a genius” way.
I’m over it!
Having pickled and fermented everything solid in sight, the hipsters moved onto tea. This stuff looks disgusting, tastes worse and appears to me to be nothing more than a joke perpetrated on fashion-loving hipsters who are all trying to out-do each other regarding their love for this crap. Also: making flavoured varieties only serves to indicate that the original is super-gross. NEIN.
6. No-reservation restaurants
I understand the economic arguments here, and agree that it’s nice for restaurants to fill tables, ensure turnover and generate buzz where needed. But it’s annoying, tedious and – as has been better argued by others – leaves you with the distinct possibility that you end up queuing ages for a completely forgettable dinner.
There’s another, rather more unpleasant truth at work here as well. Making people stand in the cold for hours at a time is frankly unkind and leaves a lot of people who aren’t able to do this literally out in the cold. And I think these restauranteurs want it that way. If I were being hysterical, I’d claim it was foodie eugenics. Don’t believe me? I’ve tried to appeal to certain restaurants which will remain unnamed to ask about reserving tables for friends suffering from cancer, in wheelchairs or who are pregnant and frankly don’t need that kind of shit in their lives. I got really short shrift and a general “it’s our policy and if you don’t like it you’re not welcome here” attitude which is balls.
We appear to be in an age where your super-fashionable “eatery” makes itself inaccessible to older people, disabled people, people with kids and people who don’t have loads of time on their hands. Which is what I suspect you actually want, isn’t it? You, restauranteur, have figured out that sexy, single, non-disabled time-rich people is the kind you want in your hollow-souled food place, and so you design a no-reservation system which benefits only you and inconveniences and excludes potential customers. You must be so proud.
5. Smoothie Bowls
Take forever to construct, involve a ton of washing up, invariably look better than they taste and seem designed exclusively to show off to other people how healthy you are. Eat your damn breakfast, child.
This one I’m a bit torn over, because I love a bit of jackfruit. But lately I’ve seen more and more vegan recipes torturing the poor fruit into various contortions and it’s starting to worry me. BBQ pulled jackfruit, anyone? Jackfruit burger?
Let me be clear that I’m not hating on the vegans and it is up to you what you put in your body. But like the great cauliflower pizza-crust lie of 2015 I’m fairly certain this is bollocks and the poor people currently trying to slow-cook tropical fruit in their casseroles hoping they’ll recreate pork are going to regret it.
3. Freakshakes, Monster food or any other completely overloaded desserts
Don’t get me wrong, Go Big or Go Home is an excellent approach to most desserts and I’m fully in favour of a more delicious life. That said, there’s indulgence and then there’s gluttony. I’m a bloody heathen but my inner Catholic rears its head at the sight of these things, because, quite honestly, isn’t this the very definition of being “too much of a good thing”? One of my favourite articles of this year saw kids testing freakshakes, and when a six year old declares that something is a bit too sweet, you know there’s an issue. Also, there’s my puritanical streak looking at this and realising you can’t possible wrap your chops around this without making an almighty sticky mess, and I just cannot deal.
2. Golden bloody lattes and generally most Turmeric health woo-woo
Not sure what a golden latte is? You may also know it by the teeth-grindingly irritating moniker “Golden Mylk” (top tip: if it sounds like a sexual lubricant, think of a new name!) and it’s being heralded as a new healthy alternative to tea, coffee and god knows what else. It’s essentially fresh turmeric juice added to a nut or soy milk, and drunk as a “healthy” alternative to tea or coffee. “People get hooked!” squeal the purveyors. To which I say: people have had the bejeezus scared out of them regarding tea, coffee and even plain milk thanks to your lot. So if they’re getting “hooked” on this stuff it’s probably because you told them to do so.
It has been suggested that turmeric has a number of health benefits and small studies suggest that the spice can alleviate certain health conditions. In Ayurvedic medicine it has been used to treat a number of digestive ailments, and its supposed antioxidant properties has led to some advocating the taking of turmeric supplements to help decrease the chances of getting cancer and other such nasties. But here’s the thing. LOADS of things may or may not cause cancer. Look here for the ongoing and heroic efforts of one website to track the Daily Mail’s thoughts on the cause and cures for cancer. So don’t push a £4 morning drink on me appealing to my fear of dying from a horrific disease because frankly it’s mean and a dickbag way of doing business. If your product is good it will sell itself. Snakeoil tactics are for dicks.
- “Clean eating”
I’m going to tread carefully here, not least because others have picked over the issues more effectively than I have and also because this is a one-woman operation and I haven’t got the cash to get sued.
Moreover, the likes of Ruby Tandoh (praise be upon her name) and Hadley Freeman have covered this more compellingly and articulately than I could ever hope to. As such, I think the little I should add to this is from a personal place. I am certain that I could eat better, more intuitively, and with more focus on where food comes from than I currently do. But I value the power of my own intellect. I refuse to be dictated to by girls and boys whose qualifications seem to amount to not much more than online courses taught by dubiously-qualified old dudes and looking hot in yoga pants. I don’t think it’s right to inform people that gluten is poison when it patently isn’t, and I don’t think it’s right to appear to move from an “all processed food is bad” to “many processed foods can be bad but it depends on whether they’re part of my new range of energy balls now available in Sainsbury’s!” position depending on the cash you can make out of your message.
The thing is, I’m not averse to the general message and I even possess and regularly use my spiralizer. I love trying new ways of eating and I’ve been known to consume chia willingly. The root of the issue is that I can’t help but feel that I’m being sold a pup here. At least the likes of Rosemary Connelly and Dr Gillian McKeith had the balls to tell me that they were worried that I was fat. These days, I get dead-eyed glowy-haired girls crooning about how concerned they are about me and my relationship with gluten, but the underlying message still appears to be about how fat I am. Except if they get called out on it, they protest that they’re all about wellness, and cleanliness, and being a “real chef” (alright Pinocchio, don’t get your pants in a twist) and about just Feeling Better about themselves. There’s a nasty streak of competitiveness about the whole thing which suggests that by eliminating certain foods from their diets, these girls are Smarter Than You, and Prettier Than You, and Better Than You. No thanks.
For more on this, I recommend the heartily entertaining and genuinely clever Angry Chef blog. He comes backed by science and irreverence for all nutritional woo-woo, and I love him (or her? It’s not clear) for it.
*Don’t @ me, it was all very strange and sad and while Farage was able to bang on about it for ages afterwards, the poor pilot took his own life in 2013.