Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Food that leaves you feeling empty.

A week or so ago, myself and a friend met anther friend at the French markets in Parnell. I haven't been for a while, and it hasn't changed that much. It's a bit bigger now maybe. I don't recall being overly fond of it before, but this time, I found myself outright not liking it.

There's nothing wrong with the food. A lot of it looked very tasty. Some of the cheeses were quite lovely. One of my coffee companions asked if it reminded me of the Matakana markets, another market that I'm not particularly fond of. Indeed there are similarities between the two markets. My primary objection to the Matakana market is that it presents itself as a farmers market. I don't think it is, I'd be much happier if it was described as an artisan market. Everything is gourmet this, special handmade that or cold smoked something or other with wood cut down by virgins on the full moon after the winter solstice. An exaggeration, but you get what I'm getting at. Or at least I hope you do.

The markets down at the Silo cinemas aren't much better. It's all food for eating there and then but that same sort of marketing applies. It's all small portions for high prices of gourmet branded foods that elsewhere in the world are cheap and cheerful street food.  

Then, a few nights ago, I was attempting to watch one of Jaime Oliver's new cooking shows. Seriously, I lasted about 3/4 of the way through the 1st episode. It struck me as very similar to a Gordon Ramsay show I tried to watch about a month ago. Nothing wrong with the food, different styles between the two cooks obviously and some of it sounded quite nice. The problem I had was that everything was described as superb or astounding or spectacular. The amount of hyperbole was off putting.

Even after all of that, I probably wouldn't have written out it. Then last night, watching Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's latest River cottage instalment, the differences became blinding. Food was described as good. Not spectacular. Not mind-blowing. Good. Occasionally with little burnt bits around the edges. Which is what cooking is to me and what I want food to be. Astounding is good every so often, but when you're immersed in it the words become empty. That association of emptiness and food I find disturbing. It's what I find on most cooking shows and it's what I find in a lot of Auckland markets. The food becomes not for everyone but only for those who can afford it. It almost feels like an attempt to partition food off into approved, good stuff that only the right sort of appreciative rich people can have) or icky food for the plebs. It might not be the intent but for me at least it endows food with moral qualities. A sort of backwards snobbery,  "look at me, I'm doing things the good, old fashioned way, which is superior to modern methods" sort of thing. 

The food might well be very nice, but the way they market it leaves me feeling empty. And also not particularly hungry for whatever it is they're selling.

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