How often the subject doth come up at social gatherings. What’s your favourite food? Perhaps you’re particularly fond of Chinese or Thai. Maybe a lamb tagine from Morocco tickles your fancy. Or roasted guinea pig from central Asia. We’ve all got taste buds that think differently. Heck, our own tastebuds are as changeable as the wind. Generally speaking, I’m rather partial for an Italian, Indian or Mexican. That latter goes without saying, doesn’t it? The former is my ‘cover all’. You can put anything on a pizza. A donor kebab pizza is one of the greatest, but not healthiest, things I’ve ever eaten.
I’ll give most things a go. Over the last decade or two, eateries from every corner of the globe have opened up in the UK. Immigrants to the country are trying to introduce us to all sorts of cuisine. Lebanese, Nepalese, South African, Chilean, American, Russian, Polish but to name a few. A Brazilian has opened up nearby and I’m tempted by the selection of treats on offer, but wary as the literature is all Portuguese. What if I’ve made an awful mistake and emerge from the joint still hungry but with terribly effeminate grooming? This is, in essence, what makes us Brits cautious of trying something new. We will smile and nod our way through the most tragic of circumstance rather than protest that a mistake has occurred. Our preference is to avoid the awkward situation in the first place, if at all possible. Stick with the familiar. This is the barrier that ‘new food’ has to cross on the pathway to success. But it’s become easier for new restaurants to make the breakthrough as a younger, more adventurous, multi cultural, well traveled population has become the majority shareholder of the nations retail purse.
There’s nothing wrong with British food either, mind you. I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. Allow me to explain. Home cooking of the last few decades in this green and pleasant land has often featured greens but was otherwise usually quite unpleasant. Time-pressed mothers slapped together plates of food in a hurry that came in two basic types. Slop and slop with gravy. This is the only country where the microwaveable ready meal improved food quality for the average consumer. But traditional recipes are full of flavour and adventure. The basic ingredients found here are amongst the world’s finest. And we’ve stolen so many ideas from the Kings of the Kitchen – the French. How could we have earned such a bad rap?
But let’s get away from these nationalistic food labels. Here’s what I really am. A meatarian. A meatist in constant search of carnivore nirvana. A dedicated follower of meatism. I’m not fussy about what sort of meat I eat. Lamb, beef and pork are all good. I just insist on it being tender. At home, it all goes in the slow cooker. You can tell me that it’s unhealthy stuff if you like. But red meat is probably the least of my dietary faux pas. You might also suggest that I would soon be a vegetarian if I had to slaughter my food myself. Yet I’m pretty sure that after a week of beans and lentils you’ll find me prowling the New Forest with a baseball bat, carving knife, matches and kindling. Unfortunate then that I married a lady who, if truth be told, is not fond of the stuff at all. Chicken and fish, yes. Loves turkey. Despises pork. Beef tickles her fancy only rarely. Read meat has become a rare treat in our household.
Just last week though, we found ourselves in Scotland. The homeland of the world’s most famous brand of edible cow. The good old Angus. Grass fed and well looked after. Mrs P’s fancy was tickled. So we headed for the finest beef joint selling the most succulent dead cows Scotland has to offer. Is it ironic that we ended up in a newly launched Argentine restaurant, CAU? Perhaps not. The three most important breeds in Argentina are the Shorthorn, the Hereford and that Scottish staple, the Aberdeen Angus. I ordered the tastiest looking deceased animal on the menu and prepared for my feast.
I’d love to have had some photos to show you of the well presented plate of sliced beef. Alas, as I’ve already mentioned, this is a rare treat. When the waitress returned to our table with our order, I had knife and fork in hand, not the camera. I may have been foaming at the mouth a little. And it is possible that I might have swiped the first morsel of well aged beef carcass from the plate before the waitress had even placed it on our table. Instead, photographs of Loch Lomond and a street scene from Glasgow will have to suffice. I fear I have not time to write about the trip in a separate post anyway. To summarise it briefly, it would have been titled ‘Not Nearly As Good As Edinburgh’. But that’s not to say we didn’t enjoy the trip.
But to finish by returning to earlier points. Wouldn’t it be nice if one day in the near future, us meatists could respond to that carnivorous rumble in our stomachs with the thought, ‘I really fancy a Scottish?’ Our national dishes are nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just in dire need of a decent marketing campaign.