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Friday, January 05, 2007

Fine Dining Interspersed with Starvation

Another restaurant adventure yesterday (excuse: business lunch) drew out some very interesting conversation but sadly, once again, no local ingredients.

This time it was the local pizza restaurant where they didnt really know anything about the ingredients. And this time the waitress definitely wasn't shy, and definitely seemed offended by the enquiry into the origin of the food being served. "What's on the menu, that's what we sell, eat that - like it or lump it" was the gist of the response. Once I had explained that I would eat the food, I just wanted to see if anything came from England, I was told it was 'all imported from Italy'. Admittedly she apologised gently after she realised i wasnt being fussy about my food or about the restaurant.

The conversation turned out to be much more enjoyable and fertile than the communications with the waitress. Bob let us know that the Economist had analysed the green-ness of farmer's markets and concluded that more transport petrol was used by all those people driving all that way to the market and home than would be consumed if they went to the closer supermarket and bought food that had been efficiently transported in large bulk. I said that i thought that most people are not motivated by the efficiency of food transport when they choose to go a farmer's market. Dad goes faithfully every week to the Richmond one and seems to enjoy it for similar reasons I myself, and I suspect thousands of others, do: you get to connect with the food and its makers, you can have a conversation with the producer, you can smell and touch and taste things and its got life in it. Vegetables are not packaged and they come in different shapes and sizes. A supermarket is to me a grim, sterile battleground where you fight with the trolley, with the queue, surrounded by the sounds of mechanical bleeping and squally children whilst being bombarded with assaults on the senses designed to trick/seduce/bully you into buying more gubbins than you need, wrapped in lots of pointless, sanitising, wasteful plastic shiny things to make sure you wont be infected by any of the other grubby people struggling around the fluorescent wasteland, or by the bored, despondent, floating people who have to stand around dressed in ridiculous faux-olde-england puffy hats and butcher's pinnies and pretend to be Passionate About Food, or something.

The very fact the supermarkets try to emulate the trappings of a real shop with a real, local grocer or baker in it just reveals how important that still is to people. Its only sad that they are, en masse, willing to settle for this ghostly, ghastly imitation for the sake of 'convenience'. Its only convenient because they are spending their precious time working long hours in jobs that pay them too much so they can buy lots of things they dont need (or too little, so they cant find any alternatives), and pay for diversions to distract from the absurdity and grind of it all, for the sake of, on the whole, someone else's profit margins. If they made more time by working less, buying less stuff and going on less holidays they could have more time to go to different shops (on their bikes, so they dont have to spend time in those equally empty places, gyms) and talk to the shopkeepers and prepare their food at home.

Anyway I was very proud of myself for avoiding pudding and sticking to peppermint tea which may have some small possibility of having come from somewhere in the UK, although it's not that likely, I admit, and I didn't dare to ask.

If this keeps up I will have a year of fine dining interspersed with starvation fended off by snacks of apples and strange herbal brews and whatever random assortment of food our friends get for us.

PS We came up with Rule Number Two which relates to eating with friends, but i cant remember what it is so will get back later with it.


  1. The voice of sanity and reason12:21 pm

    Who are "they" that you talk about here in the 4th paragraph?
    It's a bit unfair to group the rest of the public into "them" and assume "they" are all searching for distractions from absurdity and grind.
    Let's consider ourselves a global happy family :)

  2. OK that is fair comment. I was having a bit of a rant. Sometimes when you see lots of people doing something that you dont enjoy then it seems like it is a 'they'. I know technically speaking that that is not the case. I suppose it is a mode of expression, a way of saying that I am frustrated by this activity that often seems to me purposeless or souless or there is something wrong about it. It's just a feeling.
    I like the idea of a global happy family but I don't like supermarkets! So all those people (and there are many people in the supermarket when I go to it which is almost never) seem alien to me. However I shouldnt assume that they arent happy even if I am not.